Video Review: The 1989 Open Championship Playoff

Mark Calcavecchia, Wayne Grady and Greg Norman pose for a photo before starting their playoff at the 1989 Open Championship.

Mark Calcavecchia, Wayne Grady and Greg Norman pose for a photo before starting their playoff at the 1989 Open Championship.

Have you ever gone on YouTube and realized that two hours later, you’re still watching Seve Ballesteros videos? What about Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf, or instructional videos from Bobby Jones? You can get caught in an endless number of rabbit holes on YouTube, especially if you know where to look and so I figured that I could probably turn some of these videos into actual posts. We’ll keep it light, embed the videos and have some fun with screenshots, GIFs and commentary. If something has been bolded, you can click on it for more information.

With the Open Championship being played this week at Royal Troon, I decided to take a look back at the 1989 tournament held over the famous Scottish links. That event went to a four hole aggregate playoff between Mark Calcavecchia, Wayne Grady and Greg Norman.

Previous Video Review posts: Tiger’s first PGA Tour win in Las VegasBallesteros and Trevino vs. Aoki and Faldo in the One Club Challenge

0:17 – Love the old ABC graphics used here.

abc graphics

0:18 – Tom Watson is doing an interview with ABC’s Roger Twibel. Watson was one shot back of Grady’s lead heading into Sunday, and missed the playoff by two shots. You can tell during the interview that he’s salty as hell about it, too. Great hat, though.

watson hat

1:29 – Looks like we’re going to get Dave Marr and Jack Nicklaus on the call for the playoff. Nicklaus played during the week, finishing tied for 30th, eleven strokes out of the playoff.

2:07 – The playoff will be contested over the 1st, 2nd, 17th and 18th holes. Nicklaus points out that both Calcavecchia and Norman have the ability to drive the green on 1 and 2 if they so desire. This has been a talking point so far in 2016 as well, and not just for the biggest hitters like Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson. Here’s the overhead view of the first hole, which is a dead straight away par-4.

overhead troon 1

All three players hit good drives, with Calcavecchia and Norman finding the fairway, while Grady ended up in the short left rough. None of them attempted to drive the green as Nicklaus suggested they could.

driver 1 comp

5:13 – Just before Norman hit that fantastic drive, ABC decided to air this graphic of his playoff record:

norman playoff record

Norman would finish his career with a playoff record of 5-10 worldwide, including an 0-4 mark in major championships. It’s worth noting before we get too far into this that Norman wasn’t really in contention coming into the final day, as he was seven shots back of Grady’s 12-under par number. He started his day with six consecutive birdies en route to a 64 and a spot in this playoff.

7:16 – Nicklaus calls the shot type for Grady, saying that he needs to keep it low and have it bounce up out of the rough and onto the green, right of the bunker. Grady does exactly that, hitting a solid shot into the green and celebrates with a smoke.

grady smoke

8:25 – Norman follows with a similar shot to Grady, going a little past the hole, giving himself the easier putt. Calcavecchia tries for the lofted shot and gets it on the green, but only on the front edge. What’s absolutely noticeable when watching this back now is how little commentary there is in between shots from Marr, Nicklaus and the rest of the crew. It’s very different from how golf is called now where in some cases, there’s too much talking over the action.

12:31 – A shot of Norman’s scorecard for the day with that stunning front nine 31 that featured a bogey. And where did it come? The shortest hole in the Open rota; the Postage Stamp.

norman scorecard

13:09 – After watching Calcavecchia leave his birdie putt short and seeing Grady two putt for par, Norman takes the early lead by sinking his birdie effort. Calcavecchia would make his par afterwards to stay one back.

norman putt 1

After one: Norman (-1), Grady (E) and Calcavecchia (E)

14:17 – The players head to the second hole where Nicklaus suggests that the safe play is likely to stay short of the bunker on the right side, approximately 260 yards from the tee.

troon 2 overhead

Norman completely ignores this suggestion and takes the driver straight over the bunker, into the wind and in perfect position right in the middle of the fairway.

  • Nicklaus: “He drove it past that bunker on the fly, didn’t he?”
  • Bob Rosburg: “He sure did.”
  • Nicklaus: “That was 265 or 70 yards into the wind. Hoo. Things I used to remember.”
  • Marr: “Well, you still remember them.”
  • Nicklaus: “I still remember them. I just can’t do it anymore.”

19:55 – Calcavecchia and Grady follow Norman into the fairway, but both hit mediocre approaches, giving Norman an opening to increase his lead. He hits a good ball into the green, giving him a decent look at another birdie.

