De Vicenzo: 'Best shot of my life'

Argentina's old champion, now 83, remembers the wonder three-wood that made Jack wilt

Any identikit of the next Open champion is usually best drawn up by a quick scan down the host course's last few champions. So St Andrews favours the legends, Muirfield the technicians, Carnoustie the sadists and Troon the Americans.

But what of Hoylake? Well, if records stretching back to 1967 can indeed be relied upon, then Colin Montgomerie, Fred Couples and Vijay Singh should all rejoice. Because Royal Liver-pool favours the good old boys. And few came as good, or as old, as Roberto de Vicenzo. When the magnificent Argentinian finally righted his insulting omission from the major record books at the age of 44 everyone was happy. Well, almost everyone.

Speaking from his Buenos Aires home last week, the now 83-year-old revealed the one person who was decidedly grumpy. "It was a, what do you call them, a bookmaker," said De Vicenzo, not, in fact, asking what British people do actually call bookmakers but struggling with his English. "I had beaten Jack [Nicklaus] in two pre-Open exhibitions. So I was happy enough to put £50 on me to win at 66-1. It gave me more than £3,000, which was a lot more than the first prize."

Both cheques were thrillingly earned, with the Open trial form working out perfectly as Nicklaus finished runner-up, two shots off. Every Championship is defined by a single shot, and in De Vicenzo's second to the par-five 16th on the final day there was a whack not only to leave a memory but a huge alteration. This time around that hole will be the 18th as the Royal & Ancient try, in part, to tap in to some of the drama produced by De Vicenzo's 240-yard three-wood to the green across the out-of-bounds.

"It was the best shot of my life," he said without hesitation. "A risk perhaps, but how could a shot to win a Championship like that not be a risk? I was trying to shake off Jack. He did not let go very easily."

Nicklaus wasa few irretrievable shots off the pursued then, but even though the greatest ever was furiously treading water and the challenge of his playing partner, Gary Player, was already sunk, De Vicenzo never was one to sail in on the spinnaker. Golf to the former caddie had always been a means of expression, as he had summed up a couple of years earlier with his description of the perfect shot: "It produces a mixture of pleasure, happiness, wisdom, self-esteem; as if one were being caressed by the clouds."

In the event he was lucky not to be caressed by the crowds, so thunderous was the welcome of his victory. It was an entirely unexpected cacophony, one so untypically British that a few golfing historians believed it paved the way for the future interaction from the Open galleries. To De Vicenzo, however, the support was down to a very simple fact. "The British were sick of the Americans winning their Open every year," he explained. "I was not quite an American."

De Vicenzo is doing himself a great disservice, as his popularity transcended mere patriot- ism. For a start there was the swing, a self-made sculpture of rhythm fused with power that effected as pure a contact as there has surely ever been. "One of the best ball-strikers I saw," said Player. "If not the best."

Then there was the upbringing, which was typically a carrying-bags-to-riches tale; the poor Argentinian boy developing a still-enduring love affair while doing the donkey work for the privileged. "Those days I learned so much," he said. "Think, I could have been on the railroad learning only how to hurt."

Many believe - wrongly, he maintains - that he did hurt when the majors failed to arrive and add lustre to his incredible haul of "other" titles. In all, De Vicenzo won 230 professional events across the globe, four on the PGA Tour, the last of his nine national titles coming when he was 62. Not only that, but his Open record was little short of spectacular. Between 1948 and 1974 he won once, finished runner-up twice, third five times, fourth twice and never once came outside the top 20.

In truth, his hard-luck story made Montgomerie's seem almost fortuitous, and golfing fans warmed to him for it. Of course, after Hoylake it was all to become even more teary when a scorecard error at the Masters the next year denied him a play-off with Bob Goalby. "What a stupid I am," became an epitaph quite touching in its honesty but so wrong in its insinuation.

De Vicenzo was, is, anything but stupid. The manner in which he worked out links golf proved it. "Hogan tipped me to win in Carnoustie in the Fifties," he remembered. "He did so because of my strength from the rough, but although I was good and skillful I didn't have control of the ball. I didn't appreciate the importance and value of The Open. But by 1967 I had learned."

De Vicenzo had planned to make an emotional return to the temple of his graduation this week, but due to the journey - "I don't want to go and not come back" - and an aversion to English tea, he will stay at home. Instead he will do what he has always done; go to the golf club every day and be so enthralled by the many shades of green beckoning him through the clubhouse window that he will rise and attempt to fire a score less than his age (again).

Roberto will spare a thought for Hoylake, though, especially when it is time for a three-wood. "I hope it's a deserving champ-ion," he said. "I'm sure he will be. And I hope he enjoys it as much as I did."


1 Roberto de Vicenzo 278

2 Jack Nicklaus (US) 280

3= Gary Player (US) 281

3= Clive Clark (GB, am) 281

5 A Jacklin (GB) 282

Links Men: Six with the right game for Royal Liverpool

Stuart Appleby Australia

Australia waited 11 years for a major winner and then Geoff Ogilvy unexpectedly won the US Open. Appleby, 35, is due to step up. Pedigree includes the 2001 Australian Open and the last three Mercedes Championships in the wind of Hawaii. Lost 2002 play-off at Muirfield.

Angel Cabrera Argentina

Like Roberto de Vicenzo, Angel Cabrera marries a powerful game with a delicate touch around the greens. Won BMW PGA at Wentworth last year, but has struggled in The Open since his fourth place at Carnoustie. Could be inspired at the scene of his countryman's triumph.

Paul Casey England

No Englishman has won The Open in England since Tony Jacklin in 1969. Luke Donald could do it, but Paul Casey is in the form of his life. Consistently on the leaderboard and won at Gleneagles last month. Former English Amateur champion at Lytham with game for links golf.

Mikko Ilonen Finland

Ilonen earned his place through final qualifying to return to the scene of his 2000 British Amateur Championship win. Turned pro the following year and finished ninth in Open at Lytham. Failed to establish himself on the Tour and is playing on the Challenge circuit this season.

Jose Maria Olazabal Spain

Back in contention for the Ryder Cup and aiming to complete his set of R & A titles after the British Boys, Youth and Amateur wins, the last at nearby Formby. Last year at St Andrews equalled his best Open finish of third from 1992. Also third at the Masters this year.

Tiger Woods United States

Two Open titles at St Andrews but no better than third elsewhere. Needs to temper his aggression and to respect the rough as he avoids the bunkers on the Old Course. Back in business at the Western Open and should employ the two-iron "stinger" shot he used there.

Andy Farrell

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Germany's Andre Greipel crosses the finish line to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 194 kilometers (120.5 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Reims, France
tour de franceGerman champion achieves sixth Tour stage win in Reims
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv'The Last Kingdom' is based on historical events
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil