Arnold Palmer’s four decades at the British Open

Arnold Palmer’s impact on the British Open Championship stands the test of time. We look into why the famous old tournament holds the American legend in such high esteem.

Arnold Palmer won two British Open titles in his storied career. But his influence on the event extends much further than that.

American golfers had often shunned the tournament. Despite the prestige, the travel was difficult, the purse small and the conditions alien.

But Palmer changed everything. He wanted to take on the challenge and in the 1960s this icon of golf brought new glamour to the event.

His attacking style and charisma captured the British public and they came out in force to see him take on the classic links courses.

'The King' thrilled his fans - dubbed 'Arnie's Army' - as Palmer lifted golf to a new status.

Planet Sport takes a look through Palmer's memorable career at the British Open:

The 1960s

Arnold Palmer was already a three-time Major winner when he travelled to the UK for his first tilt at the British Open.

That was in 1960 and Palmer was on a mission. He'd landed the first two Majors of the year - The Masters and the US Open - and this was a rare chance to try and complete the Grand Slam.

His bid to land the third leg of the 'impregnable quadrilateral' took place at St. Andrews but only after he'd come through a 36-hole qualifier! Yes, even the great man had to prove he was worthy of a place.

Palmer was seven back at halfway but burst through the field on the weekend. He eventually finished runner-up by a single shot to Aussie Kel Nagle.

Enthused by his British Open debut, Palmer travelled over again in 1961 to try his luck at Royal Birkdale.

In tough conditions, Arnie's opening two rounds of 70-71 put him one back at the midpoint. The final 36 holes were played on Saturday and a 69 in round three put him a shot clear with 18 to play.

Could he get his hands on the famed Claret Jug? The answer was yes as a final-round 72 gave Palmer his first British Open win and fourth Major title.

Arnie defended the title at Royal Troon in 1962. Again, the rules of the day meant he had to go through qualifying but it proved no problem.

One of just four players to break par on day one, Palmer roared into a two-shot lead at midway and extended that lead to five with a brilliant third-round 67.

No-one could live with him and Arnie was able to enjoy the walk up the last before completing a dominant six-shot win. The local newspaper reported that he'd won with "his most impressive combination of power and skill".

Palmer was hot favorite with the local bookmakers to make it a three-peat at Royal Lytham in 1963 but it wasn't to be. He finished tied 26th as New Zealander Bob Charles took the silverware.

After missing the 1964 event, 'The King' returned with 16th at Royal Birkdale in 1965 and added another pair of top 10s in his only other two appearances of the decade - at Muirfield in 1966 (T8) and Carnoustie (T10) in 1968.

In the former, he was four back with 18 to play but couldn't mount a charge. It was a similar story two years later when six adrift ahead of the final round.

The 1970s

As in the previous decade, Arnie played in seven British Opens in the 1970s as he again charmed the UK crowds.

He made the cut in them all, finishing in the top 20 five times.

His best performances both came back in Scotland: at Muirfield in 1972 and Turnberry in 1977.

At Muirfield, Palmer made a quiet start but jumped to tied seventh with a strong finish of 69-71 as Lee Trevino won with 6-under.

Aged 47 at Turnberry in 1977, his solo seventh was to be Palmer's last top 10 in a Major.

This was the famous 'Duel in the Sun' when Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus finished 10 shots clear of the field.

Arnie was never in contention but, still cutting a dashing figure, he fired 67-69 over the final 36 holes to crash the top 10.

The 1980s

Palmer still brought much joy to the British fans as he continued his Open journey.

Once more, he played seven of the 10 editions over the decade and, now past his 50th birthday, posted a couple of good finishes.

In 1981 at Royal St George's on England's south coast he took T23 - his final top 25 in any Major. And, aged 52, he added T27 the following year at Royal Troon, the scene of his 1962 win.

Arnie's tied 56th at Royal Birkdale would be the last time British crowds got to see him play all four rounds.

The 1990s

The great man wasn't done yet and he would grace the tournament twice more with his presence.

Appropriately, both those appearances came at St Andrews, the 'Home of Golf'.

The first was in 1990, an event won by Nick Faldo, and the big farewell came five years later in 1995.

It was a picturebook ending. Palmer paused for photos on the Swilken Bridge and was roared up every inch of the 18th fairway. The grandstand was packed while others hung out of windows from nearby buildings.

Palmer, now 65, had a five-footer for par. Did he hole it? Of course he did. An emotional moment and the end of an era that spanned four decades and 27 British Opens.

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