21:08 – Marr tells a great story here about how Calcavecchia didn’t know the playoff system for the Open, and on top of that, he ran out of balls during the round and had to borrow some from Watson before heading back to the first tee.

22:46 – Love this shot of the fans crowding around the second green after Grady taps in for par.

fans 2 green troon

23:17 – From off the green, Calcavecchia does something that Norman has seen all too often in major championships: someone else making a birdie putt.

calc putt 2

Norman wasn’t phased though, matching Calcavecchia’s putt to stay one shot ahead going to the par-3 17th.

norman putt 2

  • Nicklaus: “He’s only 10-under for 20 holes today.”

After two: Norman (-2), Calcavecchia (-1) and Grady (E)

28:34 – After Norman’s approach into the par-3 17th goes a little long, Marr takes exception to the camera crew walking in front of Norman’s ball.

  • Marr: “Those guys shouldn’t walk in front of the ball there. Make them walk around it.”

31:38 – Calcavecchia played safely onto the left side of the green with his tee ball, but he was a significant distance away from the cup. After watching Grady play out of the bunker, Calcavecchia stepped up with a chance to tie Norman if he could sink the long putt.

calc putt 3

32:44 – From off the green, Norman opted to chip instead of taking out the putter with a poor lie, but it came out hot and if it wasn’t for the cup, it might have rolled out even further.

norman chip

Norman would go on to miss the comeback putt, leading to a bogey. Grady would also miss his par putt after a good bunker shot, putting him two shots back of Norman and Calcavecchia and essentially putting him out of contention unless something crazy happened…

After three: Norman (-1), Calcavecchia (-1) and Grady (+1)

38:02 – Calcavecchia has honours on the tee, and he promptly sends one into the gallery on the right side, hitting one of the marshals.

  • Marr: “We had a woman hit here during this tournament knocked unconscious by Nick Faldo.”
  • Nicklaus: “By hitting that person, it probably cut 30 yards off of his drive. He’s now sitting back there at about 190, 95 yards to the hole.”

39:15 – Norman steps up now and smashes a drive down the middle of the fairway that looks to be perfect, but he rolls into the bunker on the right side that Nicklaus said was unreachable. It’s obvious that based on just two holes, Nicklaus had no idea how far Norman could actually hit the golf ball.

norman bunker

It’s a brutal spot to be in right near the lip, and from looking at it, it doesn’t look like Norman has any shot to get to the green. Advantage Calcavecchia.

41:11 – From 215 yards out in the light rough, Calcavecchia hits the shot of his life.

calc approach 4

Grady hits a great shot next, but after Calcavecchia knocked it so close, Grady was effectively knocked out unless he holed his approach. Only Norman stands in the way now.

42:28 – After seeing Calcavecchia’s ridiculously good approach, the crew starts discussing what Norman’s options are at this point in the playoff. Nicklaus and Rosburg think that with the lie, Norman’s only play is to take sand wedge and leave it short of the bunkers. That would leave him with a chip to tie Calcavecchia, assuming he hits the short putt he has left. Norman does not take out the sand wedge.

  • Jack Whittaker: “Well, he’s not known for laying up.”
  • Nicklaus: “I don’t know how you can play it though. We’ll just have to see.”

43:21 – Somehow, Peter Alliss from the BBC chimes in through one of the loud speakers as Norman is getting ready to play, leading Norman to humorously comment, “he’s telling me how to play the shot”. I’ll say this though, if I was getting ready to hit one of the biggest shots of my career, I would not have handled that with the dignity and grace that Norman did. Once that was over, Norman was ready to play.

norman bunker 2

He would hit the bank of the bunker, and land in the trap short of the green.

46:43 – Norman’s only chance now is to either hole out from the bunker 65 yards short of the flag, or hope that Calcavecchia misses and he has a chance at par. Norman catches one real thin, and sends it over the green and out of bounds on the gravel path.

norman bunker 3

48:49 – With Norman effectively out of it, Calcavecchia has a short birdie putt left for the win.

calc final putt

Final scores: Calcavecchia (-4), Grady (+1) and Norman (-)

For Calcavecchia, the 1989 Open Championship was his sixth PGA Tour win and first major championship victory. Grady would go on to win the PGA Championship the following year, and Norman would bounce back just fine with tons of wins around the world, including fifteen more on the PGA Tour and the 1993 Open, before essentially retiring in 2009.

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