Doughtie Sr. on Golf (July 2012)

THE OPEN 2012 

The golf world's premier Major returns to Royal Lytham & St. Anne's for the 141th edition of the Open Championship from 19th - 22nd July. This will be the 11th occasion that the Lancashire club will host the event over its  7118 yards (Par 70) course with its famous opening par 3, the only such hole on the Open rota.

The layout is classed as a links course although it is quite some distance from the Irish Sea. It is surrounded by housing and a railway line which does not completely shelter it from the occasional sea breezes which can play havoc with the scores. It is largely unaltered since Harry Colt's makeover in 1919 and houses 206 well-positioned bunkers requiring players to manoeuvre the ball carefully, particularly in the closing holes.

The club was founded in 1886 and received Royal status from King George V, just prior to hosting the Championship for the first time, in 1926. That year the young US amateur, Bobby Jones, captured the first of his three Open titles with a score of 291. This was the lowest recorded since James Braid's similar tally at Prestwick in 1908. Spectators were charged admission fee for the first time in an effort to manage the crowds which had got out of control the previous year. Due to the large number of entrants for this event, regional qualifying was introduced, to reduce the field to manageable levels. This was the last year that the Champion was allowed to keep the Claret Jug for the year. In future years, a replica was presented to the winner with the original Trophy remaining in the custody of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club at St. Andrews.

The event returned to Lytham in 1952 when the South African Bobby Locke, took the third of his four Claret Jug's with a total of 287. Peter Thomson, the likeable Australian, won the 1958 tournament, when it  was next at this venue. He and Locke had dominated the event winning four times each between 1949 and 1958. However, Thomson needed a 36 hole play-off with Welshman Dave Thomas, after they had tied on 278. Dutchman, Gerard de Wit, finished in 24th spot.

The members at Royal Lytham & St. Anne's only had to wait until 1963 for the next opportunity to display its testing course. This time, thanks to the appearance of Arnold Palmer in 1960, at St. Andrews, which preceded his victories in 1961 and 1962, the event was now on the International golfing map. Another play-off was necessary to separate two players who closed at 277. The natural right-handed New Zealander, Bob Charles, who played left-handed, succeeded over the right-handed American Phil Rodgers, who incidentally was naturally left-handed.

Tony Jacklin, the colorful British golfer, became the first home-based winner of the Open Championship since Max Faulkner's success 18 years earlier, when he played perfect golf over the Lytham layout in 1969. In these days there was a cut after 3 rounds which eliminated Martin Roesink who ended in 56th spot.

The third of South African Gary Player's Claret Jugs which, incidentally were spread over 3 separate decades, came 5 years later at Royal Lytham & St. Anne's with a winning total of 282. This was the first time that the larger sized (1.68") ball was made compulsory by the R & A. A strong wind made control of that ball, a bit more difficult for many players not acustomed to using it.

And, in 1979 the effervescent Spaniard, Severiano Ballesteros (283) secured a famous and remarkable victory by 3 shots over Jack Nicklaus, for his first Major success. He became the first continental European victor since Arnoud Massy in 1907.  This secured Seve's place in the Ryder Cup team where European golfers would be playing together with their PGA colleagues from Great Britain and Ireland for the first time.

This Open is often referred to as the 'Car Park Championship' as Seve only found one fairway, when using his driver on 9 occasions during the final round. At the 16th a remarkable recovery shot, after a free-drop from under a car in the car park, set  up a 30-foot birdie putt and the Championship. The more mature but equally exciting Spaniard, returned to Lytham for his 3rd Open title in 1988. This was secured after a thrilling duel with Nick Price. Torrential rain forced the organizers to delay the final round till Monday but did not cause too much damage to Ballesteros' total of 273.

It was not until 1996, when the R & A considered Royal Lytham & St. Anne's again suitable to host the event that the North West English club could prepare a challenge for the world's top golfers. The laid back Tom Lehman took the prize with  a 4-round total of 271, notwithstanding a closing around of 73 with Mark McCumber (66) and Ernie Els (67) breathing down his neck. 

In 2001 large crowds descended on the course to witness the defending Champion, Tiger Woods' attempt to tame the testing layout and retain the honour he won the year before at St Andrews. Colin Montgomerie lead the field by 3 shots on day 1  but as the weather improved, so did scores and on Friday 30 competitors shot in the '60's. On the final day, Ian Woosnam incurred a 2-shot penalty after birdie-ing the first hole ,for having 15 clubs in his bag and never recovered.........  neither did his caddy……… Woods faded as did Monty and suddenly David Duval  (USA) edged ahead at the 11th to record his only Open success at 274.

And so, we are back to Royal Lytham & St. Anne's for the 2012 edition with most of the game's top players participating. For the last 7 months over 5 continents, about 2,500 hopeful pre-qualifyers have been battling for the limited spaces available, in the Championship where they will make up the remaining spots in the field of 156. A number of amateurs are exempt and will be joined by some others and our own Joost Luiten, who qualifies on the basis of his position in the Race to Dubai. Darren Clarke will be defending the Trophy he won the previous year at Royal St. George's.

We hope you will all enjoy watching the Championship, whether at the course or through the courtesy of television.
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