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History of The Open
Seve versus Watson in 1984
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A back-nine battle to savour
Seve Ballesteros celebrates his winning putt in The Open at St Andrews in 1984

A putt from Seve Ballesteros provided the defining moment of The Open in 1984 and triggered one of the most iconic celebrations in sporting history.

Dressed in his familiar navy blue jumper and white shirt, Ballesteros was the epitome of ecstasy as he pumped his fist and roared with delight after holing a crucial putt for a three on St Andrews’ 18th green.

Seve’s closing birdie, coupled with a bogey for defending Champion Tom Watson on the 17th moments later, ensured the Spaniard would regain the Claret Jug he had first claimed at Royal Lytham & St Annes in 1979.

Yet although Ballesteros ultimately prevailed by two strokes, his win was only secured after he and Watson had tussled dramatically in one of the most absorbing back-nine duels in the Championship’s rich history.

What is more, Ballesteros had actually suffered plenty of his frustration on the greens prior to his moment of unfettered joy on 18.

Having begun the final day on nine under, two behind the final pairing of Watson and Ian Baker-Finch, Ballesteros came close to holing a 10-foot birdie putt at the first. His ball agonisingly stayed above ground after catching the lip of the hole.

Nevertheless, he was able to forge ahead with birdies at the fifth and eighth. As the last two groups made the turn, Ballesteros and Watson had emerged as the two main contenders, with the former’s playing partner Bernhard Langer close behind and Baker-Finch having faded away.

Seve Ballesteros at The Open in 1984

Langer would remain firmly in the mix, but the German was never quite able to hit the front as Ballesteros and Watson battled for supremacy.

The situation at the top of the leaderboard changed after each of the first three holes of the inward nine, which Ballesteros began holding a one-shot advantage at 11 under.

He three-putted for par at the driveable par-4 10th, and then needed another trio of blows with the putter on the short 11th after coming up just shy of the green with his tee shot.

When Watson also drove the 10th and capitalised with a birdie, the Champion Golfer of 1975, 1977, 1980, 1982 and 1983 was back in pole position for a record-equalling sixth Open crown and his third in succession.

However, he and Ballesteros were level again after they had each played the 12th.

A superb approach to that hole gave Ballesteros an immediate chance to respond, but for the third hole in succession things did not go to plan on the green. A putt from around five feet narrowly missed to the left and ensured Seve remained at 10 under.

In the group behind, though, Watson hit a wayward drive into the gorse on the left, forcing him to take a penalty drop that ultimately resulted in a bogey.

The leaders were now tied at 10 under, with Langer just one behind. Yet the German was left with a mountain to climb when Watson and Ballesteros each recorded birdies within moments of each other.

Seve Ballesteros and Bernhard Langer at The Open in 1984

Watson bounced back from his dropped shot at 12 by converting a downhill putt at the 13th, while Ballesteros holed from similar range at the 14th as the drama intensified.

Renowned for his love of a battle, Ballesteros was becoming increasingly animated. After reaching for that trademark blue jumper, he pumped his fists and urged a birdie putt towards the hole at 16. The ball came up just short, however, meaning he and Watson remained tied at the top.

Next came a crucial test. Seve had dropped a stroke at St Andrews’ daunting 17th on each of the first three days of the Championship, but on this occasion a fine approach from the left-hand rough left him with a relatively straightforward two-putt and a routine par. The pressure was now on Watson to come through the Road Hole unscathed.

The American got off to a nervy start with a drive that threatened the out-of-bounds to the right of the hole. Watson was initially unsure whether his ball had stayed in play, but it actually finished up on the fairway, leaving an ideal angle for the approach.

As his rival came up the last to a rousing reception, this was the point where Watson made a decisive error, pushing his second shot right and eventually seeing his ball come to rest close to the wall that runs alongside the green. From the trickiest of positions, he was able to jab a chip onto the putting surface, but his hopes of saving par were slim.

Tom Watson at St Andrews' 17th in 1984

Up ahead, Ballesteros took full advantage. A beautifully measured pitch to the 18th green left a right-to-left putt from around 12 feet. Not much had dropped for Seve on the back nine, but this was the one that really mattered and we all know what happened next.

Ballesteros judged his putt to perfection, the ball tumbling deadweight into the right side of the cup to prompt scenes of sheer delight.

Watson could only bogey 17, meaning he needed an unlikely eagle at the last to force a play-off. A par was all he could muster, leaving him tied with Langer for second as Ballesteros celebrated the most famous win of his illustrious career.

Official Film | The 113th Open | St Andrews 1984