110th Open - Royal St George's 1981
Rogers' accuracy brings rich reward
The Open returned to Royal St George’s for the first time in 32 years after new road links had made Sandwich more accessible. A new generation of professionals would get to know the links and it was one with no prior knowledge who triumphed. Bill Rogers was only playing after his friend and fellow Texan Ben Crenshaw persuaded him to come over. Rogers almost missed his tee-time on the first day. It had nothing to do with his unfamiliarity with the venue and everything to do with mis-reading the starting list. He was on the practice putting green when a journalist noticed he was in the wrong place and Rogers ran to the first tee just in time. Four rounds later, after Rogers had played the golf of his life, the journalist.
Jack Nicklaus’s 83 in terrible weather on the first day was the worst score of his professional career. The Bear still made the cut with a 66 the next day, which was matched by Rogers. It moved the Texan to the top of the leaderboard, one ahead of Crenshaw but in the third round Crenshaw spoilt his chances with a 76 while Rogers added a 67 to take a five-stroke lead over Mark James and Bernhard Langer.
When Rogers had a double bogey at the seventh, Langer had cut his lead to one but the American made birdies at the ninth, 10th and 12th holes to draw away again. Having been runner-up in the US Open the previous month, Rogers went on to win by four strokes from Langer, who would also finish in the top-three in his next two visits to Sandwich, and by seven from James and Ray Floyd. It was his second appearance in The Open but he would make only five more.