The list of Australian golfers who have finished runners-up at the British Open is longer than the list of Australian winners.
It has been 21 years since Greg Norman won The Open Championship in 1993, the last Australian to do so.
Since then, Australians havehad tough time of it at the British Open. Despite conditions that one would expect them to thrive in, only a few Australian have put themselves in with a chance to win the Claret Jug.
In fact, more Australian golfers have finished in second place than in the winner’s circle at The Open with several never getting another decent shot at major championship again.
In total, just four Australians have placed their hands on the trophy at The Open; Peter Thomson (5), Greg Norman (2), Kel Nagle and Ian Baker-Finch – while 10 Aussies have experienced the heart-breaking honour of being the best of the rest.
Without wanting to place negative thoughts into the minds of Australians before this week’s 2014 Open, we thought it was worth remembering those that came so near, yet so far.
As most of you know and remember Scott blew a four shot lead with four holes to play finish a shot behind Ernie Els. But Els’ second Open victory wasn’t all because of Scott’s poor final holes. The South African was six shots behind Scott at the turn and played some phenomenal golf to shoot four-under on the back nine to snatch victory.
Ernie Els was also the Australian heart-breaker in 2002 when Stuart Appleby and Steve Elkington had to settle for a tie for second place. Along with Frenchman Thomas Levet, the two Aussies were beaten by Els in a four-hole cumulative score playoff.
All three produced fantastic final round scores to join Els in the four-way playoff, but both Aussies bowed out after four-holes. Els went on to defeat Levet and claim his first Open Championship in the sudden-death portion of the playoff.
Mike Harwood played fantastic golf at the 1991 Open Championship only to finish two strokes behind fellow Australian Ian Baker-Finch. Harwood took a tie for the lead going into the weekend and ended up as the only golfer not to post a score over par at Royal Birkdale, but it wasn’t enough to claim the Claret Jug in what was a bitter-sweet week for Australian golf fans.
Greg Norman had multiple top-10 finishes at The Open and won in both 1986 and 1993, but his only second place came in 1989 when he and fellow Australian Wayne Grady lost in a playoff to American Mark Calcavecchia.
A course-record 8-under par from Norman propelled him into the clubhouse with what looked like a winning score. Mark Calcavecchia birdied 18 to join him and Grady, who took a one-stroke lead into the final round dropped a shot at 17 that meant he would join them in a playoff.
Grady’s game fell away in the four-hole playoff but Norman looked to have a hand on the trophy when he birdied the first two holes. A booming drive on the final hole found what Norman thought was an out of reach bunker, all but assuring Calcavecchia of victory.
Rodger Davis shot out of the blocks at the 1987 Open and led the field by three shots after his 7-under par opening round. But poor second and third rounds meant he settled into a share of second place with Paul Azinger, a shot behind eventual winner Nick Faldo who parred all 18 of his final round holes.
A total of 90 holes were needed to decide a winner at the 1975 Open. Tom Watson and Jack Newton played out an 18-hole playoff round on the Sunday (the tournament began on the Wednesday) when their scores were tied after 72 holes of regulation. Coming to the final (90th) hole of the tournament, Newton and Watson’s scores were still tied but an errant approach shot from Newton resulted in a bogey. Watson’s par won him the title for the first time.
Kel Nagle finished his career with one victory at The Open Championship in 1960 and six top-10 finishes. In 1962 Nagle finished in second place to Arnold Palmer who blitzed the field to win his second Claret Jug by six shots.
Peter Thomson finished in the top-10 at the British Open on no fewer than 18 occasions. In addition to his remarkable five victories in 1954, 1955, 1956, 1958 and 1965, Thomson also settled for second place on three occasions in 1952, 1953 and 1957.
Bobby Locke pipped Thomson by a shot in 1952 before Ben Hogan finished four strokes clear of Thomson and others at the 1953 Open at Carnoustie. Thomson finally prevailed in 1954 which began an extraordinary run of three consecutive victories but it was Bobby Locke who thwarted his run at four-in-a-row, finishing four strokes of Thomson in 1957 at St.Andrews.
If there is one thing that stands out among nearly all of these second place finishes, it’s that when Aussies lose, they tend to lose to the legends of the game.
Australians to finish runners-up at The Open Championship
2012: Adam Scott (winner: Ernie Els @ Royal Lytham)
2002: Steve Elkington, Stuart Appleby (winner: Ernie Els @ Muirfield)
1991: Mike Harwood (winner: Ian Baker-Finch @ Royal Birkdale)
1989: Greg Norman, Wayne Grady (winner: Mark Calcavecchia @Royal Troon)
1987: Rodger Davis (winner: Nick Faldo @ Muirfield)
1975: Jack Newton (winner: Tom Watson @ Carnoustie)
1962: Kel Nagle (winner: Arnold Palmer @ Royal Troon)
1957: Peter Thomson (winner: Bobby Locke @ St.Andrews)
1953: Peter Thomson (winner: Ben Hogan @ Carnoustie)
1952: Peter Thomson (winner: Bobby Locke @ Royal Lytham)