Only two players previously had rallied from five strokes behind with a round to play to win The Open before Justin Leonard completed the feat at Royal Troon in 1997.
Jim Barnes at Prestwick in 1925 and Tommy Armour at Carnoustie in 1931 managed the achievement to win by a stroke.
But while Leonard also came back from a deficit of five, such was his devastating finish, and the quality of his putting, that the 25-year-old from Dallas, playing in his fourth Open, won by three strokes from Darren Clarke and Jesper Parnevik.
Clarke went out of bounds onto the beach at the second hole and the double bogey put him out of contention. Parnevik led the way but came under increasing pressure from Leonard’s charge.
There were six birdies and a bogey going out, another dropped shot at the 10th but he holed from 10 feet for a par at the 11th and from 15 feet for another par at the 15th. The American again holed from 15 feet for a birdie at the 16th and then sank a 30-footer for a 2 at the 17th to get to 12 under par.
His closing 65 was only one higher than Greg Norman’s record final round by a Champion Golfer from 1993.
No one else on the leaderboard at the start of the day scored under 70. Parnevik, two ahead with seven to play, bogeyed the 13th, missed a short birdie putt at the 16th and then bogeyed the last two.
This defeat, the Swede felt, hurt even more than the one to Nick Price down the Ayrshire coast at Turnberry three years earlier. Tiger Woods, the 21-year-old Masters champion in his first Open as a professional, equalled the course record with a 64 in the third round but that was 10 strokes better than his efforts the day before or after.