ROYAL BIRKDALE, 1991
EXCELLENT FINAL ROUND PRODUCES AN AUSTRALIAN OPEN CHAMPION
The 1991 Open Championship was played at Royal Birkdale. Despite a promising start, the first day of the competition turned windy and bleak and only seventeen golfers managed to break par 70. Faldo had an encouraging start, and despite problems over the first nine holes, redeemed himself over the final four and finished with a score of 68, tied with six others in third position. Three others went round in 69; Martin Gates, playing in his first Open, American Chip Beck and Spaniard Santiago Luna. Ian Woosnam scored a steady 70 and Ian Baker-Finch went round virtually unnoticed with an opening score of one over par. The day, however, belonged to Seve Ballesteros. Despite concerns that his top-ranking Open days were over, his recent form had been promising and a blistering first round score of 66, which included an eagle at the 17th and a birdie at the 18th, placed him at the top of the field by a single stroke.
Playing conditions on the second day eased, but were by no means ideal. Ballesteros fell back with 73 and shared joint second position with five others, just a stroke off the lead. Faldo had a frustrating day, scoring 75. The Australian Mike Harwood and Gary Halberg had each shot 68 the previous day. Their steady rounds of 70 placed them at the top of the leader board. The surprise of the day was who would join them. Andrew Oldcorn, who had only just returned to competitive golf after over a year off due to illness, shot a brilliant 67 to tie for the lead. Scores were close; by the end of the day, thirty-eight players were within four strokes of the lead.
Lower scores were enjoyed across the board on the third day of play. Despite an indifferent start, Ballesteros had the crowd’s support and scored 69 to finish two strokes off the lead, just behind second place golfers Mike Harwood and Eamonn Darcy. Irishman Darcy had never before made his mark at The Open and had climbed to this position after an excellent round of 66. Australian Ian Baker-Finch and American Mark O’Meara made the best moves of the day. Baker-Finch had an inspired 64 while O’Meara shot 67, both finishing eagle-birdie for a share of the lead at four under par.
The final day contained true Open drama. Inevitably, some players fell by the wayside. Ballesteros was disappointed with his 71, which left him five strokes behind the winning score. Darcy scored 70 to finish fifth. Meanwhile, Fred Couples mounted a late challenge, having started the day five strokes behind. His round of 64 gave him a total of 275 and ultimately a tie for third place with Mark O’Meara. Going off last, Baker-Finch opened his round in blistering style with an outward total of 29 strokes. By the time O’Meara reached the eighth hole, he was already five strokes behind. Fellow Australian Harwood also played an excellent round of 67 but it was not good enough to keep pace with Baker-Finch, who finished with a 66 for a winning total of 272, two strokes ahead of Harwood.