The 21st Open | 1881 Prestwick

Ferguson tackles the elements to defend title

Bob Ferguson successfully defended The Open in 1881, but he and his fellow competitors had to overcome horrendous conditions as a severe storm swept across Scotland with tragic consequences.

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The Championship took place at Prestwick on Friday 14 October, the same day as the Eyemouth Fishing Disaster that saw 189 fishermen lose their lives at sea.

A report in the following day's Edinburgh Evening News illustrated the brutality of the weather.

It read: "A storm of extraordinary violence set in on Thursday night and raged for the greater part of yesterday (Friday) all over the country, causing great destruction to property and loss of life.

"Hundreds of magnificent trees have been torn to pieces or uprooted and cast across the roads, rendering traffic impracticable. From all parts of the country, floods and serious agricultural havoc are reported."

In the circumstances, it was somewhat incredible that The Open was able to take place at all.

There was a delay to play while sufficient markers were found to accompany the 22 entrants. Only eight of those players managed to complete 36 holes, six of them either past or future Open Champions.

Ferguson's winning total of 170 was the joint-second-highest score in Opens at Prestwick, and 13 strokes greater than Jamie Anderson's winning mark at the same venue three years earlier.

Yet given the severity of the weather conditions, Ferguson's performance was arguably his finest ever.

A first-round 53 on Prestwick's 12-hole layout was comfortably the best score of the Championship and Ferguson retained a comfortable lead thereafter by shooting 60 and 57.

He ultimately finished three strokes clear of Anderson, who had won three Opens in succession before Ferguson's maiden triumph in 1880, with Ned Cosgrove a further four shots back in third.

Twenty years on from the first of his four Open victories, Old Tom Morris finished in a tie for fifth at the age of 60.