Can anyone stop The Open’s Troon trend?

Tom Watson holds aloft a scarf after his Open win at Troon in 1982
Tom Watson holds aloft a scarf after his Open win at Troon in 1982
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Troon has hosted the Open eight times and proved to be a particularly happy hunting ground for American golfers who have dominated at the Ayrshire links since Arnold Palmer won his second Open there in 1962.

Greats such as Palmer, Tom Watson and Bobby Locke have won there but it also has a reputation for serving up a surprise winner, with five of the champions winning their one and only major title at Troon.

1923 
1 Arthur Havers (Eng) 295

2 Walter Hagen (USA) 296

3 Macdonald Smith (USA) 297

The first hosting of The Open at Troon became more famous for pre-tournament controversy when the iron clubs of Gene Sarazen and other American players were deemed illegal due to having holes punched deep into the faces to help create backspin and control. Files had to be brought in from Glasgow shipyards to return the clubs to an acceptable state. In the end, the tournament was won by 25-year-old professional Arthur Havers from Buckinghamshire. Leading in the final round, the Englishman was chased down hard by defending champion Walter Hagen but he holed magnificently from the 18th bunker for a birdie to set a target of 295. Hagen found the same bunker but needed two shots to hole out and lost by a stroke.

1950

1 Bobby Locke (Rsa) 279

2 Roberto De Vicenzo (Arg) 281

T3 Fred Daly (Nir) 282

Dai Rees (Wal) 282

It was 27 long years before The Open returned to Troon but it proved worth the wait as Bobby Locke of South Africa won the second of his four titles and took the £300 prize money for Champion Golfer of the Year with what was then a record low total for the event of 279. His closing 68 was enough to stave off the challenge of Roberto De Vicenzo of Argentina and Locke became the first man to defend the title since Hagen in 1929. Ninth-placed American Frank Stranahan set a new record score of 286 for an amateur in The Open with a 66 in the final round, a mark that stood until Tom Lewis in 2011. Master putter Locke, left, prospered on the baked greens and every Christmas from that year onward he sent a card to the club which always bore the same message: “Best wishes for this year and the future. Still the best greens in the world.”

1962

1 Arnold Palmer (USA) 276

2 Kel Nagle (Aus) 282

T3 Brian Huggett (Wal) 289

Phil Rodgers (USA) 289

The early 1960s marked a new era for The Open and the crowds flocked in to see the great Arnold Palmer defend his title and take the £1,400 winner’s cheque. Palmer’s victory at Royal Birkdale the previous year encouraged a larger than usual contingent of Americans to make the trip, including a 22-year-old Jack Nicklaus. On his debut, Nicklaus finished 34th but from then on was a close contender almost every year for two decades, winning three titles, though never at Troon. The greens were baked and fast yet again which suited Palmer’s attacking style. He birdied the last to close with a 69 and beat the 1960 champion Kel Nagle of Australia by six strokes. He would never lift the Claret Jug again, but Palmer’s influence in heralding the modern age of golf is undisputed. His 1962 triumph made him the first man since Ben Hogan in 1953 to win the Masters and Open in the same year and his total of 276 was a record that would stand until 1977.

1973

1 Tom Weiskopf (USA) 276

T2 Neil Coles (Eng) 279

Johnny Miller (USA) 279

4 Jack Nicklaus (USA) 280

Tom Weiskopf’s only major title was an emotional one as it came just three months after the death of his father. He led the 102nd staging from pillar to post after an opening 68 in the worst weather of the day. He was only the fifth player to win wire-to-wire since the Championship was extended to 72 holes and his 276 total matched that record of Palmer’s set on the same course. The 1932 champion Gene Sarazen was making his farewell appearance at the age of 71 and made a hole in one at the famous “postage stamp” par-3 eighth. Lee Trevino was bidding for a third straight Open title but his challenge faltered with an opening 75, although he improved steadily through the weekend and finished up in a tie for tenth. Brian Barnes was the highest placed Scot, joining Trevino in the tie for tenth on 289.

1982

1 Tom Watson (USA) 284

T2 Peter Oosterhuis (Eng) 285

Nick Price (Zim) 285

Tom Watson continued his love affair with the Scottish linksland as he won his fourth Open, following previous triumphs at Carnoustie, Turnberry and Muirfield. It was the first hosting as Royal Troon, with the club receiving its regal charter in its centenary year of 1978. Compared with some of his more famous triumphs it would not go down as Watson’s most thrilling of victories as his steady, workmanlike progress saw him work through the field. The story of the opening rounds had been the sensational surge of 22-year-old American debutant Bobby Clampett, who opened up a seven-shot lead early in his third round. However, a nightmare triple-bogey 8 at the marathon par-5 sixth saw the wheels come off. A solid if unspectacular closing 70 proved enough for Watson as another challenger, Nick Price, also came to grief on the back nine. “I didn’t win this Championship, I had it handed to me,” said Watson.

1989

1 Mark Calcavecchia (USA) 275

won play-off (−2)

T2 Wayne Grady (Aus) 275

(play-off +3)

Greg Norman (Aus) 275 (play-off x)

Mark Calcavecchia became the first player to win The Open in a play-off since Tom Watson’s stunning 1975 debut and it was also the first time the sudden death shootout had been played over just four holes. At the start of a sunny final Sunday it was Wayne Grady who led Calcavecchia by three, with Greg Norman seven back. But an incredible streak of six straight birdies saw the Shark roar back into contention with a third successive 68. Grady still held the advantage but a bogey at the 17th cost him dear, while Calcavecchia, right, birdied the 18th to make the three-way play-off. It was Norman who started the strongest with two opening birdies but he imploded in the next two holes and Calcavecchia went on to clinch victory with a 5-iron approach to six feet at the last, three ahead of Grady. It would be the American’s only major title.

1997

1 Justin Leonard (USA) 272

T2 Darren Clarke (Nir) 275

Jesper Parnevik (Swe) 275

A devastating display of putting brilliance in the final round saw Texan Justin Leonard secure the only major title of his career. Only twice before had five-stroke deficits been overturned in a final round – Jim Barnes at Prestwick in 1925 and Tommy Armour at Carnoustie in 1931. Those two both won by a shot but Leonard soared to a majestic three-stroke win and a winner’s cheque that was now up to £250,000. Jesper Parnevik was looking good for a maiden major but crumbled under the pressure piled on by the man from Dallas, whose closing 65 was only one higher than Greg Norman’s record final round by a Champion in 1993. Tiger Woods was making his professional Open debut aged 21 and gave a glimpse of things to come when he equalled the course record with a sensational 64 in his third round, before slipping to a 74 on the Sunday.

2004

1 Todd Hamilton (USA) 274

won play-off (E)

2 Ernie Els 
 (play-off +1) (Rsa) 274

3 Phil Mickelson (USA) 275

Following Ben Curtis in 2003 this proved to be the second year running that an unheralded American clinched the Claret Jug. Todd Hamilton, above, enjoyed by far the greatest moment of his career but freely admitted that he enjoyed playing “ugly golf”. For the second time in three years Ernie Els was in an Open play-off but could not repeat his 2002 heroics at Muirfield. It wasn’t a two-horse race, though, with Phil Mickelson and Thomas Levet both posting promising challenges on the final day. However, Hamilton and Els went on to contest the play-off and it was Els’ bogey at the third (17th) which proved costly and Hamilton became the sixth consecutive American to win at Troon.