Open history in the making at St Andrews - Severiano Ballesteros 1984
"I had my deepest emotional experience in my golfing life when I played in the 1984 Open at the cradle of golf" – Severiano Ballesteros
Has there ever been a more exuberant, heart-lifting celebration of assumed victory than that which followed Severiano Ballesteros’s championship-winning birdie putt in 1984? The punch of the air, the dazzling grin, and the fist-pumping celebrations that followed became the iconic image of the man himself – so much so that he had the silhouette tattooed on his arm and used later as his company logo.
After opening with rounds of 69, 68 and 70, Ballesteros found himself level with Bernhard Langer and two strokes behind Tom Watson and Ian Baker-Finch heading into the final day over the Old Course. Such was the Spaniard’s confidence, however, that he ended the third round press conference with the words: “I’ll see you all in here tomorrow evening.” He meant as the winner, not as the runner-up.
Watson had won three of the last four Opens and was going for a hat-trick of wins, having triumphed at Royal Troon in 1982 and Royal Birkdale a year later. Victory would give the American a win at all four of the Scottish courses on the Open rota and bring him level with Harry Vardon as a six-time winner of the Claret Jug. Ballesteros had other ideas.
In what proved to be a ding-dong tussle, the dashing Spaniard got off to a good start. He drew level at the fifth and took the outright lead with a birdie at the 8th, Watson having three-putted three of the first five holes. There was never much between them, however.
When he reached the 15th tee the conditions had got colder and so Ballesteros put on a navy blue jumper similar to the one he had worn when he won at Lytham in 1979. “I dressed for the kill,” he wrote later.
With Langer and Baker-Finch falling away it came down to a two-way fight for the championship. When he reached the 17th, the fiendish Road Hole, Ballesteros was level with Watson but fearful of what lay ahead. He had had only five bogeys in 70 holes and three of them had been here. As it turned out, a par – courtesy of a 200-yard six-iron shot from out of rough to the centre of shallow green – felt every bit as good as a birdie.
It was at the final hole that the drama truly unfolded. Twelve feet below the hole and putting for a birdie, Ballesteros watched as the ball turned inexorably towards the hole, stopped on the edge, and finally disappeared below ground as if an invisible hand had reached out and pulled it in. When Watson bogeyed the 17th, he was left needing an eagle at the last to draw level. It was not to be. This was Seve’s moment – and what a moment it was.