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Watson Hailed As King

DATE OF EVENT: Saturday, July 9, 1977

DATE PUBLISHED: Sunday, July 10, 1977, in The Kansas City Star

Editor’s note: Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus’ duel in the British Open at Turnberry, Scotland, is considered one of the great moments in major championship golf history. It would be called the Duel in the Sun. Watson won by one shot, proving that he was at least in line with Nicklaus as the world’s greatest golfer. Watson would meet Nicklaus head to head again in 1982 at the U.S. Open and win again, this time by two strokes.

This front-page commentary was written by Brian Dunning, a senior news editor of the British Broadcast Corp. and for more than 30 years the British correspondent of The Star.

Watson Hailed As King

By Brian Dunning

TURNBERRY, Scotland—This man Watson is a menace. He was generously invited by the good people of Scotland to play a gentle game of golf. He has returned their hospitality in a most disgraceful manner. He has made a complete fool of one of the most bloodthirsty courses in the world.

It is well known Turnberry has seen more good men bite the dust than Boot hill. Yet along comes young Mr. Watson with the sort of shooting normally associated with that other Wild Westerner, Dead Eye Dick.

Mind you it was — as the Duke of Wellington said after the battle of Waterloo—a “damn close run thing.” Jack Nicklaus has finished in the top three on 11 occasions in 15 British Opens. He knows a thing or two about the game and his final putt of 32 feet sent the enormous crowd into hysterics. So did Mr. Watson’s smaller put of 2 feet.

Every one was aware of his reputation as the Choker — everyone, that is, except Mr. Watson himself. He said he knew it would go into the hole. “It was my day and I wasn’t going to let Nicklaus or my putter or the ball take it away from me.”

Watson’s delight in winning his second British Open is equaled only by the delight of the public over here. He has generated a colossal amount of admiration not only for winning but also in the style that he did it.

The mass circulation Sunday Mirror puts it this way:

“The 27-year-old King of Kansas City has ended the legend of invincibility spun around Nicklaus for a decade. He did more than win, he crowned himself the new monarch of the Royal and Ancient game.”

The Sunday Times takes a similar line. It says that Watson has more than blunt, animal aggression. He has one of the keenest, most absorbent minds in golf and to win two opens out of three is an achievement of staggering magnitude.

Watson himself sees a sharp distinction between golf in America and golf in Britain.

“British seaside golf,” he says, “is a test of the man whereas in America golf is a test of skill alone. You can’t hit a perfect shot over here. All of a sudden the ball bounces in the wrong direction. It’s a test of guts. If I played over here four straight weeks I’d be a raving lunatic.”

Mr. Tom Watson has guts — but he is certainly no lunatic. He is now accepted by the knowledgeable golfing public here as one of the genuine giants of the game. He has performed with elegance and modesty. And not least, he has brought great honor to Kansas City. …