The Open Championships that saved the best of the drama until last



One of the great sporting rivalries of modern times came to a head on the final day. Jack Nicklaus had been the game's top player for a decade and a half, but his supremacy was under threat from Watson, nine years his junior. Watson had out-duelled the Golden Bear at the Masters three months earlier in what proved to be an aperitif for this golfing feast. Watson shot a closing 65 to Nicklaus' 66 as they staged a grandstand finish with contrasting birdies on the 18th hole: Nicklaus holing from 30ft after hacking his second shot from a bush and Watson tapping in from two feet to claim the title.


The sight of the young Spaniard grinning and punching the air after coaxing home a 15ft birdie putt on the 18th green at St Andrews is an abiding memory from one of golf's greatest tournaments. Playing in company with Bernhard Langer in front of the defending champion, Tom Watson, Ballesteros held a one-shot lead over the American as he stood on the 18th tee, and felt he had to keep attacking the course. As it transpired, he did not need that dramatic closing three because Watson overshot the 17th green with his three-iron approach and failed to get down in two from the road.


First one Australian, Wayne Grady, and then another, Greg Norman, threw away the old claret jug on a thrilling final afternoon which saw the unfancied American Calcavecchia storm through to claim his only major championship. Grady, who went on to win the US PGA the following year, led for most of the week before stumbling over the closing stretch. Norman carded a final-round 64 and went on to birdie the first two holes of the play-off. But he three-putted the 17th and drove into a bunker at the last to let in Calcavecchia, who sealed his triumph with a five-foot birdie putt.


At the time, Faldo was the world's top player. Returning to the scene of his first Open victory in 1987, he dominated for three days and took a four-shot lead over the Americans John Cook and Steve Pate into the final round. But his putter turned sour as Cook nibbled away, and with four holes remaining the unthinkable seemed about to happen. However, two superb birdies at 15 and 16 steadied the Englishman's ship while Cook three-putted 17 and bogeyed the last. After his one-shot success, Faldo thanked the press from the heart of his bottom before launching into an embarrassing rendition of "My Way".


Greg Norman's second Open victory was a performance of immense pedigree from a player who too often has flattered only to deceive in majors. Not only did the charismatic Australian card the lowest four-round total in Open history (a 13-under-par 267), but his 64 on the last day was the lowest final round by an Open winner. In the process, Norman overhauled Nick Faldo, whose closing 67 left him second on 269. Bernhard Langer, who had won the Masters three months previously, was third while Ernie Els became the first Open competitor to return four scores in the 60s.

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