Five British Open wins — Peter Thomson
Peter Thomson won The Open Championship in Britain five times.
Only the legendary Harry Vardon, with six wins, has won more.
Three of Thomson’s wins in the British Open were in consecutive years — 1954, 1955 and 1956 — and he is the only player to achieve such a feat.
In one year on the seniors’ tour in the United States, in 1985, Thomson won an amazing nine times. That’s a record unlikely to be rivalled.
Thomson won the Australian Open three times. He won the New Zealand Open nine times — nine is not a misprint. He won the national open of 10 different countries.
It goes without saying that Thomson, who died on June 20 this year at the age of 88, was one of Australia’s greatest golfers.
Thomson was born in Melbourne where the numerous courses on it’s sandbelt seemed to prepare him ideally for the many links venues in Britain. Thomson said he seemed to understand the bounce of the ball on a links course.
“I liked playing on a course where the ball bounces,’’ Thomson once recalled.
“As time went by, I found I had an advantage. Somehow, I comprehended that style of play, watching the ball bounce forward.’’
His five wins in the British Open came at Royal Birkdale (1954), St Andrews (1955), Royal Liverpool (1956), Royal Lytham (1958) and again at Birkdale (1965).
The latter win was particularly satisfying for Thomson.
Critics had suggested his earlier wins had been made easier as they came during a period when top American players declined the trip to Britain. But in 1965 the likes of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tony Lema, the greatest of the era, were in the field.
Thomson was born in difficult times and remembered his mother struggling to pay the rent and his father, a signwriter, leaving the family.
“I don’t know where my father went to, but he went out of sight,’’ he once recalled.
“I was really brought up by my grandfather and my mother.’’
Years later, when he succeeded in making a living from the game, he bought the West Brunswick house that he had grown up in and gave it to his mother.
Thomson gave much back to the game. He was president of the Australian Professional Golfers’ Association for 32 years and was an architect of golf courses around the world.
He was inducted into the Sport Australia hall of fame in 1985 for his contribution to golf and was elevated to “legend of Australian Sport” in 2001. He was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1998.
He stood for election to the Victorian Parliament in 1982 as a Liberal Party candidate, but was defeated.
In 1979 he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his service to golf and in 2001 became an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his contributions as a player and administrator and for community service.
Thomson battled Parkinson’s disease for four years which saw him withdraw from public life in his last year.
R&A chief executive acknowledges Thomson
Royal and Ancient chief executive Martin Slumbers was amongst the many to publicly express sympathy at the death of Peter Thomson.
“Peter was a true gentleman and will be forever remembered throughout the world of golf as one of the great champions of our wonderful sport,’’ Slumbers said.
``He was a distinguished honorary member of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews and will be sorely missed by all of us at The R&A. Our thoughts are with his family.
"Peter gave me a number of very interesting and valuable thoughts on the game, how it has developed and where it is going which demonstrated his genuine interest and love of golf.
“He was one of the most decorated and celebrated champion golfers in the history of The Open, winning the championship five times in total and becoming the only golfer of the 20th century to lift the Claret Jug on three consecutive occasions between 1954 and 1956.’'
Thomson’s fellow five-time champion golfer of the year Tom Watson said, “The world of golf has sadly lost arguably the greatest links player in history, Australian Peter Thomson.
``His record of winning five Open Championships combined with his finishing in The Open’s top 10 finishers an incredible 18 out of 21 years (1951-71) will go down in the annals of golf’s greatest achievements. We will miss him.”
Thomson’s first appearance in The Open came in 1951 at Royal Portrush where he finished sixth and went on to produce arguably the finest stretch of results in the history of the Championship. In the next seven years, he was either first or second, winning on four occasions: Royal Birkdale in 1954, St Andrews in 1955, Royal Liverpool in 1956 and Royal Lytham & St Annes in 1958.
Thomson went onto win a fifth time in 1965, defeating Christy O’Connor senior by two strokes to claim his second Open Championship victory at Royal Birkdale.
His 89 professional wins came all around the world including six PGA Tour titles, one European Tour title and a victory on the Japan Golf Tour.
Thomson was president of the Australian PGA from 1962 to 1994 and was a winning non-playing captain of the international team that defeated the United States in the 1998 Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne.
In 1982, he was elected an honorary member of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, where he played an active role.