The 25th Open to be staged at St Andrews was a wild one and not just for the weather. John Daly was called the “Wild Thing” but if his victory in the 1991 PGA Championship as an unknown was a shock, his win in the 1995 Open was not as far-fetched as it seemed.
With his power and a delicate touch while lag putting on the huge greens, his game was suited to the Old Course.
Despite the windy conditions the 29-year-old closed with a 71 to finish one ahead of Michael Campbell, the third-round leader, Mark Brooks and English journeyman Stephen Bottomley, who had the day’s best score with a 69.
But the real drama came from Costantino Rocca, who needed a birdie at the last to tie Daly. When he duffed his pitch into the Valley of Sin, all hope seemed lost.
Yet using a putter from 65 feet, Rocca knocked his ball up the steep slope and then into the hole. He sank to his knees and slammed the ground with his fists in sheer jubilation. “I had no putt, but it went in,” said the Italian.
Rocca was spent even before the four-hole play-off, which Daly won by five strokes after the Italian took three to get out of the Road Hole Bunker.
It was an anti-climax of a finish but it allowed the popular Daly to receive a heart-felt ovation at the last. “The names that are on here,” he marvelled while looking at the Claret Jug, “it’s unbelievable to be a part of it.”
Arnold Palmer also received an emotional reception on Friday when he bowed out of his last Open on the Swilcan Bridge, 35 years after his first.
Jack Nicklaus made the cut despite a 10 at the 14th on Thursday when he needed several attempts to escape Hell Bunker.