Charles Putts For Victory
The 1963 Open at Lytham produced another 36-hole play-off, the second in succession after Peter Thomson’s extra-time victory over Dave Thomas five years earlier. This time the protagonists were opposites in every respect. Bob Charles, the tall, thin-as a rake New Zealand left-hander was quiet and undemonstrative. His opponent, short, solidly-built American ex-Marine Phil Rodgers, had a habit of racing across the green and slamming his cap over the hole when a long putt dropped.
A third round of 73 had cost Rodgers his impressive lead — three ahead of Jack Nicklaus and five in front of Charles. The New Zealander leap-frogged to the head of the field with a 66, leaving Rodgers and Nicklaus two shots behind in a share of second place.
A bunkered tee shot at the last cost Nicklaus a five in the fourth round, and the chance of a place in the play-off, while Rodgers made up the two-shot deficit on Charles with a fine 69 to force the contest into overtime.
But the American suffered badly over the extra 36 holes. He undoubtedly played the better golf from tee to green, but Charles maintained his reputation as one of the world’s finest putters. Locking arms, hands and putter into one solid unit he rocked his shoulders back and forwards in a classic pendulum action that was devastating. In the morning round he had only 26 putts, including 11 singles. Seven times he got up and down from rough or bunkers.
Three shots behind at the lunch break, Rodgers dropped further strokes at the opening two holes of the afternoon to be five adrift after 20 holes. Then came his chance. Charles hooked out-of-bounds onto the railway line at the third and Rodgers birdied two of the next three holes to close within a stroke.
Then his momentum was stopped in its tracks when his second shot to the long seventh finished under the face of a greenside bunker. Charles piled on the putting pressure throughout the afternoon to open up an eight stroke margin of victory. In his rounds of 69-71 Charles had 56 putts. Rodgers totalled 65 putts in rounds of 72-76.