Dashing and daring young Severiano Ballesteros of Spain, who again sprayed golf balls all over and sometimes out of the inhospitable Royal Lytham St. Annes course, shot a melodramatic one-under-par 70 today to win the 108th British Open.
At 22, Ballesteros is the youngest Open winner since 1868 and the first from the continent since 1907.
Ballesteros had a total score of 283, one under par for the 72-hole championship. Only two others broke par in today's final round as sunshine warmed everyone, but the wind blew even harder and changed course more often.
Three strokes behind Ballesteros at 286, two over par for the tournament, were Ban Crenshaw and Jack Nicklaus. Crenshaw ruined a fine finishing round of par 71 with a nightmare double-bogey-6 on the 17th hole after briefly leading the tournament. Nicklaus, the defending champion, stayed in contention almost to the end, despite another seemingly indifferent, up-and-down tour of this tricky links.
British professional Mark James, playing with Nicklaus, closed with a creditable 73 for fourth place at 287.
Australia's Rodger Davis, the tournament's sartorial star with his pastel knickers, finished fifth with a 73 and a total of 288.
He also led the field for time today before suffering a double bog on the interminably long, 468-yard, par-4 16th hole.
U.S. Open champion Hale Irwin, the leader after the second and third days in a promising bid to become the fifth golfers to win both the U.S. and British open championships in the same year, soared to a seven-over-par 78 to fall to sixth place with 289.
Ballesteros, who is Europe's best golfer, turned apparently disastrous lies in the deep rough, on pedestrian pathways, in crowds of spectators, on a parking lot and in several sand traps into opportunities for wondous recovery shots that won both his first major championship and the strong support of a surging record crowd here.
After all the leaders turned onto the taxing back nine and began floundering in the shifting wind, Ballesteros stayed alive with his sand wedge. After his drive on the 201-yard 12th hole landed in the rough to the right of the green, he chipped the ball out to within five feet of the hole and sank his putt for a par 3.
When his long drive on the 339-yard 13th hole went into a bunker, he again blasted out with his sand wedge and sank a 20-foot putt for a birdie 3.
Thenm after hitting his drive on 14 into the rough and eventually three-putting for a bogey, and hitting his drive on 15 into the spectators and recovering for a par, Ballesteros pulled away from the field after driving onto a parking lot.
"Everyone hits a one-iron" into the crosswinds down the narrow fairway of the 356-yard, par-4 16th hole, Ballesteros noted later. "But I think it's best to get as close to the green as you can." He had been watching the scoreboard and decided he needed another birdie to win.
So he used his driver, with which he had been hitting somewhat longer but considerably less accurately than his competitors. He sent the ball flying off the fairway, beyond the rough and over the spectators packed behind the ropes onto the dusty auxiliary earthen parking lot, where it came to rest next to a white Austin. Ballesteros was allowed to drop the ball over his back, two club lengths from the car.
From there, through a corridor of spectators, he used his sand wedge again to somehow hit the ball onto the green almost 100 yards away.
"The wind was blowing from there to the green," Ballesteros told reporters later, shrugging off their questions about playing to the green from a parking lot. "I thought that's not a bad place to be."
He rolled in a 15-foot putt on that hole, sending him dancing to the cup to pick up his ball as the crowd around the green roared with delight.
Nicklaus, who was then standing in the middle of the 18th fairway with what he thought was still a chance to catch Ballesteros if he made a closing birdie, heard the roar behind him. A resounding echo from the crowd around the 18th signaled the change in Ballesteros' score on the huge board above the green ahead of him.
Ballesteros had gone one under par, thrree strokes ahead of Nicklaus, who shook his head in resignation.
He could also have been shaking his head over his own performance this week, which was filled with strangely missed opportunities for victory, including a number of missed makeable putts again today.
After pulling within a stroke or two of the changinng leaders, he left a 55-foot putt 15 feet short on the 13th green and then missed that for a bogey 5. After a birdie on the 16th that brought him back into contention, he left 20-foot birdie putt on the lip of the cup at 17.
Nicklaus amassed another odd collection of five bogeys and four birdies for his one-over-par 72. He may have proved this week that, even without sufficient concentration to play his usual game, he always is a threat to win a British Open.
"I seem to have better luck north of the border," he said later, referring to the three British Opens he has won in Scotland. American golfers now have failed to win six Opens here since Bobby Jones won the first British Open played at Royal Lytham and St. Annes in 1926.
For a large part of the afternoon, it seemed that Ben Crenshaw, with his sure putter, would break that jinx. He came to the 17th tee tied for the lead, two under par for the day and at even par for the tournament. "I thought then," Crenshaw said, "If I just get two more pars I can win the tournament."
But he hit his drive from the 17th into the rough on the right. "Three feet to the left and I'm in the fairway," he said. "Then I misclubbed myself. I hit a two when I should have used a three-iron."
The ball went into thick underbush in a deep depression left of the green. His chip from there, swung at sideways, plopped into a nearby sand trap. Although he blasted out well to within five feet of the hole, he had come unstrung and he missed the putt to take double-bogey 6.
Irwin later landed in the same thick underbrush on his way to a bogey 5 on 17, which was typical of what happened to him all day. He double-bogeyed the par-4 second hole to lose his two-stroke lead going into the round almost as soon as it began.
Irwin, the usually careful parmaker, was playing with Ballesteros for the second day in a row, and he again came unglued in the face of the Spaniard's scrambling style. Irwin had bogey 5s on three of the five finishing holes, disconsolately tapping in one missed putt carelessly with the heel of his putter.
But while Ballesteros' style may disconcert Irwin, it pleased the crowd. Knowledgeable spectators compared him to the young Arnold Palmer, recklessly and aggressively attacking the golf course and reacting to his dramatic ups and downs with evident emotion.
He is the youngest of five sons of a poor family from fishing village in Northern Spain. All his brothers also are professional golfers.
"The key this week for me was the sand wedge and not the driver," he said. "I was in the sand traps maybe 15 times and i hit out to the green so well I needed more than one putt only once."
Ballesteros, who has won steadily in Europe but does not compete regularly on the American PGA tour because he says the trans-Atlantic travel aggravates a nagging back ailment, told reporters Friday, after a disappointing third round of 75. "Today (Friday) I did not seem to have much luck. Maybe I save it all for tomorrow." CAPTION: Picture 1, Severiano Ballesteros; Picture 2, Jack Nicklaus