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History of The Open

Royal Troon Revisited 1989


A date to remember for Calcavecchia

Mark Calcavecchia celebrates winning The 118th Open at Royal Troon

Mark Calcavecchia was more than willing to skip The 118th Open at Royal Troon. He would come to be forever thankful that he did not.

Calcavecchia’s first wife, Sheryl, was due to give birth to the couple’s first child on the Sunday of the Championship, prompting Mark to decide he would stay home.

It was Sheryl who convinced him to play. And, incredibly, on the day his daughter had been scheduled to enter the world, Calcavecchia secured the Claret Jug.

Australia’s Wayne Grady appeared the most likely Champion for much of the week, while Greg Norman looked to have timed his charge to perfection as he pulled level with his compatriot before birdieing the first two of four play-off holes.

However, The Open’s first three-man play-off also featured Calcavecchia, who overhauled Norman on the final extra hole to claim the greatest win of his career.

Mark Calcavecchia raises the Claret Jug at Royal Troon

Mark Calcavecchia lifts the Claret Jug on Royal Troon's 18th green

Stephens’ stunning debut

It is fair to say no one could have predicted the identity of the first-round leader in 1989.

Wayne Stephens, a little-known professional from Jersey, had never played in a major before teeing off at Troon. Yet three days after qualifying at nearby Irvine, a player with a career-best finish of 19th on the European Tour stormed to the top of The Open’s leaderboard with a six-under 66.

“All you’re trying to do is make contact with the golf ball and not embarrass yourself, to tell you the truth,” Stephens told the Washington Post in an interview 27 years on from his day in the sun.

There was to be no embarrassment at all for Stephens. Just a magical, memorable day that ended with him two shots clear of the likes of Lee Trevino, Jose Maria Olazabal and Fred Couples.

A level-par 72 followed on Friday to keep him in contention, before he faded over the weekend with scores of 76 and 78.

Nevertheless, Stephens can always look back fondly on Thursday 20 July 1989, when the round of his life left him on top of the world.


Grady catches fire… and so does Troon

By the time Friday afternoon rolled around it was Grady setting the pace at Troon, the Queenslander improving on his opening-day 68 by one to lead the way on nine-under.

Wayne Grady at The Open in 1989

The in-form Wayne Grady enjoyed a superb week at Troon

Grady had won his maiden PGA Tour title in New York the previous month and looked full of confidence as he took charge of the Championship on a seriously sun-baked links.

The conditions throughout the week seemed more synonymous with Grady’s native Brisbane than the west coast of Scotland, as evidenced when a fire broke out near Troon’s famous par-3 eighth hole, the Postage Stamp, on Saturday, forcing the Strathclyde Fire Brigade to intervene.

The incident was swiftly dealt with, but Grady was soon feeling the heat from the last man to win The Open at Troon.


Past Champions make their move

Grady retained pole position heading into the final round courtesy of a three-under 69. Yet all eyes were on the man immediately behind him on the leaderboard.

There could be no more intimidating presence on an Open leaderboard than Tom Watson, the five-time Champion Golfer who had triumphed at Troon in 1982 when Bobby Clampett and then Nick Price stumbled.

Tom Watson at The 118th Open

Tom Watson looked more than capable of winning at Royal Troon for a second time

Watson’s Saturday 68 left him a solitary shot off the lead. Given his pedigree, he was now the favourite to lift the Claret Jug once again and equal Harry Vardon’s record haul of Open victories.

The other contenders with a round to play were headed by Payne Stewart on 10-under, with Calcavecchia, Couples and David Feherty a shot further back.

However, Sunday saw another challenger sensationally emerge. Norman – the Champion Golfer at nearby Turnberry in 1986 – had looked to be firmly out of the running on five-under, but the Great White Shark then birdied each of the first six holes in the final round to storm into contention.

With Grady still on top and both Norman and Watson ominously placed, a fascinating denouement was in prospect.


And then there were three

There would be many more twists and turns before the final round drew to a close.

Grady picked up shots on three of his first five holes to open up a three-shot cushion, before Watson surprisingly faded from contention, bogeys at the 7th and 9th proving costly.

Norman was now the principal threat to Grady as he followed a birdie at 16 with an unlikely par at 17, where he used the blade of his wedge to hole out from off the green.

A pivotal moment came soon after at the 12th, where Calcavecchia found himself in a horrendous spot to the left of the green, but somehow made a birdie that would be long remembered as his pitch landed in the hole on the full.

After Norman parred the last to complete a spectacular 64 – setting a new course record at Troon – Grady briefly moved further clear with a birdie of his own at the 12th. At 15-under, the long-time leader had a two-stroke cushion over Norman, while Calcavecchia was a couple of shots further back.

Few would have fancied Calcavecchia’s chances at that point, but the American ended his round superbly, following up a birdie at the 16th with a stunning approach to the 18th that enabled him to match Norman’s aggregate of 13-under.

And as Calcavecchia found his best form at the right time, Grady was left to rue a painful finish, bogeys at the 14th and 17th costing him Open glory and setting up the Championship’s first three-man play-off.

Mark Calcavecchia, Wayne Grady and Greg Norman ahead of the play-off in The 118th Open at Royal Troon

Calcavecchia, Grady and Norman ahead of the three-man play-off

Heartbreak for Norman as Calcavecchia prevails

The play-off consisted of four holes, with Grady, Norman and Calcavecchia battling it out over the 1st, 2nd, 17th and 18th.

When Norman followed up his 64 in regulation play with birdies at the 1st and 2nd, putting him 10-under for his last 20 holes, a second Open victory looked to be coming his way.

Calcavecchia did produce another moment of magic at the 2nd, holing a lengthy putt for a birdie of his own, but all the momentum was with Norman, whose tee shot at the next threatened the hole before running through the green.

Norman also came close to holing the subsequent chip for a third birdie in succession, but his ball drifted 12 feet past and he could not convert for par.

Greg Norman comes close to holing a chip in the play-off

Norman comes agonisingly close to chipping in at the 17th

Suddenly, the sands had shifted. And further misery lay ahead for Norman as he hit what looked to be a magnificent drive on the 18th, only for the ball to find a fairway bunker that had seemed unreachable.

With Grady at one-over after a bogey on 17, Calcavecchia – level with Norman on one-under – knew he had been presented with a golden opportunity. His drive at 18 had drifted right, but he again fired his approach straight at the flag to leave a putt of no more than seven feet for birdie.

Faced with an almost impossible position near the front of the bunker, Norman caught the lip with his second shot, leaving him 50 yards short of the green in yet more sand. His next shot then flew over the green and out of bounds, making Calcavecchia’s victory a formality.

Little more than 15 minutes earlier, Norman had one hand on the Claret Jug. Now he could only watch on in anguish as a jubilant Calcavecchia converted his birdie putt to seal victory in a Championship he had seemed likely to miss.

The newest Champion Golfer was able to celebrate the arrival of his daughter a couple of weeks later. In a nod to her father’s career highlight on British soil, she was named Brittany.

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