Third Title for Gary Player
Gary Player won his first Open Championship at Muirfield in 1959 and his second at Carnoustie in 1968. With his triumph at Lytham in 1974 he shared with Harry Vardon the distinction of claiming the title in three separate decades. Opening rounds of 69 and 68, compiled in blustery winds, established a five shot lead over the field, headed by Peter Oosterhuis, with Jack Nicklaus trailing by nine strokes. Compulsory use of the 1.68-inch ball for the first time in the championship may have added to the high scoring.
The difficult weather conditions persisted for the third day and Player’s seeming invincibility slipped fractionally with a 75. Nicklaus coped best with a 70, but still lagged four shots adrift, one behind Oosterhuis, who closed to within three shots of Player with a round of 73.
In the final round Player had two birdies and an eagle in the opening six holes, but ran into trouble at the final two hurdles. His six-iron approach to the 17th was pulled left into deep rough and it took enthusiastic help from a horde of spectators to locate the ball with only seconds of the time limit remaining. So deeply was the ball buried that he could move it only six feet at the first attempt, but he limited the damage to one dropped shot.
At the last he was over enthusiastic with his second shot which finished close to the clubhouse wall behind the green. He was forced to play left-handed to scramble the ball back to the green, but despite these setbacks still claimed his third Open title with a score of 282, four shots clear of Oosterhuis with Nicklaus a further stroke behind.