The Open Championship 2001
“This championship is different from the other majors. I find that when you play a course like this one, if you make any small mistake it is compounded. There are no ifs and buts. You can’t play out of all of the bunkers and you can’t play much out of the rough unless you get lucky.”
David Duval, 2001 Champion Golfer of the Year
The last Open at Royal Lytham in 1996 provided the venue’s first American professional winner in Tom Lehman. In recent times the Americans had dominated the Open. Duval became the sixth American in seven years to win the claret jug and rid himself of the tag ‘the best golfer never to have won a major’. Despite the recent American dominance, bolstered by Tigers consistent supremacy throughout the 2000 and 2001 seasons, this Open provided plenty of surprises and excitement.
Although Colin Montgomerie had led by three strokes on Thursday, the leaderboard became progressively more bunched. Duval roared to the top of it with a 65 on Saturday, joining Bernhard Langer, Ian Woosnam and Alex Cejka, with a further 15 players within two strokes.
Woosnam got off to the perfect start with his tee shot at the par-3 first finishing six inches from the hole. But the birdie soon turned into a bogey when his caddie discovered an extra driver in the bag. “You’re going to go ballistic,” he told his boss on the second tee. “We have 15 clubs.” Woosnam threw the spare into a bush and declared the two-shot penalty. “I felt like I’d be kicked in the teeth,” said the Welshman, who finished in a tie for third place.
Duval birdied four of the first 11 holes on his way to a 67 and a three-shot win over Niclas Fasth. Duval played Lytham’s fearsome final five holes in par and after sinking his final putt he whipped off his cap and sunglasses and waved to the crowd. For the first time in public that week he smiled. His acceptance speech matched the quality of his golf that week. Humble, honest and respectful. Royal Lytham and the Open had another worthy champion.