Ecstasy for Nick Price. Agony for Jesper Parnevik. That was the final outcome at Turnberry in 1994, but only after the most stunning of turnarounds in the final hour of play.
Securing victory in The Open is the ultimate test of a golfer.
Those looking to do so must master the elements, exhibit skill and patience in equal measure, and hold their nerve for four long days, aware that their fortunes could turn sharply at any point.
As he completed hole 71 of 72 in The 123rd Open, Parnevik – on only his second appearance in the Championship – looked a certainty to make history by becoming the first Swede to claim the Claret Jug. Three shots clear with one hole to play, Jesper appeared irrepressible.
And then, in a flash, everything changed.
Our Great Final Days series continues with a look back at an initial slow burner that ignited dramatically.
The top two finishers of the 1994 Championship only emerged as the key protagonists on the final afternoon.
Parnevik and Price were three and four shots off the pace respectively after round one, before twin rounds of 66 on day two lifted them towards the summit of a leaderboard headed by five-time Champion Golfer Tom Watson.
Fuzzy Zoeller and Brad Faxon held top spot through 54 holes on nine-under, but by this stage Parnevik and Price were each only one back, alongside the intimidating figure of Watson.
“I just hope my putter gets going, because there’s too much experience on that leaderboard.”
The first nine holes of the final day provided one considerable surprise as Watson tumbled out of contention, carding back-to-back double bogeys at eight and nine.
Faxon also faded, while Zoeller struggled to build momentum. Instead, it was Price – third in the Official World Golf Ranking but on a path to the top spot – and Parnevik – at that time the world number 68 – who took centre stage as the Championship moved towards its conclusion.
A brilliant two at the 11th, a par-3, moved the instantly recognisable Parnevik, with his trademark upturned-bill cap, into pole position.
Although Price indulged in a momentary skip of delight on the 12th after converting a birdie putt, a tantalising hint at what was to follow, it was his younger rival who remained the man to beat.
Parnevik had also birdied the 12th prior to Price and a glorious approach to the 13th set up a third gain in a row, sending him two clear.
Even when he faced adversity on the next hole, having raced a long-range birdie putt 10-12 feet past the cup, Parnevik had the answer. The return putt found its target. Doubters silenced. At least for now.
A shot was given back at the 15th. From a perilous position on a steep hill to the right of the green, Parnevik played a fine pitch but could not quite rescue his par.
Then came a moment of magic from Price in the group behind. Having missed the 14th green by a considerable distance, the powerful Zimbabwean played an incredible chip and run that almost went in and made par an unexpected formality.
Price’s short-game heroics looked likely to prove in vain. Parnevik restored his two-shot cushion by picking up another shot on 16, before producing a wonderful chip of his own to leave a tap-in for a four on the par-5 17th.
“It’s his day. It must surely be his day,” exclaimed Peter Alliss on commentary. Five birdies in seven holes had put the Claret Jug within Parnevik’s grasp. Yet Price was far from finished.
Knowing he needed to act fast, the 1992 PGA Champion birdied the 16th to keep himself in with a sniff, trimming his deficit from three strokes to two.
By the time Price made it to the green on the 17th, the lead stood at one and the tension was unbearable. Parnevik had finished with a bogey after a poor approach to the final hole. All he could do now was wait.
Unfortunately for Parnevik, the next stroke of The 123rd Open would be the one for which the Championship is best remembered. A moment for the ages, replayed time and time again.
Price’s successful eagle putt from around 70 feet was remarkable enough, but the outpouring of emotion that immediately followed lifted the moment to even greater heights.
Twelve years had passed since Price – three clear with six to play – had seen The Open slip through his fingers at Royal Troon, while it had been six years since he had lost a two-shot lead on the final day at Royal Lytham & St Annes to an inspired Ballesteros.
Now, finally, this was Price’s moment and his elation could not have been more clear as he galloped around the edge of the green in triumph, a vision of delight surrounded by adoring spectators.
He still needed a par at the last to defeat Parnevik. Yet, after seizing control of the Championship so dramatically, Price was certainly not going to let this chance slip.
A closing four was secured in nerveless fashion and everyone lucky enough to be present at Turnberry could finally catch their breath.