Turnberry, the most scenic of courses on the Ayrshire coast, provided a new venue for The Open and one of the greatest ever staged.
Played in heatwave conditions, the “Duel in the Sun” became a two-horse race between Tom Watson, winner of the Masters that year, and Jack Nicklaus.
They were tied on 138 after two rounds and both had 65s on the third day. Nicklaus quickly established a three-stroke lead in the final round but Watson rallied and holed from 60 feet at the 15th to get level.
“This is what it’s all about, isn’t it?” Watson said on the next tee. “You bet it is,” Nicklaus replied.
A birdie at the par-5 17th put Watson in front for the first time and at the last he hit a 7-iron to two feet. Nicklaus had driven into the rough by a gorse bush but smashed an 8-iron to the edge of the green and dramatically holed from 35 feet.
Now Watson’s putt looked a bit longer but he tapped in for victory. His closing 65 was the lowest score ever to win an Open.
It also gave him a new record total of 268 – by eight strokes so Nicklaus had beaten the old record by seven – while Watson also set a new best of 130 for the last 36 holes.
Watson and Nicklaus left the 18th green arm-in-arm, each a two-time Champion Golfer.
Rarely had two players produced such a high quality of golf amid so much drama. “I just couldn’t shake him off,” Nicklaus said.
Hubert Green, ten behind Nicklaus, was the only other player to break par. “I won the tournament I played. They were playing in something else,” he said.
In the second round Mark Hayes became the first player to score 63 in The Open and the third in any major.