Seve wins at St. Andrews
By: Claudia Mazzucco – On this day, July 22, 1984, Severiano Ballesteros won the 113th Open Championship in the Old Course of Saint Andrews. His rounds of 69, 68, 70 and 69 for a total of 276, 12 under par, was two strokes lower than the record aggregate for the Old Course, set by Kel Nagle in the Centenary Open, in 1960.
In the last round, Seve went out with Bernhard Langer, with Tom Watson and Ian Baker-Finch the pair behind them. They were both eleven under par (205) tied for the 54-hole lead and Bernhard and Seve were nine under. Seve missed a 15-foot birdie putt at the first. Langer, meanwhile, birdied the opening hole after hitting his approach shot to within almost tap-in range to move to 10-under-par and just one shot off the pace. Watson made par to go one shot ahead of the field.
At the par 5, fifth hole, Seve chipped to eight feet and made the birdie-putt. Moments later Watson bogeyed the fourth hole to drop into a tie with Seve on 10-under. Seve picked up another shot at the par-3 eighth hole when his tee shot ended up just 6 feet to the right of the flag.
Seve took a bogey at the eleventh where his 8-iron from 172 yards turned out to be a club short. He landed the ball on the front of the green and watched as the ball rolled back towards the fairway. Still he was in a tie with Watson but only until the American drove the tenth green and two-putted for birdie. Seve was not a stroked behind.
Seve said, “When Bernhard and I reached the tee at the 15th, it had got considerably colder. I proceeded to dress for the kill – just like a bullfighter. I took the navy-blue sweater that I’d worn at Lytham five years before out of my bag and pulled it over my white polo shirt. But, as we say in Spain, don’t sell the bearskin before you’ve caught the bear. The first rule of golf is that you must control your emotions. You should never imagine yourself holding the trophy aloft before the game is over: golf is too unpredictable.”
At the twelfth, Watson pulled out his driver to try to drive the 316 yards to the green. Big mistake. He hooked his tee shot into the gorse left of the hole and was lucky to escape with just a bogey. They struggled into a deadlock with an exchange of birdie putts back on the thirteenth and fourteenth holes. Seve ran a putt for birdie from 25 feet at the par-4, fourteenth hole, and told himself: “You can win now.” He had only made five bogeys in seventy holes over the tournament, three had been at the seventeenth. He aimed left, a lot to the left, with his driver. And, as on the previous days, the ball found the rough. He lay 200 yards from the green with the perilous little pot bunker lying between him and the flag. He decided to take the bunker out of play and deliberately aimed to the right of the green. Two putts later, Seve walked to the eighteenth hole with his first four at the Road Hole in the championship.
Seve was tied for the lead on 11-under with Watson. Since both were playing beautifully under pressure, what would have been more appropriate than a playoff? It would come down to the Road Hole and the Valley of Sin. On his way to the last hole, Seve looked back to watch Watson preparing to play his second stroke at the Road Hole, from an ideal position on the right-hand side of the fairway. He turned to his caddie, Nick de Paul, and said: “There’s going to be a playoff.” Paul replied, “If we birdie the last there won’t be any need for a playoff.”
Seve, then hit a 3 wood and pitching wedge to within 18 feet of the hole. The putt was going to break right to left. He decided to try to die the ball into the hole, so that if he didn’t make it then he would have a tap in left for his par. “It had a clear borrow to the left,” he said, but as I struck the ball, I felt I had overdone it. It hadn’t. It rolled sweetly towards the hole, then seemed to hover on the edge of the cup, before finally going in as if in slow motion, perhaps impelled by my powers of mental suggestion, so strong was my desire that it should drop in.”
Meanwhile Watson confronted the Road Hole. He immediately attacked the hole by pounding a drive up, over and around the Old Course Golf and Country Hotel and into the fairway, leaving himself 200 yards from the green. He deliberated over what club to take and eventually settled on a 2-iron, four clubs more than the iron Seve had used a few minutes before. Watson struck what looked for all the world like a semi-shank, half-flier, out-of-control fade-slice that took the oddest flight imaginable. It bounded over the green, over the road and up against the high rock wall that lies behind the green. The ball was lying some 18 inches from the wall, curtailing his backswing. All Watson could do was jab at the ball with a 7-iron, sending it scurrying across the road onto the green some 25 feet from the hole. His putt for a par was never in the hole. He strode to the last tee a stroke behind Ballesteros. He missed the chance to win three Opens in a row and to equal Harry Vardon’s record of six Open titles.
“It was as if Harry Vardon himself, long laid to rest, had sent down a poltergeist to interfere with the shot.” (Sport Illustrated)
The Open was Seve’s again for the second time, but this is the one he is remembered for, if only for the eighteenth-hole celebrations alone. “This was the happiest moment of my whole sporting life,” Seve said. “My moment of glory. My most fantastic shot. So much so that the picture of me gesturing in triumph became the logo for my companies.”
Claudia M. Mazzucco is a researcher at Golf Channel and teacher of History of Golf at the PGA of Argentina, in Buenos Aires. She is the author of Legendary Lessons (2016), El Golf de los Tiempos, A Novel (2002) and The Guide of Golf Courses in Argentina (2003). She received the PGA Award from the PGA of Argentina in 2005