US Open countdown: Cool Billy Casper uses short-game wizardry to win first of 3 major titles

59th U.S. Open | June 11-14, 1959

Winged Foot Golf Club West Course, Mamaroneck, N.Y.


Billy Casper, United States 71 - 68 - 69 - 74 282
Bob Rosburg, United States 75 - 70 - 67 - 71 283
Claude Harmon, United States 72 - 71 - 70 - 71 284
Mike Souchak, United States 71 - 70 - 72 - 71 284
Doug Ford, United States 72 - 69 - 72 - 73 286
Arnold Palmer, United States 71 - 69 - 72 - 74 286
Ernie Vossler, United States 72 - 70 - 72 - 72 286

Not a bee sting early in the final round, nor a 40-minute wait after his round could prevent soft-spoken San Diego native Billy Casper from winning the first of his three major championships.

Not a long hitter, Casper was revered for his short game — and he showed that on the difficult greens of Winged Foot, needing just 114 puts over 72 holes, with one three-putt.

Yet, Casper lost his three-stroke lead on the back nine. Rosburg holed a 50-foot birdie putt at the 12th hole to pull even — but he gave the shot back a hole later with a three-putt.

Casper finished 40 minutes before Rosburg and Souchak, and waited nervously in the clubhouse, sipping ginger ale and talking to reporters. He went out and signed autographs, and talked to the television crew to keep his mind off the rest of the tournament.

Souchak had a chance to tie but missed a 50-foot birdie chip on the finishing hole.

And on that same hole, Rosburg needed to make a 40-foot putt for birdie to tie. It came up 2 feet short.

After a Saturday thunderstorm wiped out third-round action, this ended up becoming the first nonplayoff U.S. Open to be played over four days. It wasn’t until 1965 that the USGA started to hold the championship over four days — or one round per day.

Also, the winner’s prize was bumped up to $12,000 — nearly double that of the previous year.