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History of The Open

Royal Troon Revisited 1982


Fourth Claret Jug for links master Tom Watson

Tom Watson celebrates after winning The Open at Royal Troon in 1982

“If you told me after 36 holes that I had a chance of winning, I’d have said you were crazy.”

So said Tom Watson shortly after he lifted the Claret Jug for the fourth time, in 1982.

Despite being the hot favourite coming into the Championship following his thrilling victory at the US Open earlier that summer, Watson will readily admit he was never once in control at Royal Troon.

But his shadow had always loomed large.

As we build up to this year’s Open – which will once again be staged at the famous Ayrshire track – we take a look back at one of the most dramatic editions of golf’s original Championship.

Bobby Clampett in action at The Open in 1982

Clampett’s surge

The early stages of The 111th Open had been dominated by 22-year-old Bobby Clampett (above) who had blown the field away with rounds of 67 and 66, a new course record, to lead Nick Price by five strokes – and Watson by seven – at the halfway stage.

Such was Clampett’s brilliance, his 36-hole tally of 133 (11-under-par) was just one shy of the record set by the great Henry Cotton in 1934.

His sensational charge continued to gather pace as a birdie at the 5th in round three moved him seven clear of Price. But sadly for the Californian, things started to unravel at the very next hole.

Nick Price in action at The Open in 1982

Price picks up the pace

Clampett found sand three times at the par-5 6th on his way to a triple-bogey eight. His lead was down to two by the time he reached the 12th and just one as he walked off the 15th.

This was the lead he would take into the final day; a day in which Jack Nicklaus and Seve Ballesteros were pitched together in a gargantuan Sunday pairing.

Had Clampett not already been fearing the worst, three straight bogeys at the beginning of round four ultimately left his Open dreams in tatters, with Price taking full advantage to forge three clear after seven.

Yet still Watson waited quietly in the wings, moving through the opening 10 holes in a low-key one-under-par. An eagle on the par-5 11th, following an exquisite 220-yard approach, suddenly hauled the three-time Champion level at the top of the leaderboard.

Price was unflustered, reeling off three consecutive birdies just after the turn to push himself three shots clear with just six to play.

Watson managed to pull one back, but he entered the clubhouse still two shots behind the Zimbabwean.

Tom Watson lines up a putt at Royal Troon in 1982

Watson benefits

Closing out a victory is never easy, particularly on the fabled links terrain, and perhaps the pressure told as Price found himself in trouble at the 15th, leading to a damaging double bogey.

Watson was suddenly tied at the top once more.

A par at 16 seemingly steadied the ship, only for Price to fall at the second-last.

He miscued his tee shot off the par-3 17th, leaving his ball well short of the green, leading to what was ultimately a Championship-deciding bogey.

“I didn’t win The Open,” said a magnanimous Watson. “Nick Price gave it to me.”

It was a fourth Open victory for Watson – at a fourth different Scottish venue – and he became just the fifth player, after Bobby Jones, Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan and Lee Trevino, to win The Open and the US Open in the same year.

He would successfully defend the Claret Jug at Royal Birkdale 12 months later.

Price went close again in 1988 and would ultimately exorcise his Troon demons by finally getting over the line following a thrilling finish at nearby Turnberry in 1994.

Meanwhile, Bristol’s Malcolm Lewis won the 1982 Silver Medal as leading amateur.

The 152nd Open