Five-time Open champion Peter Thomson has died Wednesday in his native Australia after a four-year battle with Parkinson’s disease. Thomson was 88 years old.
Thomson had one of the smoothest, sweetest swings in the history of the game, and his skill and demeanor carried him to four Claret Jugs in a five-year span, including three in a row from 1954-1956. Bobby Locke won in 1957, with Thomson finishing three strokes back. Thomson reclaimed his crown in 1958.
Seven years later, after Arnold Palmer helped revive the championship’s standing in American circles, Thomson won again for the final time in 1965 at Royal Birkdale. The win somewhat further cemented his legacy because of the stronger field he beat for his remarkable fifth Open Championship win.
All told, Thomson won twice at Royal Birkdale and once each at St. Andrews, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes. He’s the only man to win the Claret Jug in three consecutive years in the 20th or 21st centuries.
Perhaps as remarkable as his five wins, Thomson finished outside the top 10 in the Open just three times from 1951-1971.
Thomson was born on Aug. 23, 1929 in a satellite town of Melbourne, and he ventured the world from there to win 10 different national championships. He won the New Zealand Open nine times. He never played in the PGA Championship, but did finish fifth in the 1957 Masters and T-4 in the 1956 US Open. He won his own Australian Open three times, once in three consecutive decades (1951, 1967, 1972).
In 1985, Thomson won nine times on PGA Tour Champions. Only Hale Irwin has matched that mark, doing so in 1997.
Thomson was more than an incredible player. He was president of the Australian PGA for 32 years, designed and built courses in Australia and around the world, as well being a prolific writer for more than 60 years. In 1979, he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his service to golf, and became an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 2001 for his contributions to golf and Australian society.
Thomson was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1988.
He is survived by his wife Mary, son Andrew and daughters Deirdre, Pan and Fiona Stanway, their spouses, 11 grandchildren and four great grandchildren.