Rarely has a putt been celebrated in such a joyous way. On the 18th green at St Andrews, Seve Ballesteros had a putt from 12 feet for a birdie and it looked in all the way before appearing to hesitate on the lip of the hole.
Finally, it toppled in and Ballesteros pumped his fist extravagantly and nearly squeezed the life out of his caddie, Nick de Paul, when they embraced.
“I was so excited,” said the Spaniard. “It was the happiest single shot of my life.”
But while Ballesteros was on the 18th green making a birdie, Tom Watson was back on the 17th green in the midst of taking a bogey. Only when Watson failed to hole his second shot at the last had Ballesteros won his second Open – dressed in navy sweater and trousers and white shirt just as he had been at Royal Lytham in 1979.
It was a crushing defeat for Watson, who was trying to win his third Open in a row and tie Harry Vardon’s record of six titles. Watson had been at his best with a 66 in the third round which tied young Australian Ian Baker-Finch, the surprise halfway leader.
Baker-Finch found the Swilcan Burn at the first on Sunday and Ballesteros had made up a two-shot deficit when he came to the 17th.
For the first time in the week he got his par with a 6-iron and two putts, but Watson, after his drive flirted with the out-of-bounds on the right, took too much club for his second shot and went over the green with a 2-iron.
Just two feet from the wall over the road, he could only dribble the ball onto the green and, with the roar from the 18th still echoing, missed the par putt.