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Open Memories

Triumph, tragedy, courage and heartache - and that's before the Frenchman takes his socks off...

Posted Jul 14, 2009 by Tom Cates

10. 'I Love You Mum...!!'
Gary Evans rolls in a huge putt for a par at the 17th at Muirfield in 2002. He had hit his 2nd shot into deep rough and the ball was never found despite help from the watching galleries. Evans was forced to take a penalty drop. He hit his 4th shot onto the green but was still a long way from the pin. He then holed a huge putt from downtown for an unlikely par. Evans was so excited he ran to a nearby camera and gave a spontaneous dedication to his mum. And kids think their parents are embarrassing... His bank manager wasn't too displeased either, the Englishman finished in a tie for 5th and won the thick end of 220,000 euros for his efforts!
9. Bjorn Again & Again & Again...
Tomas Bjorn was long odds on to win the 2003 Championship at Royal St George's when he found himself two shots ahead with just three to play. But an ill-judged tee shot at the par 3 16th saw him find sand and his problems were just beginning. The popular Dane's supporters were then put through the mill - two shots later he was still in the bunker. A crushing double-bogey five was the result and to compound the problem he then bogied the 17th for good measure. His decline allowed American Ben Curtis to lift the Claret jug, by just a single shot.
8. Rocca Rocks St Andrews
Everyone's favourite Italian, Constantina Rocca wasn't just a cuddly bear of a man - he could play too. One of the best ball-strikers of his generation, Rocca came within a whisker of Open glory at the home of golf back in 1995. Needing a three at the last to force a play-off with American John Daly, the Italian's drive left him only 30 yards short of the green, with the Valley Of Sin to be negotiated. With the eyes of the golfing world upon him, Rocca's nerve let him down. He chunked his chip just a few feet and millions of fans around the world let out an anguished groan. The equation was simple - he had to hole his 25-yard third shot to stay in the tournament. Rocca took out his putter and under huge pressure played one of the greatest shots in Open history. The putt dropped, joyous scenes of celebration followed, but Daly had the final say, winning the four hole play-off.
7. What Price That Putt?
Turnberry, 1994. Zimbabwean Nick Price is going head-to-head with Jesper Parnevik in one of the most dramatic finishes to the tournament. The Swede appears to hold the upper-hand, playing in the group in front of his rival he is two shots ahead with one to go. But to the dismay of his supporters Parnevik bogies the last, to give Price a glimmer of hope.
Price took his chance in no uncertain terms, having reached the par-five 17th in two shots. He decided that now was the time to hole a good old fashioned bomb, as he persuaded his eagle putt to disappear underground from all of 50 feet. Suddenly one shot in front, Price used all of his experience to par the last and clinch the title.
6. Tiger On The Prowl
In 2000, St Andrews hosted the Millennium Open. It would surely be fitting if the world's best golfer, Tiger Woods saw in the new decade with a winning performance. He didn't disappoint. All four rounds under seventy, Woods' superiority was there for all to see. He won The Claret Jug by eight shots over four Championship days and at no time did he find himself in a bunker. Masterful.
5. Duval Displays True Class
It wasn't a huge shock when David Duval won the 2001 Open at Royal Lytham - he was, after all, one of the best golfers in the world. His performance over the four days was helped by an extremely hot putter, but after 72 holes and final round 67 he was the champion golfer by thre shots. What made Duval's victory special though was his winner's speech. A student of the game and its traditions, the popular American paid tribute to the fans on this side of the Atlantic, especially their knowledge of the game. He thanked everyone that he should have, and when he said: "I will do my best to represent this Championship in a great fashion",  no one doubted him.
4. Faldo Shows The Heart Of A Champion
In 1992 Nick Faldo returned to Muirfield looking to confirm his place at the summit of golf and win a 3rd Open title at the venue that he had won his first back in 1987. For three and half rounds Faldo led the field a merry dance, including a 2nd round 64. But over the final 18 holes Faldo uncharacteristically began leaking shots. American John Cook came charging out of the pack and as the tournament headed for a stunning climax took a two shot lead. Faldo, though, refused to buckle, and in one of the great mental performances came roaring back. His 2nd shot into the 15th finished just a couple of feet from the hole, and when Cook missed a two foot birdie putt on the par-five 17th, the home fans roared their man back into contention. Cook fanned his approach to the 18th hole wide of the green as the occasion got him and a bogey allowed Faldo back in. The Englishman birdied the 17th to retake the lead, and then pured a 5-iron into 18. With two putts for the title Faldo took them both, and cemented his place in Open history as a three-time champ.
3. Hats Off For Harrington":
To win one Open is a huge achievment, to come back and defend your title, sets you aside as a very special champion. Irishman Padraig Harrington won the 2007 Open in an absolute classic tournament, eventually besting Sergio Garcia in a play-off at Carnoustie. But it was the 2008 tournament that makes my Top Three. OK, the fact that I was there watching the drama at the spectacular Royal Birkdale links does help, but his performance over the final nine holes means he is, in my mind, fully deserving of his high placing. Watching from my spectacular vantage point high up on the dunes down the left hand side of the 17th fairway, no one had any idea of what was to come when Harrington unleashed his 2nd shot 5-wood at the back right pin position. The ball finished just three feet from the hole, he holed the putt for eagle and capped a phenomenal display. He came home in 32, with two birdies, one eagle and no bogies - it was Tiger-esque in its sheer brilliance.
2. Ballesteros' Brilliance
The first Open Championship I can remember watching in 1984, this tournament captivated me as a ten year old, and in particular the swashbuckling brilliance of Seve. His birdie at the last was the catalyst for, arguably, the Open's most exuberant celebration. Ballesteros had won at the Home Of Golf and he wanted everyone to share in his joy.
1. Oh No, Jean... What Have You Done?
OK, so no real surprises here. To be honest Jean Van de Velde's final hole collapse in 1999 might just go down as one of the most incredible spectacles in any sport. Everyone knows what happened. A three-shot lead disappeared in 15 minutes of total mayhem. What many forget though is that he holed an impossibly brave putt for a seven (!!) to get into the play-off and the way he dealt with the fallout of his disaster spoke volumes for the man that he is.

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