Golfing legend Tom Watson recalls his classic Open at St Andrews

    Tom Watson tees off on the 18th hole at St Andrews Old Course on July 11, 2022, during the Celebration of Champions, prior to the 150th Open.

    (CNN)As a group of amateur golfers assemble on the first tee of the Old Course at St Andrews in Scotland, they are watched pensively by a man sat in the clubhouse pavilion.

    Laughing and joking, the group's eagerness to play a legendary course steeped in Open Championship history is not lost on their audience. He is Tom Watson, and few people and places are more synonymous with the Open than the 72-year-old and St Andrews.
    One of golf's most iconic names, Watson is a five-time winner of the major, while the Old Course at St Andrews has hosted the Open more times than any other venue and will stage the 150th edition of the tournament later this month.
      Yet incredibly -- and not for the want of trying -- Watson never lifted the Claret Jug at the historic links course.
        With eight major triumphs and 39 PGA Tour wins, the American is regarded as one of the game's greatest-ever players. His five Open successes between 1975 and 1983 leave him second only to Harry Vardon (six) in all-time wins at the event, consolidating his reputation as an outstanding links golfer.
        Tom Watson celebrates winning the 1975 Open at Carnoustie, Scotland, with his wife.
        Had it not been for two agonizing runner-up finishes, Watson would have eclipsed Vardon's haul, yet even during the first of those near misses in 1984 at St Andrews, he insists that the record was not on his mind.
        "I didn't think about that," Watson told CNN Sport. "My job is to play every shot until I finish it up on here in 18 and hope that's going to be the lowest score of the week."

          "Now I had to be a hero"

          One hole from the close in 1984, Watson's job was almost finished as he arrived at the notorious 17th road hole tied for the lead with Seve Ballesteros.
          His opening drive skewed to the right, close to being out of bounds, and settled on a sloped mound. Thirty-eight years on as he retraces his steps on the course, Watson can still pick out the hump that led him to attempt an all-or-nothing second shot.
          "Now I had to be a hero. I was going to take a risk and hit that perfect shot to win the Open Championship," he recalled. "The rest is history, but the lie dictated the shot that I tried to play there. I decided to take the aggressive play."
          History indeed, as -- recorded in one of golf's great photos -- Watson subsequently found himself forced to play the most awkward of lies mere inches from the wall and onlooking fans. Despite having minimal room for back swing, Watson bounced an impressive effort across the road and onto the green.
          Tom Watson takes his third shot at the 17th hole during the final round of the 1984 Open at St Andrews.
          Yet as he lined up an improbable long-range putt, his Spanish counterpart, a hole ahead, was starring in a soon-to-be iconic photoshoot of his own.
          "I heard the roar of the crowd," Watson remembered, as Ballesteros marked his stunning, curling birdie putt at the 18th with his legendary fist pump celebration.
          Watson bogeyed before parring at the last to seal a fourth major win for Ballesteros, who would triumph once more at the Open in 1988.