If ever there was a year which epitomised The Open’s vulnerability to the elements, it was 1988.
Torrential downpours and swirling winds on the Thursday gave way to bright sunshine on the Friday. Saturday was a total washout, leading to play being suspended – and the first Monday finish in Open history.
But one man who rose above the rainclouds was the incomparable Seve Ballesteros.
And his tremendous 65 on that history-making Monday is the subject of the latest edition of our Great Final Days series.
Few golfers have graced The Open like Ballesteros.
A three-time Champion, the Spaniard was a shot-maker with no equal. An artist.
Having announced himself by winning at Royal Lytham & St Annes in 1979 – hitting some of the most majestic shots the Championship has ever seen – Ballesteros claimed a second Claret Jug five years later.
By the time The Open returned to Lytham in 1988, ‘El Matador’ hadn’t won a major for four years and was being written off in some quarters.
But Ballesteros still had plenty to offer.
An excellent four-under-par round – and a two-shot lead – on a wet and wild opening day proved Seve could handle anything the sky sent his way. It was one of only four rounds in the 60s on a difficult Thursday.
Nick Price showed his class to nudge in front as the weekend beckoned, only to be stopped in his tracks by the weather. Meanwhile, reigning Champion Nick Faldo refused to relinquish his grip on the trophy, leading to a three-way shootout on a momentous Monday.
As the skies finally cleared, Price and Faldo both dropped shots early on, only to get them back almost immediately, and the Zimbabwean still held a one-shot lead over his rivals as the trio teed off at the 7th.
Sublime approach shots from Price and Ballesteros led to a pair of eagles, allowing them to finally pull away from Faldo. It was now looking like a two-horse race.
Three straight birdies from a re-energised Ballesteros nudged him in front with just seven to play, but a bogey on 12, his first of the day, allowed Price to restore parity.
Another approach shot from the Gods left Price inches away from an eagle on 13 – only for Ballesteros to respond with a nerveless 8ft putt for a birdie of his own.
Five birdies and an eagle in seven holes for the Prince of Pedreña. Arguably, the best was still to come.
If Price’s wedge into 13 was exquisite, Ballesteros’s second into the 16th was immaculate, leaving him just a few blades of grass away from an eagle and what surely would have been an insurmountable lead with just two to play.
“This hole is certainly one that Seve will remember all his life,” was how commentator Peter Alliss summed it up.
With pars shared on 17, Ballesteros was within touching distance of a third Claret Jug, only for the fan favourite to overshoot the 18th green. Suddenly there was a glimmer of hope for Price, who had suffered final-round heartache against Tom Watson in 1982.
Unfortunately, the then-31-year-old could only leave himself 60-feet from the pin.
And when Ballesteros’s chip back onto the green bobbled slowly over the hole, Price knew the game was up.
Ballesteros had conquered not only a world-class field, but Mother Nature, too. For the third time.