1995 was all about Costantino Rocca’s 72nd hole drama and John Daly’s victory in the end, but rank outsider Steve Bottomley very nearly stole the show
The 1995 Open at St Andrews had it all: the then unknown Michael Campbell leading by two going into the final round; a duffed chip followed by a hugely improbable putt from the Valley of Sin to force a play-off for Costantino Rocca; a streaker making a move on John Daly; and the mullet-haired American ultimately prevailing convincingly in a four-hole play off with the Italian.
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But for quite a long time on that final afternoon, the clubhouse lead was held by an unheralded Yorkshireman called Steven Bottomley, thanks to a remarkable final-round 69 that defied both the formbook and testing winds gusting at up to 40mph.
Bottomley, from Bingley in Yorkshire, had amassed just two top 10s and €130,000 in five full seasons on tour before July 1995 and had already been to the annual Tour School eight times since turning pro off a handicap of +2 in 1987.
He had played the Old Course just twice before that year’s Open (and has never been back since!), and had come through a nine-man play-off for eight spots in final qualifying at Ladybank after holing a 12-footer to save par on the first extra hole.
His first three rounds of 70, 72 and 72 at St Andrews were nothing special in the wider context, but still a solid effort for a man with little of any note so far that year on the CV.
That left him seven behind Campbell going into Sunday, but by the time he holed out for birdie on 18, he was the clubhouse leader, and would hold that position for an hour or so until Daly, and then Rocca finally sneaked past him.
Bottomley had holed a monster putt on the 9th to get the adrenalin pumping and suspected he was making waves when camera crews appeared alongside him on the 12th.
Crucially, he bogeyed the demanding Road Hole 17th, after failing to get up and down for par from the Road bunker, but a closing birdie made him the only player to break 70 in the final round.
His 3rd place finish won him comfortably the biggest cheque of his pro career at £65,667, an achievement made all the more remarkable by the fact that he had done little of any real note prior to that.. and little of note would follow that one stunning high.
In 1996 he did manage another tour top 10, but at the end of 1997 he lost his card to find himself back at Q School for a ninth time. That year would ultimately prove the last of his eight full seasons on tour.
If you thought Ben Curtis and Todd Hamilton were rank outsiders, their wins would surely have paled into insignificance compared to Steve Bottomley’s had he emerged victorious at St Andrews in July 1995 against all the odds… and then some!
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