Friday, 19 March 2010
Paul Lawrie bids to become the first player since Tom Watson in 1983 to successfully defend the Open Championship when the 129th event - the 26th to be held at St.Andrews - takes place over the famous Old Course.

Lawrie became the first Scot to win the Open since Sandy Lyle in 1985, and the first to win on home soil since Tommy Armour 54 years earlier, when he captured the coveted Claret Jug after a dramatic play-off at Carnoustie.

The Aberdonian shot the lowest round of a dramatic final day - a 67 - to come from ten shots behind to catch American Justin Leonard and Frenchman, Jean Van de Velde, who needed a six at the last to win but indulged in his now infamous paddle in the Barry Burn.

Lawrie then birdied the final two holes of the four hole play-off to become the last champion of the old millennium - and he will be back at St.Andrews for the first championship of the new one.

The Open field, as ever, is a who's who of world golf. 22 past champions will be making the pilgrimage to the Home of Golf to take part in the Open proper, or to allow the spectators to wallow in nostalgia by playing in the parade of champions on Wednesday.

Four past winners at St.Andrews,Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros and Nick Faldo - three of the greatest exponents of the game - and John Daly will be back at their spiritual home hoping to rekindle glorious memories of the past. Faldo has shown a recent return to the form which led him to the St.Andrews record total of 270, 18 under par, in 1990 while Daly's play-off victory came at the expense of Costantino Rocca, who holed that audacious 50 foot putt at the last in 1995 to tie.

Who can ever forget the fist-pumping action which accompanied Ballesteros's last hole birdie in 1984 which carried him past Tom Watson? And will Doug Sanders ever be permitted to forget the missed short putt in 1970 which cost him the 1970 Open and let in Nicklaus for the first of two titles at St.Andrews? Nicklaus, of course, has decreed that this will be his final Open Championship and he will carry the crowds on a sentimental journey over the rolling links.

Sadly, Greg Norman is unable to play due to recent hip surgery, but the vast array of champions helps to compensate for the absence of the 1986 and 1993 winner.

The full entry for the parade of champions, in date order of their victories, is : Sam Snead, Peter Thomson, Gary Player, Bob Charles, Jack Nicklaus, Roberto de Vicenzo, Tony Jacklin, Lee Trevino, Tom Weiskopf, Tom Watson, Seve Ballesteros, Bill Rogers, Sandy Lyle, Nick Faldo, Mark Calcavecchia, Ian Baker-Finch, Nick Price, John Daly, Tom Lehman, Justin Leonard, Mark O'Meara and Paul Lawrie.

The millennium Open also contains the greats of the modern era as well as most of the heroes of the past. Tiger Woods, the World No.1, aims to complete his personal Grand Slam of all four majors following his runaway triumph in the US Open at Pebble Beach and he starts as the hottest favourite in modern times.

Europe will supply a strong challenge from, among others, Colin Montgomerie, Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke, Jose Maria Olazabal, Miguel Angel Jimenez - who finished joint runner-up with Ernie Els in the US Open - Padraig Harrington, Jesper Parnevik and Sergio Garcia.

At the age of 88 Sam Snead, the Open champion of 1946, will be the oldest of the 22 past winners of the title to take part in the Past Champions Challenge that will precede the millennium Open.

Multiple winners Peter Thomson, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Tom Watson, Seve Ballesteros and Nick Faldo will all be taking part. Between them the 22 champions have won the Open title 39 times.

The event will be played over the first two and last two holes on Wednesday, July 19, starting at 4.30 pm. The past champions will make up three or four-ball teams and play will feature a best-ball format. The winning team will receive £40,000 for their favourite charity.

Each player will also receive a commemorative silver plate and be given the Freedom of the Links.

The full entry, in date order of their victories, is : Sam Snead, Peter Thomson, Gary Player, Bob Charles, Jack Nicklaus, Roberto de Vicenzo, Tony Jacklin, Lee Trevino, Tom Weiskopf, Tom Watson, Seve Ballesteros, Bill Rogers, Sandy Lyle, Nick Faldo, Mark Calcavecchia, Ian Baker-Finch, Nick Price, John Daly, Tom Lehman, Justin Leonard, Mark O_Meara and Paul Lawrie.

The first Open Championship was played over three rounds of Prestwick's 12-hole course on October 17, 1860. The event was inspired by the Earl of Eglinton and Colonel James Fairlie and at their instigation the members of Prestwick contributed funds for an extravagant belt of red leather adorned with silver buckle and decorations.

It was only at the beginning of October that letters were sent to leading clubs inviting them to send up to three of their best caddies, who were the first professionals, to take part in the event. Just eight men played in that first challenge and Willie Park of Musselburgh beat Tom Morris by two strokes with a score of 174. No prizes were awarded until 1873 when Park again triumphed and received £10.

Although the following year's championship was declared "open to the whole world" the number of contestants rose to only 12, and this time Morris took the honours. He and his son, Young Tom, were to dominate the event, winning four times each by 1872.

Young Tom was awarded the belt outright after winning three in a row from 1868, achieved with ever decreasing scores. His 36-hole total in 1870 was 149 - 13 strokes better than any other champion's winning score. The event had always been played at Prestwick until this point, but in raising funds for a new trophy the Royal and Ancient Golf Club and the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers were invited to contribute and to stage the championship in turn. It was at this point that the famous silver claret jug replaced the belt as the Open trophy.

It was not until 1894 that other venues were added to the rota and Royal St George's, at Sandwich in Kent, became the first non-Scottish club to enter the history of the Open, followed in 1897 by the Royal Liverpool Golf Club at Hoylake in Cheshire.

The repositioning of six championship tees on the Old Course has increased the overall measurement from 6933 yards in 1995 to 7115 for the 2000 open. It also brings some of the centuries-old hazards back into play.

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