All credit to Champion Golfer of the Year (’99) Paul Lawrie, but looking back at the British Open Championship’s seven previous visits to Carnoustie, one thing becomes clear: it was not meltdown maestro Jean Van de Velde who cheated history in 1999, it was Justin Leonard. If the plucky Texan had prevailed in the four-hole playoff with Lawrie, he’d have fit quite nicely in the Carnoustie pantheon, all of whom not named Paul won multiple majors and at least several of whom were vertically challenged. The 1999 Open would have given the 5’9″ Leonard his second Claret Jug, making him the least accomplished but still impressive Carnoustie conqueror. Here are snapshots of the entire crew.
2007: Padraig Harrington
Final-round notes: He hit two balls into Barry Burn and double-bogeyed the final hole, leading to a playoff, which he won by one shot.
Hard-luck tale: Sergio Garcia’s lip-out on the 72nd hole would have won it.
Fun fact: He was a certified accountant before turning pro; his longtime caddie, Ronan Flood, married the sister of Padraig’s wife.
Legacy: He and his son—another “Paddy”—finished T16 at last year’s PNC Father Son Challenge.
1999: Paul Lawrie
Final-round notes: He started 10 shots back, the largest deficit for a major or a PGA Tour event winner.
Hard-luck tale: See encyclopedia entry “Jean Van de Velde.” Also, needing a birdie on the final playoff hole, Justin Leonard hit his approach into the water and made bogey.
Fun fact: He never held a share of the lead until after he finished play.
Legacy: The Paul Lawrie Match Play on the European Tour (2015 to 2017).
1975: Tom Watson
Final-round notes: Won in the Open’s last 18-hole playoff with a two-putt par.
Hard-luck tale: With a chance to tie or win on the 72nd, Johnny Miller failed to escape a fairway bunker.
Fun fact: He’d never played a links course before that week.
Legacy: Named an honorary member of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club in 1999.
1968: Gary Player
“The Black Knight”
Final-round notes: Hit a 3-wood over the Spectacles on 14 to a foot to set up an eagle.
Hard-luck tale: Billy Casper held the 54-hole lead but shot 78, lowlighted by a 6 at the 14th.
Fun fact: At the time, it was the longest course in Open history. Player had only two three-putts the entire week.
Legacy: Among a slew of businesses, Gary Player Stud Farm stands out.
1953: Ben Hogan
“The Wee Icemon”
Final-round notes: He chipped in at No. 5 for birdie; he had the flu.
Hard-luck tale: Roberto De Vicenzo shared the 54-hole lead, but he went O.B. on the ninth in the final round and fell to sixth.
Fun fact: In ’53, Hogan won five of the six events he entered. This was his only Open appearance.
Legacy: Ben Hogan golf clubs; the Hogan Bridge at Augusta; Five Fundamentals; Hogan’s Alley(s)…
1937: Henry Cotton
Final-round notes: Almost cancelled by downpours and flooding.
Hard-luck tale: In the finale, Sam Snead shot 76 and Denny Shute and Henry Picard were in the 80s.
Fun fact: Drove a Rolls Royce.
Legacy: The Dunlap 65 ball was named for his then-record 65 in the 1934 Open.
1931: Tommy Armour
“The Silver Scot”
Course: 6,410 yards
Final-round notes: Came back from five down.
Hard-luck tale: Jose Jurado thought he needed a five to tie on the 72nd. He got the five—but he needed a four.
Fun fact: A poor putter, Armour coined the term “yips.”
Legacy: Tommy Armour Golf Clubs were relaunched this year; grandfather of two-time Tour winner Tommy Armour III.