Nick Faldo was a 6-to-1 favorite to win on the Royal Birkdale course when the tournament started, but he had just developed an irritating tendency to yip short putts. So on the first day, the leader was Seve Ballesteros with a 66. Baker-Finch wasnt among the leaders either of the first two days, but in the third round he made birdie on three of the first five holes and shot a course-record 64, good for a tie with his friend and neighbor from Orlando, Fl. - Mark OMeara.
OMeara was having back problems and sleeping on the floor of his hotel room. He said on Saturday, Im going to play tomorrow, if I have to crawl out. Baker-Finch had been tied for the lead after three rounds as a raw Australian kid in 1984, dabbled with the lead in 1990. I will remember the pain of 84 and the experience of 90, and do it, he said in a prophetic statement.
Nine players were within three shots of the lead when round 4 began. Among them were major winners Ballesteros and Faldo, and within five were former major champs Wayne Grady, Ian Woosnam, Bernard Langer and Curtis Strange. All, it seemed, would be stiff competition for Baker-Finch.
But their threat never materialized. Baker-Finch was single-minded in his focus. On the fourth hole, he rolled in a six-footer for birdie, and suddenly his lead had grown to three shots over Eamonn Darcy and four strokes over playing partner and neighbor OMeara. All he had to do was hold himself together, and this he did all way to the Claret Jug ceremony.
When I got four or five ahead, said Baker-Finch, all I thought was, Boy, youd better not stuff up now, or youll really cop it.
Thats Australian for dont choke. Baker-Finch didnt, and won a British Open in the process.
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