Tom Watson joined Ben Hogan (1953) and Tony Lema (1964) as the only winners of The Open on debut since WWII after holding his nerve in a tense play-off.
Having had chances to win the previous two U.S. Opens, there had been doubts about the ability of the man from Kansas to win at the highest level, but they proved unfounded.
He would come to dominate The Open with five victories in nine years and claimed eight major titles in all.
The 1975 Open Championship marked the 104th edition of this prestigious tournament.
It took place from July 9th to 13th at the iconic Carnoustie Golf Links in Scotland, known for its challenging course and unpredictable weather.
This tournament was Tom Watson’s first Open Championship appearance, and little did the world know that it would be a watershed moment in his career.
The Final Round Drama
The first three days of the tournament had seen relatively calm weather conditions, but as the final round arrived on that fateful Saturday, the wind kicked up, creating a formidable challenge for the competitors.
Bobby Cole, who had led the pack after the third round with impressive back-to-back 66s, found himself struggling and shot a four-over 76, missing the playoff by just one stroke.
Tom Watson, on the other hand, managed to maintain his composure in the challenging conditions.
He carded an even-par 72 in the final round, a round that concluded with a remarkable 20-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole.
This clutch putt brought him level with Jack Newton, who posted a 74 (+2) for the round, setting the stage for a playoff showdown.
The Playoff Showdown
The playoff, which took place on a rainy Sunday, was a rollercoaster ride of emotions.
One of the standout moments of this thrilling showdown occurred at the 14th hole, a short par-5 named “Spectacles.”
Tom Watson pulled off a spectacular chip-in eagle, while Jack Newton had chipped to within inches and tapped in for a birdie. This exchange of remarkable shots kept the crowd on the edge of their seats.
As the playoff continued, the two contenders found themselves tied at the 18th tee, a par-4 hole known as “Home,” featuring the winding Barry Burn.
Watson was on the green in two, approximately 25 feet away from a birdie opportunity.
In contrast, Newton’s approach shot ended up in the front left bunker. Newton faced a lengthy sand shot, which ultimately ran 10 feet past the hole.
With the pressure mounting, Tom Watson safely two-putted for par, leaving the championship hopes resting on Newton’s shoulders.
Unfortunately for Newton, his putt to save par and extend the match missed to the left.
With that miss, Tom Watson secured the title, winning by a single stroke.
A Historic Moment
Tom Watson’s victory at the 1975 Open Championship was not only his first major title but also the beginning of an illustrious career that would ultimately include eight major championships, including five Open Championships.
This playoff victory was the second and final 18-hole playoff in Open Championship history, with the format changing to a four-hole aggregate playoff in 1985.