Tense Play-off Decides Open Championship
In 1975 The Open Championship returned to Carnoustie. A dry summer had made the fairways firm and fast and very little rough had grown. All the big names in golf, with the exception of British favourite Tony Jacklin, arrived at Carnoustie, preparing to do battle with a course that traditionally had been played in wet and cold conditions. They were met with mild and sunny weather and low scores were expected.
The first day of play saw nineteen players break the course par of 72. To the delight of the watching crowds, Scottish player David Huish had a steady round of 69 and shared second position at the end of the day with five others — Hale Irwin, Jack Newton, Jack Nicklaus, Bob Shearer and Andries Oosthuizen. The best round of the day came from the young British player Peter Oosterhuis, with 68. Tom Watson, playing in his first Open and Roberto de Vicenzo both went round in 71 and Trevino and Player were disappointed with their respective scores of 76 and 75.
Rain before the second round softened the course and made for even better conditions and low scores prevailed throughout the day. Huish had problems with his putting at the first hole but had a good second nine holes for a score of 67, enough to give him a two shot lead at the end of the day. Watson also had a round of 67, which left him tied for second with South African Bobby Cole, who shot a course record 66, Andries Oosthuizen and Peter Oosterhuis.
Nicklaus was down the field on 71, tied with among others, Jack Newton on 140, four shots behind.
The third round produced a very different looking leader board. Bobby Cole shot another 66 to move into the lead on 204. Newton, playing with Nicklaus had an outstanding record round of 65 for second place, while Nicklaus, who went round in 68, moved up the table to four shots off the lead. Johnny Miller scored 66 for third position and Watson, whose 69 included four birdies in the first six holes, finished in 4th position. Huish had a bad fairway lie at the 3rd hole and his round never recovered, eventually scoring 76.
The wind increased during the final round, producing higher scores. Newton and Cole had good starts, taking it in turns to lead the field for the first nine holes. Nicklaus worked hard during his final round, scoring 72 and setting the target of 280 for those behind him to better. Miller and Watson took up the challenge, and played attacking golf for the second nine holes. At the 18th Miller found a bunker and took five strokes, also finishing on 280. Watson played a perfect birdie and was the new leader with 279. Newton and Cole came behind, but nerves were showing and they dropped shots over the final holes. At the 18th, Newton needed a par 4 to tie Watson’s lead and Cole needed a birdie. Cole missed his chance but Newton made his par to tie the lead with Watson and force a next-day play off.
Sunday’s play-off began with Watson gaining an early two shot lead, but Newton quickly pulled even and went in front at the 12th. Watson responded with an eagle at the 14th and regained his lead. At the 18th, the two again stood level. Watson was on the green in two whilst Newton put his second shot into a bunker on the left. He played out past the pin. Watson made no errors in getting down in two putts, leaving Newton a down hill putt of around ten feet. He struck it smoothly but it just slid past the left hand side of the hole. Tom Watson had won his first Open Championship.