1977 British Open: The Duel In the Sun

The 1977 British Open was the 106th time the tournament was played. This is the Open remembered as "The Duel in the Sun" for the heavyweight battle in brilliant weather that took place over the final two rounds.

Winner: Tom Watson, 268

Where it was played: Ailsa Course at Turnberry Resort in Ayrshire, Scotland

Tournament dates: July 6-9, 1977

Leader after first round: John Schroeder, 66

Leader after second round: Roger Maltbie, 137

Leader after third round: Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson, 203

What Happened at the 1977 Open Championship

This Open is the place where Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson engaged in one of the great duels in golf history, going toe to toe over the final two rounds until Watson emerged with a one-shot victory. Their battle here is chronicled in the book Duel in the Sun (affiliate link).

Roger Maltbie was the midway leader, Nicklaus and Watson tied in second place, one stroke behind. So the two giants were paired for the third round, and they didn't disappoint, each shooting 65. That moved them into the lead, still tied, three shots clear of the field.

In the final round, paired again, they traded the lead as they traded shots, eventually Watson finishing with another 65 and Nicklaus with a 66. Watson had the one-shot victory. It wasn't secure until the final green, however, where Nicklaus rolled in a 40-foot birdie putt, forcing Watson to sink a short putt for the win.

Nicklaus had a three-stroke lead after four holes of the final round, but Watson then birdied three of the next four to tie. Nicklaus led by one at the turn. Nicklaus' lead was two after the 12th hole, but Watson birdied Nos. 13 and 15 to force another tie. On the 17th hole, Nicklaus missed a four-foot birdie putt, giving Watson the one-stroke lead that he kept with his final-hole birdie.

Just three months earlier, Watson won the 1977 Masters Tournament, also by holding off Nicklaus. This was the first Open played at Turnberry, but it was Watson's second time winning the Open. For Nicklaus, it was the sixth of a tournament-record seven times that he finished runner-up in the Open.

A new, 18-hole British Open scoring record was set in the second round when Mark Hayes shot 63. The previous tournament record of 65 had first been established way back at the 1934 British Open by Henry Cotton.

Arnold Palmer finished in solo seventh place. It was his final Top 10 finish in any of the four major championships. Roberto De Vicenzo, winner of the 1967 Open Championship, tied for 48th — the last time he made the cut in a major. Future two-time Open champion Greg Norman made his major championship debut here and missed the cut.

And 70-year-old Henry Cotton, the man whose 65 in 1934 was finally beaten this year as the tournament scoring record, played the Open for the last time, and the first time since 1961. The British Open winner of 1934, 1937 and 1948 finished last with scores of 93 and 82. His first-round 93 was the highest, 18-hole score in the Open for the entirety of the 1970s.

1977 British Open Final Scores

Tom Watson 68-70-65-65—268
Jack Nicklaus 68-70-65-66—269
Hubert Green 72-66-74-67—279
Lee Trevino 68-70-72-70—280
George Burns III 70-70-72-69—281
Ben Crenshaw 71-69-66-75—281
Arnold Palmer 73-73-67-69—282
Raymond Floyd 70-73-68-72—283
Tommy Horton 70-74-65-75—284
Mark Hayes 76-63-72-73—284
John Schroeder 66-74-73-71—284
Johnny Miller 69-74-67-74—284
Peter Thomson 74-72-67-73—286
Howard Clark 72-68-72-74—286
Bobby Cole 72-71-71-73—287
Seve Ballesteros 69-71-73-74—287
Peter Butler 71-68-75-73—287
Bob Shearer 72-69-72-74—287
Graham Marsh 73-69-71-74—287
Guy Hunt 73-71-71-72—287
Jerry Pate 74-70-70-73—287
Gary Player 71-74-74-69—288
John Fourie 74-69-70-75—288
Tom Weiskopf 74-71-71-72—288
Peter Dawson 74-68-73-73—288
Gaylord Burrows 69-72-68-80—289
Norio Suzuki 74-71-69-75—289
Rik Massengale 73-71-74-71—289
Roger Maltbie 71-66-72-80—289
Angel Gallardo 78-65-72-74—289
Martin Foster 67-74-75-73—289
John O'Leary 74-73-68-74—289
David Ingram 73-74-70-72—289
Eamonn Darcy 74-71-74-71—290
Ken Brown 74-73-71-72—290
Baldovino Dassu 72-74-72-73—291
Brian Barnes 79-69-69-74—291
John Morgan 72-71-71-77—291
Min Nan Hsieh 72-73-73-73—291
Manuel Pinero 74-75-71-71—291
David Vaughan 71-74-73-74—292
Neil Coles 74-74-71-73—292
Bob Charles 73-72-70-78—293
Jaime Gonzalez 78-72-71-72—293
Tony Jacklin 72-70-74-77—293
Stewart Ginn 75-72-72-75—294
Hale Irwin 70-71-73-80—294
Brian Huggett 72-77-72-74—295
Vicente Fernandez 75-73-73-74—295
Michael King 73-75-72-75—295
Roberto De Vicenzo 76-71-70-78—295
Rodger Davis 77-70-70-79—296
Brian Waites 78-70-69-79—296
Christy O'Connor Jr. 75-73-71-77—296
Jim Farmer 72-74-72-78—296
Vincent Tshabalala 71-73-72-81—297
Maurice Bembridge 76-69-75-77—297
Hsu Chi San 70-70-77-81—298
Ian Mosey 75-73-73-77—298
David Jones 73-74-73-78—298
Gary Jacobsen 74-73-70-81—298
Nick Faldo 71-76-74-78—299
Vince Baker 77-70-73-79—299

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