Vardon's six Open victories have Watson covered by one, but in the last century no one has lit up links golf quite like the man from Missouri.
Watson's haul of five crowns came in just a nine-year period, with his first success achieved on his Open debut.
No one can match that winning ratio in this Championship's great history and, considering he has also finished runner-up twice and won three senior titles, The Open and Watson are indelibly linked.
A five-star performance
The 112th Open might have seen Watson claim his last win, but it was also his first in England.
He famously won on his Open bow at Carnoustie in 1975 and backed that up with further victories at Turnberry in 1977, Muirfield in 1980 and Royal Troon in 1982. Indeed, St Andrews is the only Scottish course currently used for The Open where Watson has not been successful.
Four of his first five trips to The Open in Scotland resulted in the Claret Jug, but in England it was a different story.
He missed the third-round cut at Royal Birkdale in 1976, finished 26th at Royal Lytham & St Annes in 1979 and 23rd at Royal St George's two years later.
Then, in 1983, it all fell into place. A year on from getting his hands on the Claret Jug for the fourth time at Royal Troon, Watson got it just right.
This would prove to be the last of Watson's eight Major titles in all, but he looked at the peak of his powers as he thrived at Royal Birkdale.
A fifth Open victory put him in wonderful company, with historical figures like Peter Thomson and James Braid, and Watson's contemporaries were no match for him that week on Merseyside.
His total of 275, nine under par, was the record at Birkdale at the time and also became the third-lowest winning total in Open history.
Victory was also sealed in style as Watson showed his class down the stretch.
After birdieing the 11th, 13th and 16th holes, he came to the last needing a par to triumph and rose to the occasion with one of the finest shots of his career, flushing a 2-iron from 218 yards to around 20 feet.
"I busted that 2-iron as well as I could hit it," said Watson, who duly two-putted to wrap up yet another Open win.
This was a redemption of sorts for the popular American, who had shot a third-round 80 at the Southport course only seven years earlier. On this occasion, he ended up one ahead of both Andy Bean and Hale Irwin.
A learning process
Incredibly, Watson said he only started to feel comfortable on the links after his third Open victory at Muirfield in 1980, embodying the expression 'fake it until you make it'.
In 1983, he underlined his place among the greatest Open Champions of all time - and one of the best-ever golfers.