Hale Irwin, 29, won by two strokes over Forrest Fezler with a seven-over-par score of 287 over the West Course of the Winged Foot Golf Club, Mamaroneck, New York. Fezler shot 289 while Lou Graham and Bert Yancey tied for third at 290. Irwin's best previous Open finish was in 1971 when he tied for 19th place. At Winged Foot he had 18-hole scores of 73, 70, 71, and 73 with 13 birdies, 18 bogies, and one hole where he went two over par. His score was the highest in relation to par since 1963 when a score of nine above par tied after 72 holes and caused a playoff.
The 1974 Open was decided on the last two holes where Irwin holed a 10-foot putt for a par on the 17th as Fezler was making a bogey 5 on the 18th. Irwin saved his Championship by playing a 2-iron approach to the 18th 20 feet from the hole and making par 4. Winged Foot was a very difficult course for the Open. Gary Player was the only man in the field to equal par in the first round. He led by one stroke over Grahma, Mike Reasor, and Jim Colbert. Irwin was three strokes behind at that time. Of the 150 men who began play that day, only 23 were under 75 for the first round.
Scoring was somewhat better the second day. Hubert Green shot 67 which was to be the lowest round of the Championship, and three others were under par 70. In all, 38 men were under 75 and four matched par 70. Player maintained a share of the lead after 36 holes with 73 and 143. Also at 143 were Arnold Palmer, Raymond Floyd, and Irwin. Among those who failed to survive the 360hole cut, which fell at 153, were Lee Trevino, Bill Caser, Ken Venturilk Gene Littler and Tony Jacklin, all former Open Champions. Craig Stadler, the 1973 U.S. Amateur Champion and John Schlee, runner-up to John Miller in the 1973 Open.
Player was out in 36 in the third round, and then shot 41 on the second nine for 77. With that he fell from contention. Palmer shot 73 and fell to third at 216. Tom Watson, 23, led after shooting 69 for a 54-hole score of 213. Watson saved a bogey 5 and his lead with a superb bunker shot on the 18th to within six inches of the hole. Irwin at this point was in second place at 214 after a 71 in the third round. Fezler was in sixth place at 219, behind Frank Beard and Bert Yancy, at 218. Palmer dropped from contention early in the final round. He three-putted the second hole from 12 feet and his approach to the short sixth dropped into a bunker.
Watson hole two sizable putts for pars on the first two holes, and then three-putted the fourth and fifth. Irwin three-putted the fourth along with Watson, but he made a pr 5 on the fifth to catch up. Then Irwin holed a 35-foot birdie putt on the ninth to go ahead to say. At this point Irwin was five over par for the 63 holes while Watson was six over and Fezler was nine over.
Watson's game collapsed entirely on the second nine; he shot 41 and 79 for a 72-hole score of 292. Irwin faltered slightly, too. He bogied four of the next seven holes, offset by two birdies, and he was seven over par playing the 17th. Fezler, meanwhile, had saved pars on both 16 and 17 by holing difficult putts, but he missed the 18h green and made 5, giving him 70 for the round and 289 for 72 holes. At this point Irwin holed a 10-foot putt to save his par on the 17th. He followed with another par on the 18th and won by two strokes. The entry of 3,914 was the third largest in Open history. Prize money totaled $227,700.
Starts - 34
Best Finish - Won in 1974, '79 & '90
Rds - 120
Cuts Made - 27
Top 3 - 4
Top 5 - 5
Top 10 - 7
Top 25 - 13
Avg. - 73.02
Scores In 60s - 16
Rds Under Par - 22
Earnings - $516,428.85