The 81st Open | 1952 Royal Lytham & St Annes

Bobby triumphs again after locked garage scare

Bobby Locke's surname was almost fitting for all the wrong reasons in 1952.

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Already a two-time Champion Golfer after winning back-to-back Claret Jugs in 1949 and 1950, the South African was well-positioned at the midway stage of The 81st Open.

But a remarkable third title in just four years was almost thwarted by a locked garage on the morning of the last day of the Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes.

Locke's clubs were in his car boot and his vehicle was parked in a private garage near his hotel in Blackpool, which he discovered was locked as he rose early for the final 36 holes.

Fortunately, a passing milkman knew the owner and gave him a lift to get the key, ensuring Locke arrived at the course in just enough time to change his shoes and walk to the first tee.

Seemingly unflustered by what had happened, Locke went on to complete a hat-trick of Open wins by just one shot over Peter Thomson despite nearly missing his tee time.

The 81st Open was only the second Championship to be staged at Royal Lytham & St Annes, 26 years after its first in 1926, and the first round produced the lowest scoring of the week.

Northern Ireland's Fred Daly, the 1947 Champion Golfer, led the early charge with a superb five-under 67 while Thomson was one back and Locke trailed by two after a 69.

Daly increased his advantage in the second round with a 69 to open up a four-stroke lead over Locke, who took advantage of Thomson's 73 to leapfrog him with a round of 71.

After putting the drama involving the locked garage behind him, Locke kept the pressure up on Daly and found himself just one behind after the leader shot 77 in the third round.

Locke's 74 also gave him a four-stroke advantage over Thomson, who went round in 77 after going out of bounds on the second hole, setting up a thrilling conclusion to the Championship.

Starting an hour before Daly, Locke began his final 18 holes in impressive fashion and reached the turn in 34 while the Northern Irishman went out in 37 behind him.

It appeared as though victory was Locke's, but he finished with two fives for a 73 and a total of 287, giving Daly the faintest glimmer of hope.

However, a six at the 15th proved terminal for Daly's chances and, despite finishing with a flourish, his 76 was only good enough for a total of 289 to leave Thomson as the last remaining obstacle between Locke and the Claret Jug.

The young Australian, playing just his second Open, seemed to have played himself out of contention after going out in 36.

He roared home in 34 with a birdie at the last to shoot 70, but fell one short of Locke's total as the South African was crowned Champion Golfer once again.

His three Open titles in four years emulated the feats of Harry Vardon and James Braid while his 1952 success also launched a long-running rivalry with Thomson over the following years.