Monday, 30 April 2012

The Open returns to Lytham

This July sees something of a landmark in Open history, as the only Major based outside the United States is staged on English soil for the second consecutive year.

Royal Lytham & St Annes is the chosen venue, following on from Royal St George’s in Kent, 12 months ago.

The Lancashire course was established as long ago as 1860, but first hosted The Open in 1926, the year that American Bobby Jones gainedthe first of his three successes in the time-honoured event.

Most of the layout has remained true to its original shape since the early days, with just the odd extra bunker added in the early 1920’s, for a total of more than 200.

The course was lengthened as well at that time to provide a stiffer test, and that it certainly does, aided and abetted by a stiff breeze that rolls in off the sea, hence its reputation as one of the hardest links courses.

It was not until 1952 that the Open returned to Lytham, and this time it was another Bobby – Locke – that triumphed in what was to be the third of his four Open successes in all.

The Open record is held by one Harry Vardon, who was nigh on invincible at the turn of the 20th century, and who was good enough to gain a sixth Open in 1914, eighteen years after his first.

As for Lytham, tough as it might be, it was no match for an Australian, Peter Thomson, in 1958. He tamed ‘The Beast’, just as he had Royal Birkdale and St Andrews earlier. He also won at Birkdale in 1965.

Two years earlier, New Zealander, Bob Charles, had his name engraved on the roll of honour, and, since then, some of the most famous names in golf have triumphed at Lytham.

Since 1969 the Royal course has welcomed the television cameras six times, and we have shared the joy with the likes of Tony Jacklin, Gary Player, and the late, great Seve Ballesteros, who liked it so much he did it twice.

The last Open here, in 200, saw David Duval of the United States come out on top; will a European oblige this time? Rory McIlroy is the highest-ranked European in the British Open betting.

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