Peter Thomson was the thinking man’s golfer. His clean, brisk game was based on cold logic and a gift for reducing things to their simplest essentials. His style was free of the extraneous, so that the path he would take to victory seemed a remarkably straight line.
Between 1954 and 1965, the Australian won the British Open five times. He and Young Tom Morris were among only four men to win it three times consecutively. He won 26 times in Europe, 19 times in Australia and New Zealand and 11 more times in Asia and Japan. He played only a few seasons in America, garnering one victory in the U.S., the 1956 Texas Open, where he closed with a 63 and defeated Cary Middlecoff and Gene Littler in a playoff.
Thomson was best on fast-running courses where judging the bounce and run of the ball was more important than long hitting. Mostly for that reason, he did not excel when playing on the well-watered and longer courses in the United States. Other than his victory in Texas, Thomson’s best showing in a U.S. event was a fourth place in the 1956 U.S. Open and a fifth in the 1957 Masters. He never played in the PGA Championship.
That apparent void in his record is the reason Thomson’s victory in the 1965 British Open at Birkdale is considered his finest hour. By that year, most of America’s prominent professionals were competing in the oldest championship, and Thomson beat them all handily.