It was a battle that defined not just an era, but an entire sport.
These two golfing heavyweights went toe-to-toe over 18 spellbinding holes in an incredible clash that would popularise their sport like no event before or since.
“The best head-to-head duel in major championship history,” said NBC’s Mike Tirico.
This final-day joust thrust golf into the limelight like nobody could have imagined. What started out as a simple two-way contest for The Open Championship evolved into one of the most captivating pieces of theatre ever witnessed on grass.
This was the Duel in the Sun.
As we look forward to this year’s Open at Royal Liverpool, R&A Films, in partnership with Rolex, has produced DUEL, a 47-minute film which interweaves rich archive footage with contemporary animated scenes to put a new spin on a classic story. This wasn’t just a battle between two Open greats. This was a turning point for golf, an historic sporting moment.
“It was like a dream pairing,” said Alex Miceli from Sports Illustrated. “You want the two best guys paired together.
“They were like two gunslingers.”
DUEL is available exclusively to members of The One Club, a free-to-join community which brings golf fans closer to The Open, and is the latest offering from R&A Films, in partnership with Rolex, following on from 'SEVE. Artist. Fighter. Legend' and our highly regarded 'Chronicles of a Champion Golfer' series. Why not watch the entire back catalogue on TheOpen.com/video.
With insight from some of the game’s highest-profile players and leading personalities including Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth, Annika Sorenstam and Erik Anders Lang, DUEL takes the viewer inside the magic, documenting every high and every low of a tale so utterly compelling it has been written into sporting folklore.
“The idea of it even being called a duel,” said Lang. “There’s really no other way to describe it.”
Remarkably, Nicklaus and Watson shot the exact same score in the first, second and third rounds, three identical scorecards which set-up the scintillating showdown in the sun.
They were the two best golfers on the planet, and they were light years ahead of the field.
“It’s so rare in golf that you have two people playing at their best,” added Lang. “They were literally forcing each other to play better.”
Twice Nicklaus forged ahead, only to be pegged back by Watson on each occasion.
The great major champion could not lose the young pretender from his slipstream.
“I was never intimidated by Jack,” explained Watson.
“I had the greatest respect for Jack, and I wanted to beat Jack because he was the best in the game.
“If I was trying to be the best in the game, I had to beat the best in the game.”
The back-and-forth nature of this famous denouement is captured perfectly in DUEL, as is the context in which it’s played, with magnificent pictures of Doug Sanders, Ben Crenshaw and Lee Trevino showcasing the best fashion the late 1970s had to offer.
But at its heart, DUEL shines a modern light on the greatest head-to-head encounter golf has ever seen.
“It’s what athletes and competitors live for,” said Nicklaus.
“To have somebody else playing the same way [you are] playing, so you’re both just trying as hard as you can, trying to beat the other fella.
“That is what it’s all about.”
So join The One Club today to watch DUEL and be mesmerised by the skill and determination displayed by two of the greatest players to ever pick up a club.
Membership of The One Club provides exclusive access to DUEL plus a range of other benefits and experiences, including unique offers and promotions and access to additional content.