ROYAL BIRKDALE, 1954
In 1954, The Open was held at Royal Birkdale for the first time. In the absence of 1953 Champion Ben Hogan, favourites for the title included South African Bobby Locke, Americans Jimmy Demaret and Jim Turnesa. Interest also surrounded the 1953 Open runner-up, Australian Peter Thomson. The first round of the competition saw two players, Sam King and Bill Spence, better the course record with rounds of 69. British player Norman Sutton finished one behind with 70. Tony Cerda, John Jacobs and George Howard all scored 71. A large group including Peter Alliss, Dai Rees, Thomson and Turnesa finished one behind on 72. Locke was disappointed with 74.
The best round of the second day came from Sid Scott, who played some excellent golf to set a new course record of 67. With his first round score of 76, he finished on 143, joining Rees, Thomson and King in joint third position. Cerda had a steady round of 71 to finish the day in second position. The two American favourites, Demaret and Turnesa, were in joint fourth position with three other players. Locke had an improved round of 71, elevating him to just four shots off the lead. Little known golfer Bill Spence had a more disappointing round of 72 but still managed to hold onto a narrow one shot lead going into the third day.
Sid Scott went out for an early third round and after scoring 69 was in the clubhouse on 212 to set an early target. Rees and Thomson, who played excellent golf through the green, also scored 69 to join Scott at the top of the table. A 69 from Locke left him just two shots off the lead. Cerda, Spence and Turnesa were behind on 215. Everything was still to play for going into the final round of the competition.
Sid Scott had a formidable final round of 72, setting a target of 284. Rees had a solid round but missed his putt at the 18th and also finished on 284. Thomson needed a round of 71 to lead the competition. He had a chequered back nine, missing a short putt at the 12th, but managing an excellent bunker recovery at the 16th. He needed a par at the 17th and a five at the last to take the lead. He managed the par but found a bunker at the 18th and suddenly his lead was in danger of slipping. Again, his recovery was excellent and despite missing the first putt, he easily tapped in for a round of 71 to go one ahead of the leaders, on 283.
All eyes now rested on Turnesa and Locke. Turnesa’s final 71 was three shots off the lead and the pressure mounted on Locke. Putting problems throughout the round left him at the 18th needing a 3 to tie with Thomson and force a play off. However his putt pulled up short, meaning Thomson had taken his first Open title in true style. Locke, Rees and Scott finished just one stroke behind him.