Gary Player, 29, of South Africa, became the first foreigner to win the Open
Championship since Ted Ray in 1920. Player defeated Kel Nagle, a 44-year-old
Australian, in a playoff at the Bellerive Country Club, St. Louis. They had
tied after 72 holes with totals of 282, two over par. Player built a five-stroke
lead after eight holes of the playoff and won, 71 to 74.
At the prize-giving ceremony after the playoff, Player announced that he would
return $25,000 of his $26,000 prize to the USGA, asking that $5,000 be earmarked
for cancer relief work and $20,000 to promote junior golf. His rounds in the
Championship proper were 70-70-71-71-282. Player appeared to have a safe lead
of three strokes with only three holes to play in the fourth round. Then he
went two over par on the par-3 16th hole, just as Nagle birdied the par-5 17th.
They parred in to tie; both narrowly missed long putts for birdies on the home
Nagle was the first-round leader with 68; Player led after 36 and 54 holes with
totals of 140 and 211. Frank Beard, a 26-year old professional from Louisville,
finished third with 284. Deane Beman, twice National Amateur Champion from Bethesda,
Md., was low amateur; he tied for 11th at 290. Defending Champion Ken Venturi,
his hands ailing because of a circulatory problem, failed to qualify for the
final 36 holes.
The prize money was $123,890 in the Championship proper and $7,800 in Sectional
Qualifying, for a grand total of $131,690, an Open record. Attendance, including
the playoff, was 72,052, another record. The format was changed to spread the
72 holes over four days. Thus, for the first time in Open history two rounds
were not scheduled for one day.