‘His tee shot at the 8th was going out of bounds. It hit the wire and dropped down’

History

Behind every Claret Jug winner there is a gallant runner-up. For Tom Watson in 1975, there was Jack Newton. Steve Carroll asked the Australian about his nearest of misses

The story of Tom Watson’s Open win at Carnoustie in 1975 is almost mythical now.

And yet. But for one piece of wire, and an exquisite sand wedge, it could have been Jack Newton’s name on the Claret Jug that year.

His course-record 65 in the third round, on the toughest layout on the Open rota, stood for 35 years as he pushed the future hall of famer to the very brink over 90 holes.

As Carnoustie prepares to welcome the world’s oldest major again, NCG tracked down Newton in New South Wales to relive the events of those historic five days 43 years ago…

You got off to a great start, shooting 69 on the first day. What are your memories of the first couple of rounds?

I’d been in pretty good form going into it and I was reasonably confident that I would do okay.

You never expect to win an Open, of course, but I played with Bobby Locke in the final practice round.

He gave me a couple of tips and finally, when we were walking up the 18th, he said ‘you can win this event, providing your 15th club in the bag works’.

I thought he was taking the piss out of me but he repeated it and then finally said ‘that 15th club’s the one between your ears’.

That gave me a bit of oomph going into the first day.

Is it true you watched the way Jack Nicklaus was putting – noting that his hands were a little bit higher – and brought that into your stroke for the week?

What happened was that Tom Weiskopf and Lanny Wadkins came to Australia to play in a tournament in Melbourne. I played and took the cash.

Tom was chasing me for ages to get a return match and my wife Jackie and I had dinner with him and his wife on the Sunday (of Open week).

He brought it up. John O’Leary and I had just won a betterball tournament and I said ‘get a partner and we’ll play for money’.

We’re there at 12 o’clock, and there’s no sign of his partner and thousands of people gathering round. The next thing, Jack walks on the tee.

Off we went, a few bets were made, and I remember we birdied two of the first four holes.

I jokingly said to Weiskopf ‘you’d better send your partner back and get another one because you’re going to get doused here’.

Supposedly, Jack heard it – I don’t know whether he did – and he surreptitiously said to Weiskopf ‘we’d better show these young blokes a thing or two’.

Weiskopf had a hole-in-one on the 8th and shot 65. Nicklaus had 66. I had 67 and they beat us all ends up.

Instead of me paying Weiskopf, I said to Jack ‘what do I owe you?’ He said ‘just get me a beer and a sandwich in the clubhouse and I’ll be fine.’ Weiskopf missed out!

But I noticed Jack had his hands higher and straight after lunch I went out on the putting green and worked on getting my hands a little bit higher at address. I putted well during the tournament.

You shot a course-record 65 during the third round. That must have been a special feeling?

Funnily enough, I played with Jack during that round. It was a great day for me, not just because I shot 65 but because I was playing with Jack, who I’d got to know well.

I just remember I got away to a pretty good start and kept it up. The back nine is the harder of the two – albeit there are par 5s you could get very close to in two hits – and it was just a day where everything goes to plan.

You always seem to have the right club in your hand and it was a day that you will never forget.

For Newton’s recollections of the final round, and the last 18-hole playoff in Open history, turn the page…

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