Duel in the Sun: Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus in the Battle of Turnberry

By Michael Corcoran | Go to book overview

PROLOGUE

GOLF AT THE HIGHEST LEVEL OF THE PROFESSIONAL game is a contest spread out over four eighteen-hole rounds, one round per day on four successive days. The winner is the player who records the fewest total strokes for the four rounds. This type of competition is known as stroke play, and it is one of the two basic competitive formats in golf. The other widely used format is match play, and it is the preferred form of competition among amateur enthusiasts of the game because it disregards the total number of strokes taken during a round and instead pits a player against his opponent on a hole-by-hole basis. There is nothing subtle about match play: While the stroke play event unfolds slowly and encourages conservative tactics, match play is a fistfight from the moment the first shot is struck. There is resolution on each hole of match play, and as such it appeals to the basic human desire to prove superiority over others. In short, a golfer engaged in match play feels as though he is fighting for survival on every shot.

As professional golf evolved from the mid-1800s and throughout the twentieth century, players and bureaucrats concurred that the best way to determine the world’s champion golfers was stroke play. For the competitors, tournament organizers, and starting in the early 1960s, television networks, this made sense. In regard to the manner in which it challenges competitors, stroke play is more difficult. It means that every single stroke over four days is significant. A single bad hole out of the seventy-two can wreck a player’s chances.

The player who wins a professional stroke-play event is unquestionably a superb golfer, but more often than not he secures victory in a manner that lacks a true sense of struggle against anyone other than himself. There is no guarantee that he will be playing in the same group and battling his nearest competitor(s) as the tournament reaches its climax. In fact, golf fans very seldom get to witness two gigantic talents playing side-by-side in a tourna-

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Duel in the Sun: Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus in the Battle of Turnberry
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Prologue 1
  • One 3
  • Two 25
  • Three 49
  • Four 66
  • Five 83
  • Six 109
  • Seven 130
  • Eight 149
  • Nine 158
  • Ten 175
  • Afterword 201
  • Acknowledgments 214
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