The 12 Best Open Championship Rounds

From Ben Hogan at Carnoustie in 1953 to Branden Grace in 2017.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Here we take a look at 12 of the finest rounds in the history of The Open Championship

The 12 Best Open Championship Rounds

The Open Championship returns to Royal St George's for the first time since 2011.

The English links course is always a tough test and will undoubtedly produce some sublime rounds of golf, some of which may even be added to the piece below in which we take a look at the 12 best Open Championship rounds ever.

Let's start with Hogan at Carnoustie...

Ben Hogan – Carnoustie (opens in new tab) 1953

Having won The Masters and the U.S. Open earlier in the year, Ben Hogan travelled across the Atlantic to compete in The Open Championship for the first and only time, at Carnoustie in Angus. “The Hawk” had never played on the links and never played with the (then) smaller British ball.

He practised at Panmure before coming through qualifying on the Championship and Burnside courses at Carnoustie. He went into the final round tied for the lead with Roberto De Vicenzo and, despite battling the flu and having already played 18-holes in the morning, he went round the challenging layout at Carnoustie in a course-record 68 to win by four shots.

Johnny Miller – Royal Birkdale (opens in new tab) 1976

The American went into the final round at Birkdale trailing a charismatic Spanish teenager called Seve Ballesteros by three shots. Johnny Miller had won 14 tournaments in the previous two seasons on the PGA Tour and had been U.S. Open champion in 1973.

Ballesteros was an unknown and had never won a European Tour event. Over the last 18-holes Miller’s experience told and he carded a marvellous six-under par 66 that included an eagle on the 13th and birdies at the last two holes.

Tom Watson – Turnberry (opens in new tab) 1977

The famous “Duel in the Sun” between Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus. Both men carded the same scores in the first three rounds: 68, 70 and then a fantastic 65.

They took a three shot lead over Ben Crenshaw into Saturday’s final round and then accelerated away from the field. Trading birdies over the closing 18, Watson eventually prevailed with another 65, compared to Nicklaus’s 66. The next placed man was Hubert Green – 10 behind Nicklaus. “I won the tournament I played in,” he quipped afterwards.

Seve Ballesteros – Royal Lytham & St Annes (opens in new tab) 1988

Seve Ballesteros

The three men in contention to win the rain-delayed 1988 Open at Lytham played together in the final round. Seve Ballesteros and Nick Faldo trailed Nick Price by two shots.

Faldo fell off the pace on the front nine as the other men ripped it up in a superb battle on the links. Price played the six holes from the 6th to the 11th in four-under-par but his one-shot lead was turned into a one-shot deficit over that stretch by Ballesteros who covered the holes in six-under!

Seve played a sublime second to the 16th and then hit a majestic chip shot on the 18th hole to secure a par, a round of 65 and a two-shot victory. It was surely the best round of his life.

Greg Norman –Royal St George’s (opens in new tab) 1993

Greg Norman

The scoring at Royal St George’s was excellent in 1993. After rounds of 66, 68 and 69, Greg Norman trailed his great rival Nick Faldo by a shot going into the last day.

The Australian was tied with Masters champion Bernhard Langer. Both Faldo and Langer closed with fine rounds of 67 but they couldn’t live with the brilliance of Norman. The Australian tore round St George’s in 64 for the lowest final round in Open Championship history.

Nick Price – Turnberry 1994

Jesper Parnevik birdied the 16th and 17th holes to go two clear of Price at Turnberry and it looked as though the Zimbabwean would, once again, narrowly miss out on Open glory.

But Price then produced a remarkable finish. After birdieing the 16th, he holed a monster putt across the 17th green for an eagle. Parnevik bogeyed the last and Price parred for a one-stroke victory. He had closed with a scintillating 66.

Justin Leonard – Royal Troon (opens in new tab) 1997

Justin Leonard

Leonard was five shots back of Jesper Parnevik at the start of the final round and few thought he would be the one to challenge the Swede’s lead on Sunday. But the young American put on a putting masterclass over the closing 18 holes to card a fabulous 65 and win by three from Parnevik and Darren Clarke.

Paul Lawrie – Carnoustie 1999

Paul Lawrie

This Open is always remembered for Jean Van de Velde’s disastrous finish. But just as incredible was Paul Lawrie’s final round of 67. The Scot was 10 shots off the lead after three rounds and wasn’t even in the top-10.

But a four-under par 67 over the fiendishly difficult course at Carnoustie set a clubhouse total that was good enough to force a playoff which he subsequently won.

Padraig Harrington – Royal Birkdale 2008

Padraig Harrington

The Irishman trailed Greg Norman by a shot going into the final round and he was still one back with nine to play. But the defending champion played a wonderful back nine to secure a second Open victory. He birdied the 13th and 15th holes to move three clear and then sealed the title with a brilliant second shot to the par-5 17th.

He made an eagle and went on to sign for a 69 and a four-shot victory.

Phil Mickelson – Muirfield (opens in new tab) 2013

Phil Mickelson

Phil Mickelson trailed Lee Westwood by five shots with one round to play at Muirfield. But as Westy faltered, Lefty surged.

The American reached the turn in two-under to get within striking distance and he finished brilliantly with four birdies in his last six holes. His closing 66 was good enough for a three-shot win. Mickelson later called it the best round of his career.

Henrik Stenson – Royal Troon 2016

BBC To Show 2017 USPGA Championship

Stenson became the first man from Sweden to win a major championship after a truly phenomenal round at Royal Troon in 2016. Despite a bogey on the opening hole, Stenson shot a 63 to equal the lowest round shot in a major and edge out Phil Mickelson in what went down as perhaps the best final day duel in the tournament's history.

Branden Grace – Royal Birkdale 2017

Branden Grace pipped Stenson by a stroke the next year at Royal Birkdale in shooting 62, the lowest ever round in a major championship. The South African carded a flawless eight birdies and 10 pars on Saturday including a clutch two putt from long of the 18th green.

Shane Lowry - Royal Portrush (opens in new tab) 2019

After two 67's in a row Lowry was in a good position heading into the weekend at Royal Portrush and it was on Saturday that he truly separated himself from the pack. Thanks to a third-round 63 (eight-under), Lowry not only broke the course record since it was re-modeled in 2016, but he also set a new 54-hole scoring record at the Open of 197, beating the 198 set by Tom Lehman in 1996.

The next day Lowry would shoot 72 to win by six shots.

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Sam Tremlett
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A golfer for most of his life, Sam is a Senior Staff Writer for Golf Monthly. 

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