Open history in the making at St Andrews - Jack Nicklaus 1970
“There isn’t a place I would rather win a championship than on the Old Course at St Andrews.” – Jack Nicklaus
The 18-time Major Champion won two of his three Open titles at the Home of Golf and yet his victory in 1970 has resonated down the years as much for the mistake of one of his rivals as for his own brilliance.
Alas, poor Doug Sanders. The flamboyant American had a three-foot putt for victory in the final round that seemed little more than routine. He had done the hard work for 71 holes and had simply to add the finishing touch. This putt, though, was for The Open at St Andrews, not the monthly medal.
Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, Sanders would have walked up to his putt on the 18th green and rolled the ball home without a second thought. This time, however, he seemed to freeze over the ball for so long that when he bent down to brush away a blade of grass, the gallery let out an impromptu gasp. It seemed as if his soul had been laid bare. What followed was to make its way into Open Championship lore. Sanders not only missed the putt, he missed the hole, after making a ghastly stab at the ball.
Now, far from lifting the Claret Jug, he found himself in an 18-hole play-off against Nicklaus, the most fearsome competitor of them all. His chance had come and gone. Nicklaus, offered a second chance, took it with both hands – his 72 giving him victory by a single stroke - and when he tossed his putter into the air in triumph, Sanders ducked down, protecting his head with his hands. It looked as if the world was falling in on his head. Which, of course, it was.