Thomson finished with five British Open titles, a total surpassed by only Harry Vardon. His remarkable run included finishing first or second in seven consecutive years.
Thomson, born in 1929 in Melbourne, learned the game on his own as a teenager. His first tournament title came in the 1950 New Zealand Open. The next year, at age 21, he played in his first British Open and finished sixth.
Then began his seven-year stretch of four wins and three seconds. Thomson was second in 1952 and '53, and he won three in a row beginning in 1954. He was the first to take three straight Opens since Robert Ferguson in the 19th century. After a runner-up finish in 1957, Thomson rebounded to take the 1958 title in a playoff over Dave Thomas.
Thomson won his fifth British Open in 1965, a satisfying victory because the top Americans were then making the trip to the British Open. That hadn't been the case in the 1950s, though international players Bobby Locke of South Africa and Roberto De Vicenzo of Argentina provided competition.
During the late 1950s, Thomson tried the U.S. circuit on occasion. His only victory came in the 1956 Texas International Open. He finished fourth in the 1956 U.S. Open after holding the 36-hole lead and was fifth in the 1957 Masters.
Thomson never felt completely comfortable in the U.S. and its lush fairways; his low, running shots were better suited to links golf. Thomson won 26 events in Europe. He also captured nine New Zealand Opens and three Australian Opens.
With the birth of the Senior Tour in the 1980s, Thomson got a second chance in the U.S. He won 11 Senior tournaments, including the 1984 PGA Seniors Championship. His nine wins in 1985 set a Senior Tour record. Thomson, always a man with diverse interests (he once ran for the Victorian state senate), quit competing in the late 1980s while remaining active in course design and golf journalism.
For more information about golf, see:
- The Best Golfers of All Time
- How Golf Clubs Work