Tom Watson & Jack Nicklaus – Turnberry, 1977
Back in 1977, two all-time golfing greats battled it out in the scorching sun at Turnberry to produce one of the greatest moments in Open history. During the final round, the two Americans couldn’t be separated – they’d shot the exact same scores (68, 70 and 65!) and were inevitably paired together for what could well be one of the greatest golfing duels ever. On the 16th tee of the final round, Watson unforgettably turned to Nicklaus and boasted, “This is what it’s all about, isn’t it?” Nicklaus smirked and responded, “You bet it is.”
Watson had just edged ahead of Nicklaus on the 17th, leaving Nicklaus with it all to do on the final hole. The Golden Bear found the heavy rough, whereas Watson chipped to within 18 inches of the hole and the championship. This would have been game over for many other golfers, but not Jack Nicklaus. He swung through the rough and knocked the ball onto the edge of the green. Nicklaus then made a rousing 35-ft putt for a birdie, which made Watson’s tap-in a lot more daunting. Watson rolled it in to win The Open, but what has become so iconic since is the image of the pair walking to the scorer’s tent, with their arms around each other’s shoulders. An epic, yet gentlemanly duel.
Seve’s car park heroics – Royal Lytham & St Annes, 1979
Two shots up with three holes to play, Seve Ballesteros was determined to win his first major and first Open Championship by any means necessary. His wayward drive at the 16th on his final round ended up under a parked car in a temporary car park, some 70 yards right of the fairway. However, given a free drop, Seve still had it all to do. But in true Seve style, he chipped to within 20 feet of the hole, and sunk the intimidating putt for a birdie that effectively wrapped up the first of his five majors. Seve was the only player under par that week, and at only 22, the youngest to win The Open Championship in 86 years.
Nick Faldo scores 18 straight pars – Muirfield, 1987
Nick Faldo won his first major and became the first Englishman to win The Open Championship in 1987. Quite astonishingly, in Faldo’s final round there were no birdies or bogeys, just 18 consecutive pars.
As remarkable as it was to remain so consistent for a whole round, it was even more incredible due to the fact that he had to face winds so stiff that four holes had to be shortened.
Faldo stood still on the leaderboard all day as others shuffled up and down. But Paul Azinger, who led Faldo by one shot going into the final round, bogeyed the last two holes. This gave Faldo the chance to par putt the last to win the first of his three Open Championship titles.
Harrington wins his first Open Championship – Carnoustie, 2007
Padraig Harrington started the final round of the 2007 Open Championship six shots behind his Ryder Cup teammate Sergio Garcia. The Irishman managed to claw back the six-shot advantage, but on the 18th, Harrington hit two shots into the water in front of the 18th en route to a double-bogey six. This meant that Garcia, playing in the final group, needed a par to win The Open.
However, Garcia found a bunker and bogeyed the hole, leaving a four-hole playoff to decide the winner. Harrington subsequently triumphed to become only the second ever Irishman to win The Open. Harrington went on to successfully retain his Open Championship title the following year, 2008 at Royal Birkdale.
Phil Mickelson – five behind, won by three. Muirfield, 2013
At the start of the final round of the 2013 Open Championship, Phil Mickelson had little chance of winning the Claret Jug from five shots back. But he produced some phenomenal shots, particularly two of the best 3-wood shots you will ever see to win his fifth major championship.
Mickelson claimed four birdies in his last six holes to climb past some big names, including Adam Scott, Tiger Woods and Lee Westwood, to end up with a three-stroke win over Henrik Stenson.
Incidentally, this 66 was Mickelson’s lowest round in all of his 80 majors – just in the nick of time!