First of the short story series "The Last Hole."
The wonderful moment Tony Jacklin won the Open Championship.
17th green to 18th tee. "At this moment everything was a blur." 70x100cm
Lytham 1969-18th tee. Standing on the last tee with two shots in hand on his playing partner Bob Charles, Tony Jacklin was just a short, agonizing step from becoming Open Champion. He had to gather his thoughts together, relax, and channel them into a pure swing.
The last two years.
Tony Jacklin had reached this moment by placing his game and temperament under scrutiny for a grueling two-year period while playing on the American tour. It had been a big decision to leave his homeland knowing he would be open to criticism on both sides of the Atlantic for an unknown length of time. Jacklin`s decision proved correct as the influences of playing the big ball and competing on consistently good golf courses changed his game. In America, accuracy to the green was paramount, this helped Jacklin`s iron play and improved his scoring ability. Jacklin would say that at the time his main focus for two years had been on finding a repeatable tempo. It is probably no coincidence that he had been influenced by his two friends and fellow USPGA Tour competitors Bert Yancy and Tom Weiskopf, these were two of the great artists of smooth and effortless swings.
Bert Yancy, friend, and fellow competitor.
Yancy won seven times on the PGA Tour and later joined the Senior PGA Tour. His swing was known for its rhythm and balance ( see blogs). At his best, Yancy was a very impressive ball striker.
A chronic illness reduced both the quality and length of his career.
Although he had 28 Tour wins, including one major, Weiskopf still did not fulfill the promise of his huge talent.
His swing was much admired on the Tour. He hit the ball high, generated enormous power, and had very good control as well, a rare combination. Weiskopf's displays of temper on the golf course earned him the nickname "The Towering Inferno".
The following film is the swing Tony Jacklin made in 1968 while in America. Only one year away from his Open win. At this time his movement was being finely tuned as he competed against larger and very competitive fields.
Jacklin swing study-1968
Jacklin had incorporated mechanics into his swing that focused more on using his lower body, the big muscles of the legs. Essentially the Englishman was distancing himself from the small ball method that dominated British and European golf at this time, an inferior method that was based on manipulating hand and wrist muscles in the contact area. British small ball vs American big ball.
Jacklin started the week as one of the favorites.
Max Faulkner with notes from Open story page 3 -Click to enlarge
The press and public were hoping that the young man from Scunthorpe would finally bring the trophy home after 18 years without a champion. The last winner from the British Isles had been Max Faulkner in 1951.
Davis Love senior plays to the green on the first day
The 9th green-Nicklaus at work. Oil stick and watercolor on card. 50 x 70cm
Click on the image for enlargement
Jacklin didn`t disappoint. Playing solid golf all week he would finally reach the last green and the last hurdle with a small lead on the 1963 champion Bob Charles.
Now the final moment had arrived as he left the 17th green with a two-shot lead (He later said he could hardly remember any of this short stroll), and walked to the final tee.
A good tee shot would mean it would be almost impossible for his nearest opponent Bob Charles to catch him.
The beautiful follow-through of Bob Charles. He was not only one of the best putters of his era, well balanced and very elegant , he was an extremely consistent player.
Bob Charles played off, making a rare tee-shot mistake by hooking the ball (left hand) into the right-side rough and leaving it surrounded by bushes.
It gave Tony a slight moment of extra thought. Perhaps better to play safe with a shorter club now his opponent was in trouble. The moment was short as he continued to prepare for the shot with his driver. He had been driving excellently the entire week, it would be the same this time as well.
He stood up to the ball without fear, looked down the fairway, and took his stance. His mind was fixed on the ball flight. In his mind, he could see both the direction and the trajectory as he found his posture and grip pressure. All on autopilot.
There was no holding back now, he thought of a smooth start back, he recalled his best drives: and then he started the process of swing.
The best drive of Tony Jacklin`s career
Jacklin in the late seventies
In later interviews, he revealed what helped him most on that day:
"Stay in the moment until it`s all done.
"Learn not to go where the head takes you."
"Do not succumb to the weakness of wanting something"
"You must have the mental discipline to succeed."
Watercolour and charcoal on paper. 28 x 38cm
Jacklin`s tee shot had carried 260 yards and rolled another ten.
He was now a three-quarters eight-iron swing away from the center of the green.
Jacklin was an expert in using the three-quarter swing. Top teacher Bernard Cooke called it the 10 to 2 swing. It simply meant reducing the body movement and finishing sharply at the end.
The last shot-Acrylic on canvas-100x140cm
The rest is history as Tony made a solid swing and sent the ball to the heart of the green, followed by two putts and the glory he so much deserved.
Click the image to expand.
To enjoy the last moment that influenced this article click on the 3-minute short film.
Another great challenger from Britain was Royal Dublin professional Christy O`Connor senior.
On the second day, the outstanding round of the Tournament belonged to the hugely popular Irish player Christy O`Connor senior. Although O`Connor was not finding the fairway as often as other leading competitors he still carved out a superb 65 to hold second place after 36 holes.
The O`Connor round was marked with brilliant iron play. Either recovered shots from the rough or pinpoint accuracy helped set up many birdie chances.
O`Connors `wristy` backswing was perfect for coming out of the heavy rough of Lytham.
The upright backswing and a short sharp finish combined perfectly. O`Connor normally used a flowing uninterrupted throughswing with all other shots. These adapted movements were his masterly trade mark.