1909 Deal, Royal Cinque Ports
A record number of 204 entries to this Open Championship including Michael Moran were in the field for the first time. Moran quickly made an impression and showed he wasn’t just there to make up the numbers. The qualifiers were split into two sections, out of over hundred players he was joint fifth on the same score [75+78=153] as Harry Vardon, one behind George Duncan and five behind James Braid but the qualifiers counted for nothing except for entry into the main event.
On Friday, 11 June the Open Championship would start proper with Moran without a partner for the first round and playing with Ted Ray in the afternoon round. His scores in the two rounds were 82 and 81, leaving him well out of contention. The conditions the following day improved and Moran took advantage by shooting a 74 which only one other player bettered (three others finished on this score) and that was James Braid who finished runner-up in the Championship to J H Taylor the eventual winner. A final round of 77 left him in Joint 21st place, which wasn’t bad for a first outing.
1910 St. Andrews Golf Club
Again a record entry for the Championship with 210 entries, 199 professionals and 11 amateurs. The winner would receive the Championship Cup, the winners gold medal, GBP50 and a special jubilee medal. The qualifying rounds were to take place on the Tuesday and Wednesday, 21-22 June, but the opening rounds were declared null and void for the first time in the Championship’s history as the weather turned to thunderstorms. Moran first two rounds (there were probably eight scores better than his) in the Championship was 77, in a draw which had George Duncan leading the way with a seventy-three and at the time this was a new course record but it was to be bettered the following day.
The following day Moran improved on his score with a 75. He started with 4,4,4,4 and par outwards to the ninth where he had a five, he held a pitch on the tenth to recover the lost stroke on the previous hole and although taking a six on the fourteenth he pared his way in from there. This, at the time, left him in third place with Sandy Herd and E .P. Gaudin from Worplesdon but by the end of the day he was joint fifth.
In his wake at the half way mark were names like Vardon, Taylor, Massy, Ball and Ray. In the two Championship rounds on the Friday he was partnered with P. E. Taylor from Melton but a 79 and 81 on the Friday moved him down the field and he finally finished in joint 14th behind Braid who had now become first to win the Open Championship five times.
1911 Sandwich, Royal St George’s 26 June – 30 June
Michael Moran had the best round on the first day’s play of the 51st Open Championship with a round of 72. While he opened with a 5 he ran off a succession of fours, and after holing a long putt at “Hades”, he secured a two and an outward score of thirty-five. While his inward nine was a little more erratic and required a few long putts to make up for the fact he hit a few hazards, his recovery play was excellent. However the first round scores of all competitors weren’t completed until the following day at which stage J.H.Taylor had matched Moran’s score and the amateur Blackwell had gone one better.
However, a storm was brewing after the second day’s play when a small section were just completing their first round and that was that the overnight pin positions had been changed and in equity this was evidently unfair but that had to allow and the Championship proceeded while putting their hands up that they made an error, the professionals registered their complaint but the committee let the decision stand, stating the size of the field precipitated the new pin positions, at the same time realising it could be appealed upon completion of the Championship.
The second round of the Championship was not concluded until the Wednesday and a who’s who of golf at the time clustered at the top of the leaderboard with George Duncan on 144, Ray, Vardon and Taylor on 148 and then Moran in a group on 150, which included Harold Hilton and Sandy Herd. After this Moran began to fade with two rounds of 83 and 81 which dropped him to joint 21st in the Championship.
1912 Muirfield, Honourable Company 24-25 June
The qualifying rounds for the Open Championship in this year would not count for the Open championship proper and were held in the week prior to the final championship round. Sixty-two players qualified for the final four rounds of the Championship which would be held on Monday and Tuesday, 24-25 June. Moran was joint second behind Ted Ray in his section of the qualifiers with a remarkable; 4, 3, 4, 4, 4, 4, finish during the first round and while he had problems with his putting earlier in the round this incredible finish allowed him hand in a first round total of 78.
In his next round he started with a three followed by three fives all secured with three putts on each green. From then on he played perfect golf to the turn and after a slice on the 10th resulting in a five he played immaculate golf with superlative driving and approach play. At the long sixteenth (464 yards) he almost held his brassie shot for a three and a five at the finishing hole gave him a 77 and an aggregate of 155. At this stage Moran was leading the field.
The Open Championship in 1912 was at Muirfield and in the first round Michael Moran went out in 38 and on the inward nine started with five 4’s and a 3 and looked on target for the perfect round only to see it unravel at the 16th where he hit a hazard and took two shots to extricate himself. He still managed to shoot 76 on a course that was 6,448 yards. His second round was an uneventful 79 but H McNeill had just sneaked ahead of him, as the top Irish player with a 154 total.
Moran now in joint twelfth would partner Arnaud Massy the 1908 champion for the final two rounds. His final two rounds of 80 and 79 left him in joint 14th the same result as the 1910 Championship the best he had yet achieved.
