Jack Nicklaus has enough memories from his years as a professional golfer to fill thousands of Claret Jugs, the trophy Henrik Stenson smooched after winning the British Open on Sunday at Royal Troon.
One of those was the 1977 British Open when the North Palm Resident and Tom Watson hooked up in what became known as the “Duel in the Sun” and will go down as one of the most memorable days in golf history. Watson needed a final-round 65 to hold off Nicklaus, who shot a 66, and win the tournament by a stroke.
On Sunday, Nicklaus was taken back 39 years as he watched Stenson and Phil Mickelson battle shot-for-shot, with Stenson riding 10 birdies to an 8-under-63 and finishing three strokes ahead of Mickelson, who shot a bogey-free 65.
“Some in the media have already tried to compare today’s final round to 1977 at Turnberry, with Tom Watson and me in what they called the “duel in the sun.” I thought we played great and had a wonderful match. On that day, Tom got me, 65-66. Our final round was really good, but theirs was even better. What a great match today.”
Those comments were from Nicklaus, who took to Facebook after the round to praise both golfers. More from Nicklaus:
“I was fortunate to watch every second of today’s final round of the Open Championship, and I thought it was fantastic. Phil Mickelson played one of the best rounds I have ever seen played in the Open and Henrik Stenson just played better—he played one of the greatest rounds I have ever seen. Phil certainly has nothing to be ashamed of because he played wonderfully. Henrik played well from beginning to end. He drove the ball well; his iron game was great; his short game was wonderful; and his putting was great. Henrik was simply terrific.
“To win your first major championship is something special in and of itself, but to do it in the fashion Henrik did it in, makes for something very special and incredibly memorable. I’m proud of and happy for Henrik.”
Stenson finished with a 20-under-264 while Mickelson shot 267. In 1977 at Turnberry, Watson was a 12-under-268. Nicklaus shot 269.
The next closest in 1977: Hubert Green 10 strokes behind Nicklaus at 1-under. On Sunday, J. B. Holmes finished third, 11 strokes behind Mickelson at 6-under.
Following their round, Nicklaus and Watson walked off the green with their arms around each other’s shoulders, just as Mickelson and Stenson did Sunday.
“It certainly crossed my mind a little bit out their today, that match when Jack and Tom went head to head there in ’77,” Mickelson said. “I know that I wanted to more of Tom in this case than Jack, but I understand how it feels. It’s bittersweet.”