Bobby Locke wins in final green drama
The Open Championship of 1957 was scheduled to be played at Muirfield, but instead finished in a last green rules incident at St Andrews. The switch of venue was caused by political shenanigans in Egypt when Colonel Nasser nationalised the Suez Canal Company. This led to an invasion by Britain and France, the loss of oil supplies and petrol rationing. Because of its remote location it was decided that Muirfield would be an impossible venue for players, officials and spectators alike and a late switch was made to St Andrews, still served in those days by a railway line and still with a reasonable number of hotels.
Peter Thomson, who had won the second of his three-in-a-row titles over the Old Course only two years earlier, was again one of the front runners. After three rounds he was tied in second place with Eric Brown, three shots behind his perennial rival Bobby Locke, who had completed his morning round in 68. This was the first championship in which the leaders went out last, but they were still playing the two final rounds in one day — a Friday. Thomson’s steady 70, with a handful of missed putts, made no impression on the stately progress of the South African. Nor did Brown’s determined 71.
Locke stayed clear of trouble until the 14th where he was bunkered at the front of the green, but got up and down on the difficult sloping surface. The main drama was saved to the end. His second shot to the last was no more than a few feet from the hole, but was on the line of playing partner Bruce Crampton’s putt. Crampton had started the day level with Locke on 141, but had a black Friday with rounds of 78-79. Locke marked his ball and moved the marker one putter-head off the line.
When it came his turn to putt out for a final round of 70 and victory by three shots over Thomson, he failed to return his marker to the correct spot. The error was not spotted at the time, but reported to R&A officials later. The Championship Committee quickly decided that with his three-shot lead and no advantage having been gained, the equity and spirit of the game dictated that he should not be disqualified.