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History of The Open

Tom Watson's Lucky Charm


A Sprig of Heather in 1975

Tom Watson Golf Lucky Charm The Open

When Tom Watson left his rented home in Monifieth on the morning of the 13th July 1975, he was preparing for the biggest day of his career to date.

The 25-year-old Watson had just holed a putt the evening before to force an 18 hole playoff with Australian Jack Newton around the famed Carnoustie links in the 104th Open Championship.

The moment he left to go to the course however on the morning of the playoff, was a moment that perhaps gave Watson a boost for years to come.

“We stayed in Monifieth” Watson said, speaking on The Open Podcasts earlier this year. “We rented a cottage there in a cul-de-sac going up the hill, and I just remember one particular wonderful moment before the playoff.”

“I came out the door, and this little eight-year-old lass was standing there. She had freckles, and she looked at me and said, ‘Mr. Watson, please take this and good luck.’ She handed me a tin of aluminium foil, and in it was a sprig of heather.”

“The thing I remember most about it was she was barefoot, and it was a chilly day.”

Alf Padgham The Open Heather

Watson wasn't the only Open Champion who had a sprig of heather as a lucky charm. Here is Alf Padgham in 1935 receiving a sprig of heather from his wife, the year before he became a Champion Golfer at Hoylake.

Watson would go on to play a tight playoff with Newton, and would chip-in for eagle on the 14th hole to keep a slender one shot lead at a crucial time.

“That playoff was nip and tuck the whole way round. No more than one shot separated us. We were tied going into the 18th hole. It was really close. When he hit his putt on the last hole to tie me, I thought it was in, I thought we were going to go extra holes. It really surprised me it missed.”

Perhaps Watson’s lucky charm, the sprig of heather given to him that morning by a barefoot child, proved the difference as the American claimed the first of his eventual five Claret Jugs by a single stroke in the playoff.

“I kept that (sprig of heather) in my golf bag for a couple of years” Watson said.

When asked by guest host Iain Carter if he had it in his bag for the Duel in the Sun two years later at Turnberry, where Watson went head-to-head with Jack Nicklaus, Watson replied: “Yes, yes I did.”

Listen below here to Tom Watson on The Open Podcasts with Iain Carter, or listen via Apple Podcasts or Spotify. Subscribe today for new episodes coming soon!