Thursday's leader was the gray-haired, paunchy 36-year-old O'Connor Jr., whose record-breaking round (the previous mark of 65 had been set by Henry Cotton in 1934) featured 10 birdies, including seven in succession. Both feats are tournament records. O'Connor is the nephew of Christy O'Connor Sr., a pro so loved in his native country that he still carries the rather colorful nickname of "Himself." That his nephew could be leading the British Open was a shocker. O'Connor Jr. had earned only $14,780 this season, and Ballesteros characterized his game as "consistent," at best a lukewarm compliment.
Following his round, O'Connor was told by an almost breathless BBC television commentator, Clive Clark, that he would be receiving a £25,000 bonus from an unnamed source for breaking the course record. Alas, O'Connor later learned the bonus report was bogus. "To say I'm disappointed is a hell of an understatement," he moaned.
O'Connor slipped to a 76 on Friday, his putter having turned to mush. That left him a shot behind Lyle and Graham, who shared the halfway lead at 139, and a stroke ahead of Langer, whom everybody was watching. Langer had played the first two days in the worst of the weather—Seve's stuff—and when he shot a 68 on Saturday after his second-round 69, many assumed he was headed for his second major of the year. But he missed a short putt for par at No. 1 on Sunday, was three over after five holes and never posed a serious challenge until his chip at 18 almost dropped in. As it was, he then missed the putt for par.
For years the British have considered Lyle a bit of a slacker, a mellow fellow who seemingly fades in the big tournaments. Of course, in Europe none of them is as big as the British Open, and Lyle confided to America's Mark O'Meara earlier in the week that the pressure of the Open always exhausted him. Nonetheless, he kept on. "I always thought I would win it," Lyle said later. "I didn't know when."
He had been three strokes behind Graham and Langer at the start of the final round. He said it didn't occur to him that he had a chance to win until he birdied 14. "I knew I was back in it then," he said. "Tears came to my eyes."
Britain's collective heart sank when Lyle bogeyed the 13th after having driven into a bunker. But at the 14th he struck a great two-iron to 45 feet and rolled in the birdie putt. Then he birdied again at the 15th, sinking a 12-footer, to cheers in the press tent.
For a moment there at No. 18, Lyle looked as though he might be a loser. However, if anything was constant at Royal St. George's, it was the inconsistency." The weather, the course, the leader board and finally Lyle. He went down in a heap, but a moment later he was on top of the world.