The Open championship is one of the highlights of the sporting summer, consistently producing some brilliant golf and a dramatic conclusion. Phil Casey takes a look back at some of the great Open championships in the last 50 years
1960, St Andrews
Arnold Palmer may not have lifted the famous Claret Jug at St Andrews but his mere appearance was undoubtedly the catalyst which sparked renewed interest in the championship.
The number of American players taking part had fallen dramatically with Australia's Peter Thomson and South African Bobby Locke winning seven titles between them in eight years.
Palmer arrived as the newly-crowned US Open champion and was three under par at halfway but a third-round 70 left him trailing little-known Australian Kel Nagle by four shots. Torrential rain meant the final round was delayed for 24 hours and after nine holes Palmer was still four behind.
But he birdied the 13th and 15th, made par at the 17th for the first time all week and then birdied the last as well. Nagle was facing a tough par-putt on 17 when he heard the roar for Palmer's birdie but bravely holed and made a safe par up the last to seal a one-shot victory. Palmer famously won the next two Opens at Birkdale and Troon to re-establish the Open as a major target for the top American players.
1970, St Andrews
Another Open which is best remembered for the man who finished second, the unfortu-nate Doug Sanders destined to go down in history as the man who missed 'that' putt on the 18th.
Minutes earlier Sanders had saved par from the infamous Road Hole bunker at the 17th, leaving him needing only a par on the last for the title. His approach finished 30ft beyond the flag and his first putt stopped three feet short of the hole.
"I was over the ball when I thought I saw a spot of sand on the line," Sanders said. "Without changing the position of my feet I bent down to pick it up but it was a piece of brown grass. I didn't take the time to move away and get re-organised."
The ensuing miss meant an 18-hole play-off the following day against Jack Nicklaus, who led by one shot playing the 18th. Ironically Sanders hit a superb approach to four feet but Nicklaus, after pulling off his jumper on the tee, had smashed his drive through the green and chipped down to eight feet.
He duly holed for birdie to seal victory, tossing his putter high in the air and briefly panicking as it looked like falling on the unlucky Sanders.
Nicklaus was in the thick of the action seven years later in a thrilling battle with Tom Watson which has become known as the "Duel in the Sun."
Rounds of 68 and 70 saw Nicklaus and Watson one shot off the lead at halfway, and paired with each other in the third round. In glorious conditions they matched each other shot for shot and carded rounds of 65 to lead by three shots from Ben Crenshaw.
The stage was set for a classic final-day confrontation, and two of the game's greats would not disappoint.
Nicklaus quickly moved three ahead with two early birdies but Watson fought back to level by the eighth before dropping a shot at the ninth.
Nicklaus holed from 25ft at the 12th to go further ahead but back came Watson again and a 60ft putt from off the green on the 15th drew him level again. Nicklaus then missed from four feet on the par-five 17th while Watson two-putted for birdie to edge ahead for the first time.
It looked all over on the 18th when Watson fired a seven-iron to within three feet while Nicklaus' drive ended under a gorse bush. But, using all his strength, Nicklaus smashed the ball on to the green and then holed a curling 40ft putt for an amazing birdie. Watson's short putt suddenly looked a lot longer but he calmly holed for a closing 65 to achieve his second Open title.
1984, St Andrews
Seven years later Watson had an historic sixth Open title in his sights, only to be denied by a typically inspired Seve Ball-esteros. Two shots behind Watson and Australian Ian Baker-Finch going into the final round, Ballesteros had drawn level by the time he reached the 17th tee.
He had failed to make par there all week but predicted that if he did, he would go on to win. A typically bold prediction but the Spaniard had the skills to back it up and a six-iron approach from 200 yards secured that vital par. In the match behind, Watson drove dangerously close to the out of bounds on the right and then hit his two-iron approach through the green and on to the grass verge beyond the road. From there he was unable to save par and a roar from the 18th told him Ballesteros had holed for birdie.
Watson now needed to eagle the 18th to force a play-off but his approach was too strong and Ballesteros claimed his second Open title.
For Doug Sanders in 1970, read Jean Van de Velde at Carnoustie almost 30 years later. The 1999 Open will forever be remembered for Van de Velde's final-hole collapse when the Claret Jug was within his grasp.
A fiendishly tough course combined with bad weather to produce a plethora of high scores as the world's best were made to look like club hackers. Australian Rod Pampling was the only one to match par on the opening day but set an unwanted record on Friday after an 86 made him the only first-round leader in Open history to go and miss the cut.
Van de Velde's excellent 68 gave him the halfway lead and a 70 on Saturday took him five shots clear. Scotland's Paul Lawrie closed with a 67 to set the clubhouse target on six over but Van de Velde held a three-shot lead as he stood on the 18th tee.
A double bogey or better would be good enough to win but, after a wild drive, his two-iron second bounced off the grandstand and into heavy rough. His third found the burn short of the green and after a farcical interlude where he removed his shoes and shocks and waded in to contemplate playing from the water, the Frenchman opted for a penalty drop.
His fifth shot found a greenside bunker and he got up and down for a triple-bogey seven to force a play-off with Lawrie and 1997 champion Justin Leonard. Lawrie played the four play-off holes in one under par to take the title but Van de Velde's name is the one etched in the memory.
Tiger Woods has no intention of spending as much time as Phil Mickelson at Hoylake in advance of the Open championship start on Thursday but he was back on the course at 6.45am yesterday.
The world No 1 and defending champion played the Royal Liverpool course for the first time on Saturday before having another look in the company of Australian Rod Pampling.
Mickelson, who but for double-bogeying the final hole of the US Open last month would have been going for a clean sweep of the majors, arrived in Britain three weeks ago and spent a reported nine hours on the links then.
He returned at the end of last week to continue his preparations for an event in which he has had only one top-ten finish - third at Troon two years ago - in 13 attempts.
Hoylake has not staged the Open since 1967, when Argentina's Roberto de Vicenzo beat Jack Nicklaus by two. De Vicenzo has decided not to make the trip to see his successor crowned but Australian Peter Thomson, who won his third successive title there in 1956, is expected to be present 50 years on.