The 85th Open | 1956 Royal Liverpool

Van Donck shines again as Thomson wins

Flory Van Donck never quite managed to win The Open, but the runner-up in 1956 was one of the most consistently impressive performers throughout a transformative period for the Championship.

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Although players from France and the United States of America had triumphed prior to World War II, it was in the post-war years when players from a wider range of nations really started to make their mark.

The great Bobby Locke from South Africa won four Opens between 1949 and 1957, emerging as one of the game's top players. Locke was then bested by the exploits of Australia's Peter Thomson, who became a five-time Champion Golfer.

Fellow greats Ben Hogan and Gary Player also lifted the Claret Jug in the 1950s, as competition for major honours became stiffer than ever before.

Yet Van Donck proved more than capable of competing with such illustrious names, as he posted a succession of top-10 finishes in golf's original Championship.

The tall Belgian with a beautifully balanced swing was seventh in 1948, ninth in 1950, seventh again in 1952 and 10th in 1954, but it was in the next five years that he really made his mark on The Open.

A fifth-placed finish at St Andrews in 1955 represented another step forward for Van Donck, before he came even closer at Royal Liverpool 12 months later.

Thomson once again proved unstoppable in 1956 as he claimed a third Open victory in succession, the first man to achieve such a feat since Bob Ferguson in 1882.

Yet his closest challenger was the experienced Van Donck, who was playing as well as ever at the age of 44.

Having trailed Thomson by five at the halfway stage, Van Donck cut the defending Champion's lead to three with an impressive 70, the second-best score of round three.

Although he could not get the better of Thomson in the afternoon's final round, Van Donck matched the leader's score with a 74, ensuring he retained second place ahead of future Open winners Roberto De Vicenzo and Player.

The runner-up of 1956 was not finished there and he remained a serious threat at each of the next three Opens.

After tying for fifth at St Andrews in 1957, Van Donck was again three shots adrift of Thomson's winning score at Royal Lytham & St Annes the following year, recording another fifth-placed finish.

In what would prove to be his final Open appearance, Van Donck then claimed runner-up honours for a second time at Muirfield in 1959, sharing second place with Fred Bullock as Player secured the Claret Jug for the first time.