David Graham, 35, became the first Australian to win the Open Championship, shooting 273, seven under par, over the East Course of the Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. Graham, who resides in Dallas, Texas, is the 20th foreign-born player to win the Open. However, 16 of the 20 had already immigrated to the United States. The four overseas Champions were Harry Vardon of England in 1900, Ted Ray of England in 1920, Gary Player of South Africa in 1965 and Tony Jacklin of England in 1970.
Graham is the first foreign-born champion since Jacklin. Graham's final round 67, three under par, was one of the finest ever played in the Open. It brought him from three strokes behind 54-hole leader George Burns when the fourth round began to three strokes ahead when the Championship ended. His 273 total brought him to within one stroke of the Open record for 72 holes, set at 272 a year earlier by four-time Open champion Jack Nicklaus at the Baltusrol Golf Club. Graham finished with rounds of 68-68-70-67-273. Burns finished in a tie for second place with Bill Rogers at 276. John Cook and John Schroeder tied for fourth place at 279, the only other players to break par for the 72 holes.
Five players, including Nicklaus, finished at even-par 280. The 36-hole cut fell at 147, only one-stroke lower than it was 10 years earlier at Merion. Lee Trevino, who won that Open, missed the cut this time. An overnight rain before the third round made the greens softer and very receptive to approach shots. Burns added a 68, his third consecutive round under par, and increased his lead from one stroke to three over Graham, who shot 70.
Burns had 203 for three rounds, setting an Open record for 54 holes. The third day produced the low round of the Championship - a 64, six under par, by Ben Crenshaw. It put him only six strokes behind at 209. The final round was really a duel between Graham and Burns, although Rogers remained a threat all day. Graham put the heat on Burns right away with birdies on the first two holes to close within one stroke. Graham caught up at the fourth hole when Burns made a bogey 6. Graham gave back the stroke with a three-putt bogey on the fifth and that's how the contest remained until the 10th, a short par 4.
Burns' pitch shot found the front bunker. He came out 15 feet from the hole and took two putts for a bogey. Burns and Graham were tied once again and remained that way through 13 holes. Graham forged into the lead with birdie putts of six feet on the 14th and 10 feet on the 15th. Burns made a bogey at the 16th to fall three behind, but chipped in on the par 3 17th to get one stroke back. Rogers, who was playing steady golf all day, was actually just one stroke behind Graham and Burns until Graham made his birdies at the 14th and 15th holes.
A bogey 5 at the 16th all but ended Rogers' bid for the Championship, but a marvelous birdie at the 18th earned him a tie for second place with Burns, who made bogey at the final hole. Graham parred in from the 16th hole for a three-stroke victory. His putt from 18 feet on the final hole to tie the Open scoring record hit the cup and stayed out. Rassett, the low amateur with a 294 total, received a gold medal. Arnold Palmer competed in his 29th consecutive Open, dating back to 1953.
Prize money reached a record $361,730 with $346,730 awarded in the Championship proper and $15,000 in the Sectional Qualifying Championships. The USGA received a record 4,946 entries, breaking the record of 4,8997 set in 1978. More than 78,000 spectators attended the Open Championship at Merion.
Starts - 22
Best Finish - Winner 1981
Rds - 78
Cuts Made - 17
Top 3 -1
Top 5 - 1
Top 10 - 4
Top 25 - 8
Avg. - 73.67
Scores In 60s - 8
Rds Under Par - 10
Earnings - $136,435.27