ROYAL BIRKDALE, 1965
THOMSON WINS HIS FIFTH OPEN TITLE IN STYLE
The 1965 Open was played at Royal Birkdale. The American Tony Lema arrived to defend his Open title against players such as Peter Thomson, Gary Player, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. Lema had a promising first round, with excellent play on the greens to card a 68, the best score of the day. Behind him, Ireland’s Christy O’Connor had a trouble-free 69 and both the amateur Joe Carr and Arnold Palmer scored 70. Surprisingly, Nicklaus, Player and Thomson made little impact during the first round, scoring 73, 76 and 74 respectively.
The second round saw some changes at the top of the table. Lema’s play began to slip and he scored 72, though he managed to hold onto the joint lead position with the Australian Bruce Devlin who had an excellent round of 69. Welshman Brian Huggett shared the best round of the day with Peter Thomson, both scoring 68. Huggett moved up to joint second position and Thomson was now within two shots of the lead. O’Connor slipped back with a round of 73 but Arnold Palmer held onto joint third position with a second round of 71, just one shot off the lead.
In the third round, Nicklaus carded 77 and dropped to 17th place. Heavy wind and rain produced higher scores, and Lema, who was having problems with his driver, scored 75 to share second position with Devlin. Bernard Hunt had the best round of the day, scoring an impressive 70, but this was only enough to move him up to joint fifth position. Roberto De Vicenzo, O’Connor and Palmer were just two strokes ahead, tied for fourth place. Thomson had a steady round of 72 and finished the day in the lead, only one stroke ahead of Lema and Devlin. Only three shots separated the top 10 players going into the fourth round.
The first player in the clubhouse with a score to beat was Christy O’Connor. One shot off Thomson’s lead at the 18th, he had a birdie here for a round of 71 and an aggregate of 287. Still in the running were De Vicenzo, Huggett, Lema, Devlin and Thomson. Gradually, however, most fell away. Huggett had a promising late challenge and his excellent putting ensured him a tie for the lead with O’Connor. Meanwhile the final group out, Thomson and Lema, were playing a classic duel round the course.
At the 8th Thomson was three strokes up but by the 14th, he had lost two of these and Lema was just one behind. At the 16th, Lema missed a vital birdie putt, which would have given him a share of the lead. At the 17th he had a disappointing bogey and Thomson was now two strokes up with two holes left to play. At the 18th both players hit excellent tee shots, but while Thomson’s second shot landed in the centre of the green, Lema’s wayward shot found a bunker. He could not recover and eventually took six for the hole. Thomson had a final par four to complete his round in 71, and won the Championship with a total of 285, two shots ahead of Huggett and O’Connor. This was Thomson’s fifth Open title, eleven years after wining his first Open, at Royal Birkdale in 1954.