Jack Nicklaus arrived at Royal St George’s golf club at Sandwich in southeast England on Tuesday 13 July 1993, two days after winning the U.S. Senior Open at Cherry Hills, the club in Denver where he had almost unseated the great Arnold Palmer in the 1960 U.S. Open. Nicklaus was in Kent to compete in the 122nd Open, the 12th Open to be held at this venue in a part of the world known as the Garden of England.
As he stepped through the doors of the sturdy, two-storey clubhouse he noticed a brown honours board headed “The St George’s Grand Golf Challenge Cup.” At the bottom were the words “Presented by Mrs RW Anderson 1888.” The winner in 1959, 34 years earlier with scores of 73 and 76, had been one J. Nicklaus. Nicklaus was 19 then and on the cusp of a career as a professional the likes of which we had not seen.
Now aged 53, he stood looking at the board and wondered how much longer could he or should he continue playing. He was in his sixth decade. He had won six Masters, five PGA Championships, four U.S. Opens, three Opens – a record at that time that was thought to be far beyond anyone else. It was arguable that nobody in the history of the game had played so well for so long. He had competed in every major championship since turning professional in 1961 and had won more major championships than most golfers have won tournaments.
Nicklaus’s opening round at Sandwich was a 69, his lowest in an Open since 1977, but the 75 that followed meant he missed the cut. No matter. The point about the Open 28 years ago was more that the stars aligned to help some of the world’s best golfers play dazzling golf and less that Nicklaus didn’t play the last two rounds. Everyone remembers the 1977 Open, nicknamed the Duel in the Sun, at which Tom Watson outlasted Nicklaus at Turnberry. Everyone remembers Tiger Woods in the 2006 Open at Royal Liverpool when he collapsed into the arms of Steve Williams, his caddie, on the 72nd green, an act attributed to his anguish at the death of his father two months earlier.
Everyone remembers Nick Faldo winning the 1987 Open at Muirfield with 18 pars in his last round. And everyone, surely, remembers Shane Lowry’s victory at Royal Portrush in July 2019. For anyone who was there, the sight of a wet and bedraggled Lowry approaching the 18th green on that wet Sunday, and later waving the claret jug to the obvious adoration of the sodden Irish crowd, is unforgettable.
But 1993 wasn’t half bad because so many good golfers were near the peak of their games. They included Faldo, who had won the Open, his fifth major title, 12 months earlier as well as the Irish Open just two weeks before; Bernhard Langer and Lee Janzen, respectively the reigning Masters and US Open champions; Nick Price, who had won the 1992 PGA; Mark Calcavecchia, the 1989 Open champion; Payne Stewart, the 1989 PGA and1991 US Open champion; Ian Woosnam, the 1991 Masters champion; and John Daly, the 1991 PGA champion. Oh, yes, and some Aussie bloke called Greg Norman.
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