In one of the most memorable moments in Open history, Tom Watson birdied the 17th hole at Pebble Beach by pitching in to the cup from off the green and won his first Open Championship. Jack Nicklaus finished second. Watson, 32, from Kansas City, Missouri, won with the scores of 72-72-68-70-282, six under par. Nicklaus shot 74-70-71-69 -284. This was the fourth time Nicklaus finished as runner-up in the Open, tying a record shared by Sam Snead, Bob Jones, and Arnold Palmer.
Bobby Clampett, Dan Pohl and Bill Rogers tied for third at 286. Gary Koch, Jay Haas, Lanny Wadkins and defending Champion David Graham tied for sixth at 287. They were the only other players under par for the 72 holes. The first round co-leaders, at 70, were Rogers, the 1981 British Open Champion, and Bruce Devlin, who, at 44, was a part-time Tour player.
One stroke back at 71 were four players, including Danny Edwards, who was five under for the first six holes; Clampett, from nearby Carmel, California; Calvin Peete; Terry Diehl; and Jim King. Watson birdied three of the last four holes and finished with 72, tied with eight others. In the second round, Devlin shot 69 and took the lead at 139 for 36 holes. Larry Rinker moved into second place at 141 with a 67. Scott Simpson was next at 142, following a 69. Rogers slipped to 73 and was tied at 143 with Andy North, the 1978 Open Champion, Peete, and Lyn Lott.
Nicklaus came back from an opening 74 and shot 70 for a 144 total to tie Watson, who had a second consecutive 72; Clampett; Tom Kite; and George Burns. Burns had an unusual round of 72. After an opening par 4 on the first hole, he birdied the next six holes. His 30 on the first nine equaled the Open's nine-hole record. He played the second nine in 42. Watson made his move in the third round with a 68 to tie Rogers for the lead, at 212, four under par. Rogers had 69.
They were two strokes ahead of Devlin who shot 75, for 214; Burns: Simpson; and Graham. Nicklaus was three strokes behind at 215. Nicklaus began his final round with a bogey at the first hole and a par at the second, and then put together a string of five consecutive birdies, from the third through the seventh. At that moment he was tied for the lead with Rogers, who was five under through the fifth, one stroke ahead of Watson and Devlin. Devlin birdied the sixth for a momentary share of the lead at five under, but he lost three strokes on the seventh and the ninth and fell from contention. Nicklaus dropped to three under with bogies at the 8th and 11th holes.
With nine holes to play, Rogers and Watson were tied for the lead at four under par, and Nicklaus, laying two holes ahead, was three under. Rogers, starting the second nine with bogies at the 10th and 12th, dropped to two under, and there he remained. Watson, on the other hand, saved par from the edge of a cliff at the 10th and birdied the 11th to go five under. Watson dropped a shot to par at the 12th.
When Nicklaus birdied the 15th, they were tied for the lead once again at four under par. Nicklaus parred the last three holes for 69 and a 72-hole score of 284. At the long, par-5 14th, Watson holed a 35-foot putt from the collar, and with that birdie moved one stroke ahead of Nicklaus. After a par at the 15th, Watson missed his first fairway of the round, pushing his tee shot into a bunker at the 16th, and made a bogey 5.
Watson was four under par once again and back in a tie with Nicklaus. At the long par-3 17th Watson hit a 1-iron shot that drew more than he had planned. The ball hit on the left edge of the green, then hopped into the rough between two bunkers, 18 feet from the hole. Using his sand wedge, Watson popped the ball out of the grass. It dropped onto the collar of the green and ran right into the hole.
Needing a par-5 to win, Watson played the 18th hole carefully - 3 wood from the tee, 7-iron for his second shot, 9-iron onto the green. His 20-foot putt fell in for a birdie.
Sixty-four professionals and two amateurs made the 36-hole cut at 151, seven over par. Nathaniel Crosby, the 1981 Amateur Champion, received a gold medal as low amateur, with a 303 total. Arnold Palmer competed in his 30th consecutive Open, dating back to 1953. Prize money reached a record $385,000 with $370,000 awarded in the Championship proper and $15,000 in the Sectional Qualifying Championships. The USGA received record 5,255 entries, breaking the previous high of 4,946 set in 1981.
Starts - 32
Best Finish - Winner 1982
Rds - 108
Cuts Made - 24
Top 3 - 4
Top 5 - 6
Top 10 - 11
Top 25 - 16
Avg. - 72.28
Scores In 60s - 19
Rds Under Par - 26
Earnings - $524,797.34