The late George Douglas ‘Doug’ Sanders was known as the ‘Peacock of the Fairways’ because of his colourful, flamboyant dress sense. All told, he won 20 events on the PGA Tour and was runner-up in four major championships. He finished tied second in the PGA Championship in 1959, tied second in the US Open in 1961 and tied second in the Open Championship in 1966, but owes his ‘nearly man’ tag primarily to that putt on the seventy-second green of the Open Championship, on the Old Course at St. Andrews, in 1970.
On Saturday, July 11, in blustery conditions, Sanders saved par by getting up-and-down from the infamous Road Hole Bunker, off the left front of the green on the penultimate hole. He hit the final green in regulation, thus leaving himself with two putts from thirty feet, downhill, to beat Jack Nicklaus by a single stroke and win the Open Championship.
After an indeterminable wait for Sanders to strike his first putt, during which he stepped away from his ball after being disturbed by crowd noise, BBC commentator Henry Longhurst said, ‘ You can see yourself going into the history books as the man who had only to get down in two putts to win the Open, and took three, and lost in a playoff.’ Sanders’ initial effort pulled up three feet short of the hole, leading Longhurst to exclaim, ‘Oh Lord! That’s not one I’d like to have.’
By this stage, Sanders was clearly a bag of nerves and, having examined the line of his putt from both sides, finally settled over his ball. However, having looked ready to ‘pull the trigger’, he hesitated again, bending down to remove a loose impediment, real or imagined, from his line. His subsquent stroke was weak and, as his ball missed on the right side of the hole, he motioned towards it, involuntarily, as if to try again. The following day, Sanders lost the resulting playoff to Nicklaus by a single shot.