The 12 Best Open Championship Rounds

From Ben Hogan in 1953 to Cameron Smith in 2022, here are some of the best rounds in Open history

Henrik Stenson (L) and Cameron Smith (R)
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The Open Championship returns to Royal Liverpool this week for the first time since 2014. 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 kick things off with a trip back to the 1950s...

Ben Hogan - Carnoustie 1953

Ben Hogan hitting a shot during the 1953 Open at Carnoustie

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Having won The Masters and the US 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 1976

Johnny Miller of the USA seals his victory on the 18th green during the final round of the 1976 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale

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

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

Tom Watson - Turnberry 1977

Tom Watson of the USA marches ahead of Jack Nicklaus of the USA off the 14th tee during the final round of the 1977 Open Championship on the Ailsa Course at Turnberry

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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 fantastic 65s.

They took a three shot lead over Ben Crenshaw into Sunday’s final round before accelerating away from the field. Trading birdies over the closing 18, Watson eventually prevailed with another 65 to Nicklaus’s 66. The next placed man was Hubert Green – 10 behind Nicklaus. 

“I won the tournament I played in,” Green quipped afterwards.

Seve Ballesteros - Royal Lytham & St Annes 1988

Seve Ballesteros of Spain putts during The 117th Open Championship held at Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club from July 14-18,1988

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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 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 1993

Greg Norman of Australia holds the Claret Jug after his victory during the final round of the 122nd Open Championship at Royal St Georges Golf Club

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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 what was then the lowest final round in Open Championship history.

Nick Price - Turnberry 1994

Nick Price of Zimbabwe kisses the Claret Jug after winning the 123rd British Open on 17 July 1994 on the Ailsa Course at Turnberry

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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.

Paul Lawrie – Carnoustie 1999

Paul Lawrie holding the Claret Jug after winning the 1999 Open at Carnoustie

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This Open is always remembered for Jean Van de Velde’s disastrous finish. But just as incredible was Paul Lawrie’s final round 67. The Scot was 10 shots off the lead after 54 holes and wasn’t even in the top-10.

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

Padraig Harrington – Royal Birkdale 2008

Padraig Harrington celebrates with the Claret Jug after winning the 2008 Open at Royal Brikdale

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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 2013

Phil Mickelson celebrates after birdieing the last hole at Muirfield to win the 2013 Open

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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

Henrik Stenson (R) and Phil Mickelson (L) embrace after the final round of the 2016 Open at Royal Troon

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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 of South Africa acknowledges the crowd on the 18th green after shooting a 62 the lowest round in major championship history during the third round of the 146th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale

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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 at Birkdale, including a clutch two-putt from long of the 18th green.

Shane Lowry - Royal Portrush 2019

Shane Lowry of Ireland acknowledges the crowd on the 18th green during the third round of the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club

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After two 67s in a row Shane 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-modelled 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.

Cameron Smith - St Andrews 2022

Cameron Smith of Australia celebrates with The Claret Jug in celebration of victory on the eighteenth green during Day Four of The 150th Open at St Andrews Old Course

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Cameron Smith trailed Rory McIlroy by four shots heading into Sunday at the 150th Open but produced one of the greatest rounds in Major history to deny the Northern Irishman. The likeable Australian used his putter to devastating effect as he picked apart the Old Course, carding an eight-under 64 to lift the Claret Jug on the iconic 18th green.

Sam Tremlett
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A golfer for most of his life, Sam is Golf Monthly's E-commerce Editor.

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Driver: Cobra LTDxLS (9 degrees) 

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