Ian Baker-Finch set a new course record for Royal Birkdale with a 64 in the third round, which he promptly lost the next day when Jodie Mudd became the fifth player in The Open to score a 63.
But the Australian won something much more special, as the 30-year-old lifted the Claret Jug at Royal Birkdale following a devastating display of putting over the weekend.
Seve Ballesteros opened with a 66 but could not keep his challenge going and it was Baker-Finch, after two quiet rounds of 71, who played spectacular golf when it mattered.
On Saturday, when Richard Boxall had the misfortune to break his leg while hitting his drive at the ninth, Baker-Finch recored nine 3s and finished with an eagle and a birdie to tie for the lead with Mark O’Meara, winner of the 1987 Lawrence Batley tournament at Birkdale.
Baker-Finch had twice before been in the final round of The Open, both times at St Andrews. In 1984 he hit his approach into the Swilcan Burn at the first on the way to a 79, while in 1990 he had a 73 as Nick Faldo cruised to victory.
This time the Australian was ready to win. He picked up where he had left off the previous day by starting the final round with five birdies in the first seven holes.He went out in 29 and went on to beat fellow Aussie Mike Harwood by two strokes, with Americans O’Meara and Fred Couples sharing third place. With a closing 66, Baker-Finch equalled Tom Watson’s record of 130 strokes for the last 36 holes set in 1977.
“All the times I didn’t go on and win made me stronger,” Baker-Finch said. “Today erases all those memories. Just to play in The Open is fantastic, to win it is a dream.”