Duel in the Moonlight
One of the great perks of looking after The Senior Open is having the privilege of listening to Tom Watson. The American, whose name is synonymous with Turnberry, is one of the game’s great orators, and he never fails to entertain. On Wednesday Tom unveiled a plaque on the 18th fairway of the Ailsa Course commemorating his unforgettable seven iron 178-yard approach shot to two-feet on the final hole of The 1977 Open Championship to beat Jack Nicklaus in The Duel in the Sun. He then came into the media centre to share some more of his Turnberry memories, including one anecdote from 1994 when he joined his great friend and rival for dinner followed by a ‘Duel in the Moonlight’ on Turnberry's par three course.
“We had a couple of bottles of wine back in my old drinking days, and Jack could drink a little bit of wine back then,” recalled Watson. "I made the comment, let's go play the par 3 course.
“Jack said, 'Sure, let's go.' So we took our respective wives, Barbara and Linda at that time, and I went up to my room and got a couple of wedges out and some golf clothes and went out and played.
“When we finished it was pitch dark. And as we finished on the last hole, I think I had about a five‑foot putt and Jack said, 'You'll miss that, like you'll miss everything this week, Watson.'
“He knows how to give the needle the right way. But coming down the main road there was a guy that looked very serious, and he was in a security uniform. I said, 'Jack, take care of this guy, will ya.'
“He goes, 'Okay.' So he walks up to this guy and this guy keeps on walking very sternly, walking, walking, walking and gets closer to Jack, and Jack doesn't say anything. The guy goes (in a gruff voice), 'What are you doing here?' then recognises Jack and says 'oh, you're okay. You're okay'.”
Roger Chapman has enjoyed a fairy tale 2012 so far, winning the US Senior PGA Championship followed by his victory two weeks ago in the US Senior Open. As a result, he came to Turnberry this week chasing a hat-trick previously achieved only by Gary Player in 1988 and among the favourites to succeed. Roger, who served as a rules officials between ending his European Tour career and starting life on the Senior Tour, has rightly received plenty of plaudits for his remarkable success, including from Player himself, Tony Jacklin and Tom Watson. His new status as the hottest Senior player on the planet also meant that he was given star billing alongside Watson and another former winner of The Open at Turnberry, Greg Norman, in the opening two rounds. For Roger it was a particularly special moment joining Watson, as he named his second son after the great man.
Turnberry is iconic for many things – the Duel in the Sun, Greg Norman’s 1986 victory, Nick Price’s stunning putt in 1994 and Tom Watson almost completing the most incredible sporting story in 2009 – but in terms of the actual setting, it is also one of golf’s most recognisable backdrops. From the magnificent hotel which overlooks the links, to the famous lighthouse by the ninth, Turnberry is a truly memorable host venue for this year’s Senior Open – underlined by the fact that it is our seventh time here. Tom Watson said looking out over to Ailsa Craig is one of his fondest memories of playing in these parts, and the uninhabited island, which is 11 miles off the Ayrshire coastline, was formed from the volcanic plug of an extinct volcano. It was once a haven for Catholics during the 16th century Scottish Reformation.