Bob Ferguson returned to his home course of Musselburgh Links, where he had won his first Open three years earlier, trying to win a fourth consecutive title.
He came within a whisker of matching Young Tommy Morris’s feat but was eventually defeated by Willie Fernie, who had somehow survived a 10 during regulation play to tie with Ferguson and force a play-off.
Given that Davie Strath had refused to play-off in 1876, this was the first time a play-off actually took place in the Open. It was contested over another 36 holes, or four more loops of the nine-hole course, and was tight all the way.
Fernie led by a stroke at halfway, 81-82, but Ferguson was one ahead when the came to the ninth hole for the last time.Ferguson missed the green with his tee shot but Fernie found the putting surface and then rolled in a long putt for a 2. Ferguson took 4 and, with the pair posting 77s for their last 18 holes, Fernie won 158-159.
Originally from St Andrews, Fernie was now the professional at Dumfries and nines of 38 and 37 gave him a two-stroke lead over Willie Park Jnr after the first 18 holes, with the local favourite, Ferguson, a further shot back.
At the second hole in the fourth round, Fernie ran up a 10. He hit into long grass off the tee, then in a sand hole, a bunker and a whin bush, from where he played an excellent recovery shot but missed a short putt.
He still managed to be round in 43, with an 83 for the second 18 and a total of 158, which was matched by Ferguson with an 80 for the second 18. Willie Brown finished in third place, two shots behind.