The Senior Open of 1996 was the fifth USGA Championship played at Canterbury. The star studded field included Canterbury Honorary Members, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, plus, past winners of major championships at Canterbury such as Chi Chi Rodriquez and Miller Barber. The field was stellar and the course was, as usual, immaculate!
It was Stockton who tore up the course with his superb ball striking and putting. His 17 birdies in the first three rounds allowed him to build a seven shot lead going into the final round. Playing all four rounds with first round leader, Bob Charles, Stockton made 17 pars in a row on the final day and held off a hard charging Hale Irwin to win by two strokes. As is the norm for many years at Canterbury the final three holes played an integral part in the outcome. Stockton made a ten foot par putt on #16 to hold his lead by two and then watched Hale Irwin bogey #17. With a three shot lead going into the 72nd hole Stockton knew his first ever USGA Championship was now a reality. He made a meaningless bogey on that hole to win by two strokes over Hale Irwin.
Interesting that the USGA played the course at par 72 while previous Championships had been played at par 71 and future Championships have played at par 70. Stockton finished at 11 under par, a 277 total and called his final round the finest golf he ever played with anything at stake. USGA trophies are hard to come by and this one was very special for Dave Stockton.