For the first time in its history, The Open was scheduled to finish on a Sunday. In effect, however, it was Tom Watson’s performance on Saturday that brought the American his third Claret Jug.
While his first Open title arrived in a play-off in 1975 and his second only after a duel right to the 72nd green with Jack Nicklaus in 1977, this time Watson showed that he was comfortable leading from the front as well.
Both Watson and Lee Trevino had 68s to lead the first round and then Trevino had a 67 to go three ahead of Watson, Ken Brown and Jerry Pate.
In the third round Isao Aoki, the Japanese player who was runner-up to Jack Nicklaus at the U.S. Open at Baltusrol a few weeks earlier, scored a 63, the second recorded in The Open but the first ever at Muirfield.
He had nine threes and nine fours. Watson then almost matched him. He went out in 34 and came home in 30 for a 64 to lead by four strokes.
In the final round it was Watson’s burst of five birdies in six holes from the seventh that sealed his victory. No one bettered his 69 for the day and, on a total of 271, he won by four from Trevino and by six from Ben Crenshaw, with Nicklaus tying for fourth place.
Once again, Watson had shown his command of links golf by beating the two previous Muirfield Champion Golfers.
In his only appearance in The Open, Argentinian Horacio Carbonetti produced a 64 in the second round. Alas, he had scored a 78 in the first round and had another 78 on the third day to miss the cut to play on the final day by one stroke.