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The Life of Tom Morris
Chapter XV - Tommy wins Open Championship for fourth time, and plays David Strath


ON the 13th September of 1872 the Open Championship was reinstituted and reconstituted. This is how it is described in The Field of 2ist September a description which, in view of the great event it has now become, will, we think, be very interesting to all our readers. The Field report says:

PRESTWICK GOLF CLUB.

The competition for the challenge trophy came off last Friday, for the first time, over the Prestwick links. A competition has not been held since 1870 when the "belt," presented by the late Earl of Eglinton, fell into the hands of the younger Morris, who that year scored his third successive victory. The competition for the Championship in former years was fruitful of considerable interest, and tended to keep the "royal game" before the public. It was, therefore, deemed advisable that these annual professional contests should not cease, and several lovers of the ancient game resolved to revive the champion competition. An appeal was consequently made, and sufficient funds raised among the members of the Prestwick Golf Club, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, and the Muselburgh Club, to procure a "cup" for annual competition; the competition to be open to all comers, and to be played for annually over one of the following links, viz., Prestwick, St Andrews and Musselburgh alternately. Unlike the "belt," this trophy can never become the absolute property of any winner, but along with the custody of it for a year he gets a medal to be specially retained, and also a money prize. It will thus be observed that the champion competition is now thoroughly established, which will tend to increase the popularity of this elegant and healthy pastime.

The competition this year came off during the autumn meeting of the Prestwick Golf Club, and both together drew a large gathering. The weather on Friday during the competition was fine, barring a strong westerly breeze, which blew in gusts across the course. The puffed (sic) nature of the putting-green, caused by the late track of wet weather, also tended to make the play below the average of former belt competitions.

The match commenced about ten o'clock, and consisted of three rounds of 12 holes each, St Andrews rules being observed; and Sir Robert Hay, Bart., acted as umpire. Eight competitors entered, and moved off as follows: 1, Young Tom Morris, St Andrews, and Mr William Hunter, Prestwick; 2, Old Tom Morris, St Andrews, and Davie Park, Musselburgh; 3, Charlie Hunter, Prestwick, and Mr William Doleman. Prestwick; 4, Davie Strath, St Andrews, and Hugh Brown, Prestwick.

Young Tom, the champion, was the favourite until the commencement of the third round, when Strath started with five strokes of an advantage. Tom, in the first round, played a very steady game, but was unfortunate in several of his short "putts," caused by the wetness of the turf. In the second round he also played well. In making to the "stone-dyke hole," he crossed the "cardinal" with his third stroke, and his ball lay about 3 in. from the wall. The ball could not thus be played with his putter, but, taking the iron, he played it against the wall so as to make a rebound; but, instead, the ball ran up and fell over into the next field. Tom could not see the hole, as the dyke intervened, but a well-directed stroke with his niblick laid it close to the hole. Davie Strath also played a fine game in the first round, but was unfortunate in several of his long "putts." He was likewise very fortunate in the second round, and holed that round in 52 strokes, which was the lowest score in which the links were taken during the day". The betting consequently went in his favour, 5 to 4 being offered. In the third round a succession of ill-luck attended him. In playing the second hole he made an unfortunate iron shot, which cost him three strokes, and in the last hole he lost a stroke in the water. He finally wound up his third round with a score of 61 strokes, being eight behind Young Tom in the third round, and three on the day's play. His putting, although not always successful, has not hitherto been surpassed on these links. The play of Tom Morris, sen., and Davie Park was also much admired. The game at the close stood as follows:

Young Tom Morris was thus returned as champion for the present year, having carried off the trophy, along with which was a medal to be permanently retained, and 8 in money. It is of importance, as bearing on the present, match, to observe that, in winning the champion belt, young Tom did the three rounds in 1868 in 154 strokes; in 1860, 157 strokes; and in 1870, in 149 strokes. The next live competitors in order received money prizes to the value of 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 respectively.

Taking advantage of the presence of so many professionals, the members of the Prestwick Golf Club, during their recent meeting, enjoyed many fine and interesting matches.

A capital foursome was played by Mr H. Hart and Tom Morris, jun., against Mr W. Hunter and Davie Strath. The former were receiving a third in the first round, which fell to them by 2 holes. In the second round, playing even, they also won by 2 up and 1 to play. The holes in this match were well holed. A foursome of some interest was played by Mr G. E. Ewing and Tom Morris, sen., against Mr Gordon Smith and Mr Alexander Morris. The latter won.

A professional foursome came off between the elder and younger Tom Morris, Davie Strath, St Andrews, and Davie Park, Musselburgh. The match was two rounds, 24 holes; the first round ended all square; in the second round Davie Strath and Davie Park were defeated by 1 hole in the two rounds.

In the spring of 1873 Tommy was pitted against Davie Strath, one of a well-known St Andrews golfing family. Strath beat him by 2 holes at "the Burn," but there was only one stroke of difference in the 36 holes. In the return match Tommy turned the tables on Davie, and beat him by the same number of holes. Thus they stood match for match. This result drew an even closer attention to the relative merits of the young golfers, and a great match of 108 holes (three days' golf) was arranged. Strath won by the narrow margin of 3 holes. Here are the details:

The closeness of this match naturally gave rise to a repetition of it. The "return" was played on the 27th, 28th and 29th of August. It drew together large and interested crowds from all quarters. At the end of the first half of the match Strath was 5 up, and it seemed as if he was going to score another victory. But with characteristic and indomitable determination, Tommy concentrated his energies for a desperate fight, and by wonderful play eventually secured the match by 6 holes. The following are the particulars of the strokes:


On the 12 rounds Tommy was thus 3 holes ahead, but so close was the play that the number of strokes was exactly equal.

With regard to these matches between Tommy and Strath, Mr Everard, writing of the former in Golf in the Badminton Library (Longmans) says, "The only professional who really ran him close was his friend, Davie Strath, with whom he played some wonderfully good and close matches, but in the long run, and especially in competitions of importance. Tommy appeared to have the inside turn. This was due, probably, to his extraordinary skill as a putter and holer-out; any sort of putt appeared to be dead to him, and of the short ones he missed fewer than any player the writer has ever seen."

Writing of David Strath, Mr Everard says: "This grand player, though never fortunate enough to win the blue riband, was nevertheless about as fine a player as St Andrews has ever produced. He lives chiefly in the recollection of golfers as the determined opponent of Young Tom, and there are not wanting many who declare (and the writer is not indisposed to share this opinion) that for brilliant and steady play combined with absence of mistakes, the golf that these two exhibited day after day has never been surpassed.

"On one occasion they played twelve consecutive rounds, and, if the writer's recollection serves him, not one round by either player amounted to 88, and the great majority of them ruled about So, or very little over. His style was the very poetry of swing, the most perfectly graceful and easy that can be imagined. If there was any one point in which he could not quite come up to Tommy, it was at the short game; though Davie was a truly excellent putter, yet his rival was on occasions phenomenal. It is to be regretted that consumption deprived the golfing world of this brilliant player ere he had reached thirty years."

And here at the zenith of Tommy's fame it will be opportune to introduce the opinion of a great golfing authority in regard to his play and form in respect to the great players of to-day.


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