The Open at Turnberry

The Open at Turnberry

1977 - Tom Watson

1986 - Greg Norman

1994 - Nick Price

1977 - The Duel in The Sun

Tom Watson’s greatest single triumph produced one of the most sensational finishes in the long history of the Open Championship. It was the 106th, the 1977 at Turnberry, and the first time The Open had been played on this great Ayrshire links.

In a week of high sunshine there was even higher drama with Watson and Jack Nicklaus fought out an epic struggle that left them so far ahead of the rest of the field that it became a simple head-to- head battle, forever to be remembered as “The Duel in the Sun”.

For four days the galleries witnessed the most incredible head-to-head shot making and low scoring the game of golf has ever seen.

For 70 holes Watson had never had his nose in front against the dour, ice-cold determination of Nicklaus, but The Bear could not shake him off. They had identical rounds of 68-70-65 heading out on the last round together, jointly in the lead by three strokes over the rest of the field who might as well been playing on Ailsa Craig for all the chance they had of catching up.

It took a 60 foot birdie putt from off the green at the devilishly difficult, par 3, 15th hole for Watson to get back on level terms with Nicklaus after he had gone behind. The ball positively rattled against the pin as it went in and the two looked at each other. Tom said: “This is what it’s all about, isn’t it?”

Jack smiled back and said “You bet it is.”

They halved the 16th, then with a raking 3-iron to the Par 5 17th, Watson set up a birdie that Nicklaus couldn’t match. For the first time Watson was in front and they were going to the last hole.

Watson fired a 1- iron to the perfect spot in the fairway. Nicklaus, who under other circumstances would surely have followed suit, had to gamble and he went with a driver. The tee shot was blocked slightly and finished under some whin bushes on the right.

Watson then delivered the coup de grace, an arrow-straight 7-iron which nailed into the green and finished two feet from the hole. It did not matter that Nicklaus produced a miracle shot to scramble the ball on the green and then, as only Nicklaus could, holed a snaking 40-footer for a birdie.

Watson’s two-footer was a formality and the greatest finale in the history of The Open was over, a victory for the new generation over the old. It was a new era and the record books had to be comprehensively rewritten. Watson’s 65-65 finish for 268 was a new record by an electrifying eight strokes.

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