116th Open - Muirfield 1987
Faldo achieves his Open breakthrough
Since Henry Cotton had won his third and last Open title in 1948 at Muirfield, the East Lothian course had seen Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino and Tom Watson claim the Claret Jug on its fabled links. In 1987, Nick Faldo not only finally broke through to become a Major Champion but secured the first of three Open titles that established the Englishman as the finest home player since Cotton.
But what was extraordinary about Faldo’s victory was the manner of it – with 18 pars on a final day when the course was shrouded in a misty haar. Though it sounds singularly unexciting, there were moments of real drama, not least when he hit a superb 30-yard bunker shot to four feet at the eighth. Whenever he needed to save himself, he did. The same could not be said for the others.
Paul Azinger, an American playing links golf in Britain for the first time, had led after 36 and 54 holes. With a round to play he was one ahead of Faldo and David Frost but at the turn he was three in front. Azinger dropped shots at the 10th and 11th holes but was still one ahead with two to play. A poor drive at the 17th, which finished in a fairway bunker, led to a 6 at the par-5. At the same Faldo was two-putting from 40 feet at the last, holing from four feet for his 18th par of the day.
Faldo only became the Champion when Azinger followed his bogey at the 17th with another at the last. Finding a greenside bunker, the American left himself with a long par-putt which missed. Having rebuilt his swing with coach David Leadbetter in the previous two years, Faldo now had proof his game could withstand the greatest pressure.