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History of The Open

The 1970s


The Open blessed by legends during star-studded decade

Jack Nicklaus (left) is presented with the Claret Jug after winning The Open in 1978

There may never be a more legendary collection of Champion Golfers than the seven players who won the Claret Jug in the 1970s.

Jack Nicklaus (1970, 1978), Lee Trevino (1971, 1972), Tom Weiskopf (1973), Gary Player (1974), Tom Watson (1975, 1977), Johnny Miller (1976) and Seve Ballesteros (1979) are some of the greatest names to have ever picked up a club, with all seven rightly inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

And they each put their own stamp on The Open during a decade in which golf became the epitome of cool.

Sign up for free to The One Club to watch exclusive archive footage of some of the finest Open moments from a star-studded period:

Nicklaus leads the way

‘The Golden Bear’ already had one Claret Jug to his name, which he picked up at Muirfield in 1966, in doing so completing the career Grand Slam.

He confirmed his position as the world’s leading player by winning The Open twice more in the 70s, the second victory coming just 12 months after he suffered disappointment in the infamous Duel in the Sun.

Nicklaus’s victory at St Andrews in 1970 has also gone down in golfing folklore, much to the dismay of Doug Sanders who missed a three-foot putt on the 72nd hole with the title at his mercy. Instead, he was forced to contest The Open’s first 18-hole play-off which Nicklaus won by a single stroke.

When Nicklaus tasted victory at St Andrews again in 1978, he became the first golfer in the modern era to win two Opens at the home of golf.

In a career littered with landmarks, one of the most remarkable Nicklaus statistics is that he finished inside the top-10 at 35 of the 40 majors contested in the 1970s.

Lee Trevino poses with the Claret Jug after winning The Open in 1972

Trevino on the map

Trevino was riding the crest of a wave by the time The Open came around in 1971.

He had defeated Nicklaus in a play-off to take the US Open in June and followed that up with victory in the Canadian Open a fortnight later. The very next week he lifted his first Claret Jug at Royal Birkdale.

A colourful dresser, it was Trevino’s delectable short game that came to the fore when he successfully defended his title at Muirfield 12 months later, fending off Nicklaus – already a double major winner in 1972 – and Britain’s Tony Jacklin, the Champion Golfer in 1969.

It was the fourth of six majors the American would win in a notable career.

Tom Weiskopf following his Open win in 1973

Weiskopf goes wire-to-wire

Weiskopf’s victory in 1973 was his one and only major success, but he achieved it in dominant fashion, becoming just the fifth player to lead outright after every round of a 72-hole Open, and the only one to do so at Royal Troon.

“To win my first major championship in the country where golf started is something that you can’t explain,” he said of his champagne moment.

“It’s the most inspirational place I’ve ever played golf. I’m very proud to be your Champion.”

The Duel in the Sun

So much has already been written about the greatest showdown in the history of golf.

Nicklaus and Watson were neck-and-neck for 54 holes, eventually pulling streets clear of the rest of the field at a scorched Turnberry.

Having posted three identical scorecards, the vaunted duo then treated the sporting world to a final-round tussle that will be talked about forever, with the title still in the balance as the pair walked towards the 18th tee.

Watson edged his compatriot by a single stroke – but not before two of the greatest approach shots ever seen at The Open – while his closing 65 was the lowest score to win the Claret Jug.

Seve Ballesteros poses with the Claret Jug after winning The Open in 1979

Seve scrambles his way to victory

A teenage Ballesteros had served notice of his ability when he finished runner-up to Miller at Royal Birkdale in 1976, in just his second appearance at The Open.

He went one better at Royal Lytham & St Annes three years later, beating Nicklaus and Ben Crenshaw by three strokes.

Ballesteros was often unfairly maligned in his early years for being too cavalier. While a number of his shots did veer off course on the blustery Lancashire coast, the Spaniard recovered time and time again courtesy of his magnificent short game.

His most famous escape came at the 16th hole of the final round when he drove his tee shot into an overflow car park. Earning a free drop, Ballesteros got up and down for a birdie, extending his lead to three strokes and effectively sealing the first of three Claret Jugs.

He became the first player from mainland Europe to win The Open since Arnaud Massy in 1907. And aged just 22, he was also the youngest Champion Golfer since Willie Auchterlonie in 1893.

A star was born.

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