Tom Watson won a fourth Open title on a fourth different Scottish links as he reigned supreme at Royal Troon – joining an illustrious club in the process.
His triumph saw him match Bobby Jones (twice), Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan and Lee Trevino in winning both the U.S. Open, where he beat Jack Nicklaus in another thrilling duel at Pebble Beach, and The Open in the same summer.
Yet Watson only entered the story late on at Royal Troon, which had received its Royal Charter in its centenary year of 1978.
Bobby Clampett, a 22-year-old American playing in his first Open, had a 67 and then a 66 to lead Zimbabwe’s Nick Price by five strokes at the halfway stage.
Two early birdies in the third round put Clampett seven clear of the field with 31 holes to play. Then, the fairy tale turned into a nightmare.
At the par-5 sixth, the longest championship hole in Britain at 577 yards, Clampett found three bunkers and took a triple-bogey 8. A 78 still left him one ahead of Price but a 77 on the final day dropped Clampett into a tie for 10th. Watson had gone along steadily with rounds of 69, 71 and 74.
He had been seven off the lead after 36 holes and three adrift with a round to play. Out in 35, he hit a 3-iron to three feet for an eagle at the 11th and in the deteriorating conditions dropped only one shot coming home for a 70 and four under par.
With birdies at the 10th, 11th and 12th holes, Price led by three but he bogeyed the 13th, had a double bogey at the 15th after hitting his second shot into a bunker and dropped another shot at the par-3 17th.
He shared second place with Peter Oosterhuis. Watson said: “I didn’t win this Championship, I had it handed to me.”