On July 17th, 1983 Tom Watson came away with his fifth Claret Jug winning the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. In his only Open Championship win outside of Scotland, Watson defeated Andy Bean & Hale Irwin by one stroke for a 275, 9 under par total. Watson successfully defended his title becoming “The Champion Golfer of the Year” for the 5th time in the last eight years.
Hale Irwin ‘whiffed’ a one-inch putt on the 14th hole on the third day, which cost him a chance of a play-off with Watson for the tournament.
Can you believe that ? I don’t think that you or I would even whiff a One Inch Putt!
“Excuse me,” Hale Irwin said, “I’ve got to go see Watson two-putt–and then cry.”
Here’s the scene… Irwin was making a run at the leaders and left a birdie putt on the par-3 hole inches short. It’s the sort of tap-in everybody backhands into the cup and sails on. To much amazement…Irwin missed.
“To be perfectly blunt,” he recalled, “I don’t know what happened. I’m guessing it was a mental lapse. I also have a problem with depth perception, and it was getting dark. But the bottom line is that I made an error that at this point in time is very critical.”
In the end, Australian Graham March made a valiant effort to try to catch the leaders by shooting a final round of 64 for fourth place. Andy Bean strung together a solid round of 67 but it just wasn’t enough. Irwin made his bed in the third round and the stroke he squandered ended up being the margin of victory. It was all for the taking for Watson, who two putted to victory before thousands of jeering fans.