1913 Hoylake, Royal Liverpool 23-24 June
There were 269 entries for the Championship, forty-three above the previous highest total achieved in 1911 at Sandwich. The players were drawn into three sections with the top twenty and ties in each section to qualify over thirty-six holes for the Open Championship to be played on the 23-24 June.
The Championship was marred by bad weather with the opening round being delay an hour to allow drainage of the “Alps” (11th hole) where water had built up and the weather was to worsen throughout the day. Moran handled the elements well and by the end of the second round was lying in third place.
The Dunlop Rubber Co. Ltd were using Moran’s accomplishments to promote their Dunlop V golf ball which he was using during these rounds. His two 74s in the second and fourth rounds were the second and the best rounds of their respective days. On the second day a gale had appeared from the West and the wind and rain was pummelling the players especially as they turned the corner at the first and the third.
It was the third round that witnessed one of the great tragedies of the Championship, when as Taylor recalled, Mike had taken ten strokes on the opening hole of the third round. Mike had knocked his second shot out of bounds and found the bunker with his next. Clearly rattled by what had gone before he took four strokes to get out of the bunker and took 89 strokes in the round after the 10, 5, 7 start. It’s to his interminable credit that he picked himself up from this to follow with a 74 in the next round, the best round of the day to secure him third place with Harry Vardon. In the end J.H. Taylor won the Championship by nine strokes from Mike which if nothing else (given the disastrous third round) reflects the fact that he arguably a match for the greatest players of this era. JP Murray, the journalist, stated that he played these matches – “with borrowed clubs and in army boots” – his efforts secured him the princely sum of £12.10s.
Round by Round:
First: 5 4 4 3 5 4 3 5 4 (37) 5 4 4 3 5 5 4 4 5 (39) = 76
Second: 6 4 6 2 6 4 4 5 4 (41) 3 4 3 2 5 3 5 4 4 (33) = 74
Third: 10 5 7 3 5 4 4 5 4 (48) 6 3 5 4 4 6 5 5 3 (41) = 89
Final: 5 5 5 3 5 4 4 4 4 (39) 5 2 3 3 4 5 5 4 4 (35) = 74
The American Golfer recalled Michael Moran’s third round:
The name of Michael Moran was in few people’s minds on the Monday night, but he was then only three strokes behind Ray and only two behind Taylor, and those who knew his game knew that he was good enough to win the championship. He is a young Irishman, professional to the Royal Dublin club. But at the very first hole in the morning he took ten strokes, and he was 89 for the round. At this first hole he put his second shot out of bounds and the next one into a bunker. This sudden blast of bad luck seemed momentarily to upset him completely and he took four to get out of the bunker when he need not have done. Yet the fine temperament of the man was displayed when in spite of this overwhelming disaster, weighing on his mind all day like a ton of lead, he did the best score of the day in the afternoon, 74, and finished up in the third place. If Moran can play like this again he will win the championship before long, as no Irishman has ever won it so far. There is no other tragedy like this one, and with it I will close the story.
1914 Prestwick 18-19 June
Prior to the championship Moran, now the professional at Seaham Harbour Golf Club, played in a Cruden Bay 150 pound tournament (5 June) where he qualified for an elite field Braid(148), Vardon (146), Taylor (153), Ray (149), Duncan (157) etc) for the last sixteen. Moran (155) was fifth in the qualifiers behind all the aforementioned players with the exception of Duncan. Moran met Harry Vardon (the eventual winner at Prestwick) in the second round after beating J. Park (Musselburgh) in the first round but was beaten by 4 and 3.
Moran entered the Championship as the professional at Seaham Harbour all the other Championships were as professional for Royal Dublin or Dollymount as it was known up to 1910. The qualifiers were staged at Troon and Prestwick, Moran qualified well down the list on 75, 83: 158 (163 secured qualification mark), P.O’Hare, the Foxrock player, picked up the mantle (79,74: 153) for Ireland qualifying in seventh place. However Moran shot a 75 in the first round of the qualifiers at Troon leaving him in third place behind Vardon (73) and Ray (74). His scores were: [Out] 4,5,4,4,4,5,4,3,4=37 [In] 4,4,4,4,3,5,6,4,4=38 Total 75. Bernard Darwin writing for the Times commented: “The Irishman Michael Moran played very sound golf. He seems to have steadied down a little in his hitting since last year, and to be playing more within himself and his putting was quite excellent.”
This year saw Vardon take his sixth Open Championship, which hasn’t yet been equalled. O’Hare and Moran matched each other at the end of 36 holes but Moran pulled ahead slightly when he finished 82 and 76 compared with the Foxrock player’s 84 and 78 but Moran still finished the Championship in a lowly (for him) joint 25th place. Within two weeks of the Championship events were unfolding in Sarajevo that would lead Britain to war and eventually take the life of one of Ireland’s greatest pre-World War golfers.