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Top 5 Open Moments: 1977

The duel in the sun at Turnberry

Posted Jul 07, 2011 by Chris White

Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson fought it out until the very end at Turnberry

After weeks of build-up, the Open is finally on the horizon and I have reached my number one moment in Open history, which takes me back to 1977 and that epic battle between Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson over four days at Turnberry Golf Club in Ayrshire.

The “Duel In The Sun” involved the two-time winner Nicklaus and the 1975 champion Watson, and was more of a Matchplay event than a stroke play tournament that the rest of the field were taking part in.

Having been paired together for the third round, both Nicklaus and Watson carded rounds of 65, leaving them three strokes clear of the field, and the duo were paired again for the final round – one that was to become one of the greatest rounds in history.

Both players were tied after 16 holes, when Nicklaus missed a birdie putt, while Watson made his on 17, giving Watson the advantage on the final hole. Nicklaus drove his tee shot into the rough while Watson hit the fairway. His approach shot then landed two feet from the hole, while Nicklaus recovered but was 40-feet short. Unbelievably, Nicklaus sank his birdie putt to put the pressure on Watson, but he made his birdie putt to finish one stroke clear.

Nicklaus, in second, was ten strokes clear of the nearest challenger, 1977 US Open winner, and 1985 PGA Champion, Hubert Green, by the end, such was the standard of the golf played by Watson and The Golden Bear. Green famously claimed afterwards that “I won the Open, those two guys were playing a different tournament.”

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