Tom Watson has been honoured by Turnberry Resort – the iconic Scottish venue where he completed one of the most memorable victories of his career 35 years ago – with the unveiling of a commemorative plaque.
Ahead of this week’s Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex, the multiple Major Champion unveiled the plaque on the 18th fairway of the Ayrshire venue’s Ailsa Course to commemorate the 178-yard seven iron approach to two feet which sealed his victory over Jack Nicklaus in 1977 Open Championship, the contest which has popularly become known as the ‘Duel in the Sun’.
The 1977 Open is often considered one of the most compelling championships in the history of golf, with Watson and Nicklaus finishing out of sight of the rest of the field. The two legends matched each other until the 18th hole when Watson’s sensational seven iron strike enabled him to sink the resulting birdie putt to take the title by one stroke.
“This is definitely a special moment,” said the 62 year old Kansas City native. “It is special day to be remembered for a shot that meant a lot to me, to other people who were betting on me and probably the most important thing was that it helped me win over the greatest player in the world, the greatest player that played the game.
“That particular tournament, as I have said in the past, confirmed to me that I could play, that I could play competitively against the best in the world.
“Up until that time, it was a process of trying to get to that point where I had a belief in myself where I could play against the best and beat the best, and that's what we do out here. We're pretty narrow sighted. We can't keep the blinders on. We work hard to attain that goal of being the best or at least being able to beat the best, and that week in July in 1977, it gave me that belief.”
Watson went on to win a total of five Open Championships and eight Major titles in one of the most successful careers in the sport before going on to add three Senior Open crowns beyond the age of 50.
Three years ago, in what was so close to being one of his finest results, Watson, at the age of 59, finished second in the 2009 Open Championship at Turnberry after a four hole play-off against Stewart Cink, narrowly missing out on what would have undoubtedly gone down as one of the greatest sports stories of all time.
Watson reflected: “The 2009 Open was almost as good but came in a sense from the other side of the coin, a tragic memory in the sense of thinking what could have been.
“We look back to what Adam Scott did this last week [at The Open Championship], and it was in that way you have the tournament in your hands and you by your own actions let it slip away. It's not the first time that's ever happened to a golfer and it won't be the last. But for us golfers, we try to have more memories and not let it slip away like that.
“It was bad then but I woke up the next day and I got right back on the horse again. It was back in the 70s again that when I lost a championship, it hurt, but then I would come back and try to do something special afterwards.”
It was also announced on Wednesday that Australian Greg Norman is to become an honorary member of Turnberry Golf Club. Norman won a total of 88 titles in his golfing career including the 1986 Open Championship at Turnberry, the first of his two Major titles.
Turnberry Resort General Manager, Jordi Tarrida said: “We all hold Tom Watson in the highest esteem. His victory in the Duel in the Sun is what really positions Turnberry as the iconic golf venue it has become.
“As a small token of our appreciation for what he has done for the image of golf at Turnberry we are delighted to commemorate and immortalise one of the great shots he made in that 1977 Open. Greg Norman has also made an immense contribution to the sport and to the success of Turnberry as a global golfing destination. Honorary membership of our Golf Club is a heartfelt way of showing our gratitude for all he has done.”