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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 July, 2004, 19:58 GMT 20:58 UK
Hat-trick hero: Peter Thomson

Who is the greatest Open champion?

THE CONTENDERS
Tom Watson has beaten off five other Open legends to win your nomination for the greatest ever Open champion.

All week we asked you to vote on your favourite winner, and we can now reveal the five-time Open champion polled 37% with three-time champion Nick Faldo in second on 26%.

Seve Ballesteros and Jack Nicklaus - voted your Masters master back in April - shared 14%, while Gary Player and another five-time winner Peter Thomson were well back.

America's Watson ruled the Open roost in the late 1970s and early 1980s. His easy manner and affinity with the British crowds made him a popular champion.


Peter Thomson
By Rob Hodgetts

Peter Thomson
Thomson won the Open five times between 1954 and 1965

Peter Thomson may not rank among golf's most stellar names but his record of five Open titles speaks for itself.

The Australian sits alongside JH Taylor, James Braid and Tom Watson as one of only four players to have won a quintet of Claret Jugs. Only six-time champion Harry Vardon has won more.

And his hat-trick of Open titles in the 1950s was a unique achievement in the 20th century.

Thomson dominated on the British links during a seven-year spell in which he was either first or second.

His low, running game was ideally suited to the hard links of Britain's coastline - his best result on America's target-golf parkland layouts was fourth at the 1956 US Open.

Thomson finished sixth on his Open debut in 1951 but his stunning streak began with second at Royal Lytham in 1952 behind South Africa's Bobby Locke, the only other player that could live with him in his Open pomp.

A four-way tie for second at Carnoustie the following year behind the legendary America Ben Hogan prepared Thomson for his reign.

THOMSON'S TALE
Born: 23 Aug 1929, Melbourne, Australia
Turned pro: 1949
Major titles: 5
Open wins: 1954, 1955, 1956, 1958, 1965
Open runner-up: 1952, 1953, 1957
Other Open facts: One of only five players to win five Open titles. Only player in 20th century to win Open hat-trick

With a brand new set of irons but without a driver, the 24-year-old Thomson carded a final-round 71 at Royal Birkdale to win by one from Locke, Syd Scott and Dai Rees in 1954.

The following year he beat Johnny Fallon by two shots to win at St Andrews and he completed his hat-trick with victory by three strokes over Belgium's Flory van Donck at Hoylake in 1956.

Having succeeded Locke as pre-tournament favourite, he lost by three to his arch-rival back at St Andrews in 1957.

But he hit back with victory in a 36-hole play-off to beat 23-year-old Briton Dave Thomas at Royal Lytham in 1958.

Throughout his period of success, Thomson was dogged by critics who suggested he was winning in an era when the world's best players avoided the Open.

But Thomson silenced these claims 11 years after his first win when he landed the 1965 Open at Royal Birkdale against the might of America's top players - including the young Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player - who had begun to contest the Open in earnest.

So if it's great Open champions we're debating, the name of P Thomson from the working class Melbourne suburb of Brunswick must be very high in the reckoning, if not top of the pile.





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