The world’s best golfers are returning to compete in this week’s Emirates Australian Open at the Royal Sydney Golf Club – the 15th time the iconic Sydney layout will have hosted the championship first staged in 1904.
In the time since that first championship, the Open has evolved from an event of limited local standing to once being rated by the likes of Nick Faldo, Raymond Floyd and Jack Nicklaus as the world’s ‘fifth Major’ championship.
It has been the stage for the game’s greatest players as they have battled to claim Australian golf’s most prized silverware – the Stonehaven Cup. It is of no surprise then, that the names engraved on that cup are synonymous with Major championship history.
Three of the sport’s five Immortals are there; in addition to South African Gary Player’s record of seven inscriptions (most indelibly alongside the year 1965 when he plundered Kooyonga to the phenomenal tune of 28-under par), there’s Nicklaus’ name six times, and also Gene Sarazen for his win at Metropolitan in 1936 where he made good his promise to return and avenge his 1934 defeat by Sydney pro Bill Bolger.
And the other two? Well Ben Hogan was terrified of flying and made the trip to Britain only once – enough though to claim the Open Championship, however the thought of a trip to Australia was simply too much. And Tiger? Well, he came very close in 2011.
But what of those who couldn’t win all four of the Majors? For a start there’s Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson, while Australia’s five-time Open champion Peter Thomson is there for his wins in 1951, 1967 and in 1972.
Greg Norman (pictured) and Australia’s greatest ever amateur, Ivo Whitton, are there five times. And sitting just one title shy of Norman and Whitton is the only player to have won three successive Australian Opens – the great Ossie Pickworth.
Back to Whitton though, and he is to Australian golf what Bobby Jones is to American golf. Like Thomson, Whitton was able to win the Open in three different decades; recording the fifth of his victories at The Australian in 1931.
But of all the great Open rounds ever played, few, if any, were better than the closing 63 to seal Jordan Spieth’s 2014 victory at The Australian. The rising American star blew a world-class field away by six shots with a flawless round in extremely testing conditions to finish at 13-under and with only seven players under par.
And so we look to this year and, doubtless, another story that will enthral – just another chapter in the already rich folklore of the Emirates Australian Open.
Australian Open Winners at Royal Sydney Golf Club
2013 Rory McIlroy (NIR) – 270
2008 Tim Clark (RSA) – 279
2006 John Senden (QLD) – 280
1999 Aaron Baddeley [a] (VIC) – 274
1994 Robert Allenby (VIC) – 280
1988 Mark Calcavecchia (USA) – 269
1969 Gary Player (SAF) – 288
1956 Bruce Crampton (NSW) – 289
1946 Ossie Pickworth (NSW) – 289
1934 Bill Bolger (NSW) – 283
1928 Fred Popplewell (NSW) – 295
1922 Charles Campbell (NSW) – 307
1911 Carnegie Clark (NSW) – 321
1906 Carnegie Clark (NSW) – 322