When the world’s finest golfers descended upon the hallowed grounds of the Old Course in St Andrews, Scotland, in July 1970, little did they know that they were about to witness one of the most captivating moments in golf history.
The 99th Open Championship unfolded from July 8th to 12th, and it left an indelible mark on the sport’s annals.
Nicklaus vs. Sanders: A Duel for the Ages
The stage was set for a dramatic showdown between two golfing giants: Jack Nicklaus and Doug Sanders.
On that fateful Sunday, an 18-hole playoff would decide the destiny of the championship.
The battle began with Nicklaus and Sanders teeing off, and as the day unfolded, the golfing world bore witness to a gripping contest.
In the midst of gusty winds during the fourth round on Saturday, Doug Sanders showcased his skills by saving par from the daunting Road Hole bunker.
His stellar performance placed him ahead by a single stroke as they approached the 72nd hole. Everything hung in the balance.
Then came the decisive moment.
With the gallery’s eyes fixed on him, Sanders took four crucial shots from a mere 74 yards (68 meters) away.
The pressure was palpable.
A downhill putt for par awaited him from just three feet. Victory was within grasp, but it slipped away as the putt narrowly missed the mark.
With that, Jack Nicklaus seized the opportunity and emerged victorious with a final score of 72 to Sanders’ 73.
The 1970 Open Championship holds a unique place in golf history for several reasons.
It marked the first playoff at The Open since 1963, and notably, the format was changed to an 18-hole playoff, a shift from the previous 36-hole playoffs.
In the years prior to 1966, The Open’s final two rounds were played on Friday, and this change in playoff format was only used starting from the 1989 Open Championship, when a four-hole aggregate system was introduced.
Weathering the Storm
As if the excitement on the course wasn’t enough, the 1970 Open Championship had its share of weather-related drama.
A thunderstorm struck late in the opening round on Wednesday evening, causing a temporary suspension in play.
However, the tenacity of the players and organisers prevailed as the competition resumed early the following day, ensuring that the championship proceeded without significant delays.