Palmer’s victory signals a new era
The 1962 Open at Troon brought about a massive change in the way the Championship was organised. Public interest in the game had been re-awakened by Arnold Palmer’s victory at Birkdale the year before and the manner of his successful defence brought spectators flooding to the sun-baked fairways at Troon in unprecedented numbers. A great tide of supporters followed him throughout the two final rounds, swamping the efforts of stewards to keep them to the sidelines. Many had gained access to the course from the beach, bypassing the pay gates, and they raced ahead of the game’s new hero to gain the best vantage points. Many were knocked down in the rush.
From that year on the boundaries of Open courses have been well fenced, all fairways roped off and the number of stewards massively increased. Those who managed to get a view of Palmer’s progress were treated to display of ferocious attacking golf that had no equal. Australian Kel Nagle, who had beaten Palmer to the title in the centenary Open of 1960 at St Andrews, was the only player in the field who kept the American in distant sight. He finished six shots behind in a lonely second place, with Brian Huggett and Phil Rodgers a further seven shots away in joint third.
Palmer used a one-iron to great effect in his rounds of 71-69-67-69, firing the ball low through the wind to bone-hard fairways and fast greens. The way he tackled the damaging 11th hole summed up the entire championship. Then played as a modest-length par-five of 481 yards, it cost Jack Nicklaus 10 strokes in one round. The tee shot has to find an angled fairway amid a sea of gorse and the out-of-bounds railway line runs the length of the right side, clipping within two paces of the green. The prevailing wind is from the left, hurrying wayward shots into the path of the Ayr to Glasgow shuttle service. Palmer subdued the hole with two birdies and an eagle — a one-iron from the tee and a two-iron to 14 feet. He was never to win another Open in Britain, but the magnetism of his play changed the face of the Championship for ever