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Peter Thomson one of the greatest links players ever – Jordan Spieth

The Australian has died aged 88.

Reigning Open champion Jordan Spieth has paid tribute to “one of the most masterful links players” to ever play the game after the death of Peter Thomson.

The Australian, who died aged 88 having suffered from Parkinson’s disease for more than four years, won the first of his five Claret Jugs at Royal Birkdale in 1954.

He went on to win the Open a further four times over the next decade, a record only matched by the United States’ Tom Watson and Scotsman James Braid in the 20th century, to be listed behind only the all-time record holder Harry Vardon – who registered six victories between 1896 and 1914.

“Obviously I am very saddened by his passing, but what a legacy he has left,” said Spieth.

“He looked like someone who was so proud of the Open Championship, someone who singled that tournament out as a specialty and his game certainly showed that.

“I remember seeing one picture of him hugging the Claret Jug so close to his face with a smile of pure joy.

“You don’t see that, even in major championships, of guys with trophies, but you could see how much that tournament meant to him,

“Certainly he is one of, if not the, most masterful links players to play the game.

Ian Baker-Finch, an Open champion in 1991 – also at Birkdale – mourned the loss of his fellow countryman.

“Australia has lost a golfing legend and my hero,” tweeted Baker-Finch.

“Peter – my friend and mentor R.I.P. Australian golf thanks you for your iconic presence & valuable guidance over the years.”

Those sentiments were echoed by the R&A, organisers of the Open, who recognised one of the great champions of the sport.

“It is with great sadness that we have awoken to the news of the passing of Peter Thomson,” said chief executive Martin Slumbers.

“Peter was a true gentleman and will be forever remembered throughout the world of golf as one of the great champions of our wonderful sport.

“He was a distinguished honorary member of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews and will be sorely missed by all of us at the R&A.

“Peter gave me a number of very interesting and valuable thoughts on the game, how it has developed and where it is going, which demonstrated his genuine interest and love of golf.

“He was one of the most decorated and celebrated champion golfers in the history of the Open, winning the Championship five times in total and becoming the only golfer of the 20th century to lift the Claret Jug on three consecutive occasions between 1954 and 1956.”

Royal Birkdale, where Thomson also won his fifth and final Claret Jug in 1965, tweeted: “We were very lucky and privileged to have such a golfing legend win the Open twice on our links. RIP.”

Thomson became one of the youngest winners of the Open Championship with victory at Royal Birkdale in 1954 aged 24.

His Open victories in 1954, 1955, 1956, 1958 and 1965 were among 89 professional tournament wins during his career.

Made Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his service to golf in 1979, in 2001 he became an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO).

He was awarded an honorary degree from St Andrews University in 2005 alongside British stars Peter Alliss and Nick Faldo.

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Peter Alliss, Peter Thomson and Nick Faldo at St Andrews University after receiving honorary degrees in 2005 (PA)

Thomson served as president of the PGAA for 32 years, during which time he also helped design and build courses in Australia and around the world.

He is survived by his wife Mary, son Andrew and daughters Deirdre Baker, Pan Prendergast and Fiona Stanway, his 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

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