“And there, but for the grace of God…” were the immortal words of commentator Henry Longhurst after one of the most famous missed putts in the history of the game.
Doug Sanders, a runner-up to Jack Nicklaus in The Open in 1966, never did win a major but after a fine recovery from the Road Hole Bunker on the 17th, he required only a par to beat Nicklaus in the 1970 Open at St Andrews.
After a poor pitch at the last, his first putt came up three feet short. As he stood over his ball, he was distracted by something on his line and bent down to pick it up.
A murmur went round the gallery and Sanders admitted not re-settling himself properly. The putt missed on the right and after tying on 283, Sanders and Nicklaus contested The Open’s first 18-hole play-off.
Nicklaus was four ahead after 13 holes but two birdies from Sanders and a bogey from Nicklaus meant the lead was only one at the last, where more drama followed. Nicklaus discarded his sweater and smashed his drive over 360 yards to the back of the green.
Sanders had pitched close this time and would make a three so Nicklaus knew he needed to get up and down. He chipped to eight feet and then holed the putt for a 3, and flung his putter high into the air, a rare emotional celebration from the Golden Bear.
He had a second Open victory but, more importantly, had won at the Home of Golf.
Lee Trevino, the long-time leader, shared third place with Harold Henning, defending Champion Golfer Tony Jacklin was fifth, after an outward 29 on the first day before play was suspended due to a flooded course, and Neil Coles shared sixth place after an opening 65, a record for the Old Course.