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Player Feature

Tom Watson


A five-time Champion Golfer


Only Harry Vardon has won more Opens than the great Tom Watson.

Vardon’s six Claret Jugs have Watson beat by one, but in the last century no one has lit up links golf like the Missouri man.

Five-times a Champion Golfer of the Year, Watson’s quintuple of crowns came in a nine-year period.

No one can match that winning ratio in The Open’s great history and considering he has also finished runner-up twice more and won three senior titles, The Open and Watson are indelibly linked.


Everyone remembers their first.

And Watson’s was extra special, coming as it did at Carnoustie and – remarkably – in his first-ever tournament on British soil.

The only one of his five titles won wearing a tweed flat cap, Watson’s sartorial style was reflected in his flair-filled short game.

Tom Watson Champion Golfer 1975

A 20-foot putt on the 18th in regulation secured Watson a play-off spot against Jack Newton.

Back then, that meant returning for an 18-hole shoot out a day later and Watson, after chipping in at the Spectacles (14), did enough to secure a first title.


Two years later came probably Watson’s most famous win of them all.

The Duel in the Sun at Turnberry is so iconic that many believe it will be tough to match in golf history.

The 18th hole has been renamed in its honour as Watson and Nicklaus went shot for shot, round for round in pursuit of the Claret Jug.

And it was the great Nicklaus who eventually blinked on 17 on the final day, Watson producing his best when it mattered despite one last monster Nicklaus putt on 18 to claim his third crown.

Watson himself called it one of his favourite wins, and the younger man was probably helped by the fact that he had beaten Nicklaus not three months earlier at Augusta to claim his first Green Jacket.

Either way, these two were playing golf from a different planet – third round 65s were followed up by another 65 for Watson and a 66 for Nicklaus.

Dual in the Sun

The nearest challenger ended up a whopping ten shots short of Nicklaus when all was said and done.


Despite having three Open titles to his name already, Watson himself admitted that it had taken him a while to get used to the vagaries of links golf.

But by the time of his third crown, at Muirfield in 1980, his game had truly clicked.

This Open, the first with a Sunday finish, was secured in quite some style.

Watson was too strong for the field as all the parts of his game came together in perfect fashion.

He ended up four shots clear of his nearest challenger Lee Trevino – making it three Open wins at three different Scottish courses.


Watson’s love affair with Scottish golf continued in 1982 – this time at Royal Troon.

In so doing he became just the fifth man to win the US Open and the Claret Jug in the same year after Bobby Jones, Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan and Lee Trevino (Tiger Woods would join the list in 2000).

But he came from behind for this crown – playing the back nine on Sunday strongly and then watching as the rest of the field fell away.

His eagle at the 11th railway hole was vital and Nick Price in particular stumbled with Watson in the clubhouse.


Considering after two rounds, Watson had been seven shots behind the leaders, this was an impressive victory.


The fifth and final Open crown would come for Watson just a year later – and finally on English soil.

This would prove to be the last of Watson’s eight major titles in all but he brought Royal Birkdale to its knees.

The fifth Claret Jug put him in wonderful company with the historical figures like Peter Thomson and James Braid.

But his contemporaries were no match for him that week on Merseyside.

This was a redemption of sorts for Watson, who had shot a third round 80 at the Southport course only seven years earlier.

But this time he ended up one ahead of both Andy Bean and Hale Irwin.


His 275-shot total, nine under par, was the record at Birkdale at the time and also, at the time, the third lowest winning total ever in Open golf.

It might also be remembered for Irwin’s missed tap-in on the Saturday at 14 but Watson’s rank amongst the all-time greats was secured.