The Open: The unmatched history of golf's oldest major

By Sports Desk July 13, 2022

The Open Championship boasts a history practically unmatched in the sporting world, with the famous St Andrews primed to host the 150th edition of golf's oldest major this week.

As the world's best players prepare to tee it up at the home of golf, all in the field will be hoping to write their names into the pages of this storied event.

Ahead of what promises to be a thrilling week of action on the east coast of Scotland, Stats Perform has delved into the history books to bring you the most intriguing facts and figures surrounding the most historic of golf's majors.

HARD LUCK JACK AND HAPPY HARRY

Nobody boasts more Open triumphs than the six claimed by the legendary Harry Vardon, who first prevailed in 1896 and last lifted the Claret Jug in 1914.

But for every winner there are those who nurse the heartbreak of narrowly missing out, and nobody became more familiar with that feeling than Jack Nicklaus.

With 18 major wins to his name, including three at The Open, it might be a stretch to summon too much sympathy for Nicklaus, but he had to make do with finishing second or in a tie for second on no fewer than seven occasions. 

IF AT FIRST YOU DON'T SUCCEED...

When Collin Morikawa won at Royal St George's last year, he became the 10th player to taste success on debut.

That tells you that most players have to be patient when it comes to laying hands on the famous silverware, and for some that wait never ends.

But there are those for whom persistence has paid off handsomely – namely Darren Clarke and Phil Mickelson, who both finally triumphed at the 19th time of asking.

 

WIRE-TO-WIRE WINS ARE RARE

Only seven players have enjoyed wire-to-wire victories at a 72-hole Open, whereby they have held the outright lead at the end of all four rounds.

Rory McIlroy was the most recent example, achieving the feat at Royal Liverpool in 2014.

The last player to manage it at St Andrews was a certain Tiger Woods in 2005 – the second of his three Open wins as he retained his title the following year.

START FAST, FINISH STRONG

In 2010, St Andrews was the stage for the lowest opening round by an eventual winner as Louis Oosthuizen flew out of the traps with a 65.

Jordan Spieth equalled that with his first-round effort at Royal Birkdale in 2017, which was the year after Henrik Stenson had showed the importance of finishing with a flourish when his closing 63 saw off the challenge of Phil Mickelson at Royal Troon.

It also helps if your middle two rounds are solid, but very few players manage to put together four consistent sets of 18. Indeed, Woods is the only player to card four sub-70 rounds at St Andrews, doing so en route to his 2005 victory.

DON'T THROW IT AWAY NOW!

There is arguably no other sport that tests the psychological limits of its protagonists more than golf, which has seen more than its fair share of mental meltdowns.

Many will be familiar with the nightmare story of Jean Van de Velde's Open collapse in 1999 when he below a five-stroke lead after 54 holes – his hopes left to drown in Carnoustie's Barry Burn.

But that is not the biggest lead surrendered at The Open, with that dubious honour still belonging to Abe Mitchell, who led by six after two rounds in 1920 but ended up four adrift of champion George Duncan.

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    Wembanyama became just the second NBA rookie, after Jamaal Tinsley in 2001, to post at least five points, five rebounds, five assists, five steals and five blocks in a single game. He is just the second player to have five blocks and as many steals in successive games, after the great Jordan.

    However, his efforts proved fruitless for the San Antonio Spurs, who lost 113-108 to the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday.

    Wembanyama finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists, five steals and five blocks. He is just the 15th player in the NBA to record a 5x5.

    But for the overall number one draft pick, wins are the priority.

    "To me, it's secondary," Wembanyama said. "Hopefully in the future, and think this is a good performance, but as of today, I can't be satisfied with a loss."

    LeBron James returned from injury to score 30 points for the Lakers, while Anthony Davis had 28 points and 13 rebounds.

    "Of course it was challenging [going against] one of the best duos in the league," Wembanyama said of facing two of the NBA's star players.

    "But still, I think it's a lot of teams we beat if we play this way.

    "But I think it came down to maturity at the end because each and every one of us was making a mistake each of the times.

    "Little mistakes, missing a layup, turning the ball over. We went down, we went back to down four, down seven multiple times and that's when we did mistakes. So yeah, it's maturity."

    Even though the Spurs have lost 10 of their last 11 games, James believes the sky truly is the limit for Wembanyama.

    "He doesn't have a ceiling," James said.

    "He can do whatever he wants to do with his career. It seems like he enjoys the game. It seems like he puts in the work. Just from the outside looking in, I'm not with him on a day-to-day basis, but I said a long time ago how special he was, and it's literally that simple.

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    "He's one of them to have like a stellar rookie season. Guys that have come in and [dominated]. But, it's, can you sustain it? We've had guys that have come in and [have] just been really damn [good]."

    The Lakers returned to winning ways following their loss to the Golden State Warriors, but coach Darvin Ham was not entirely satisfied with the performance.

    "You want your team to constantly look within and try to make plays and force the other team to put you in uncomfortable positions," Ham said.

    "Not you put yourself in those uncomfortable positions, whether it's not sprinting back in transition or allowing teams to get two or three offensive rebounds. Or, you know, fouling because we're not in position because we're not doing our work early. And then going down the other end and not trusting the execution.

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    Golfing great Tiger Woods survived a potentially lethal car accident in California, on this day in 2021.

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    Initially wheelchair bound, he later began walking with crutches but ruled out a full-time return to competitive golf during his first public press conference later that year.

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    “After my back fusion, I had to climb Mount Everest one more time. This time around, I don’t think I’ll have the body to climb Mount Everest and that’s OK,” he said.

    “I can still participate in the game of golf. But as far as climbing the mountain again and getting all the way to the top, I don’t think that’s a realistic expectation of me.”

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