Sports

US Open countdown: Arnold Palmer’s final round charge produces his only U.S. Open title

60th U.S. Open/June 16-18, 1960

Cherry Hills Country Club, Englewood, Colo.

Leaderboard

Arnold Palmer, United States 72 - 71 - 72 - 65 280
Jack Nicklaus, United States (a) 71 - 71 - 69 - 71 282
Julius Boros, United States 73 - 69 - 68 - 73 283
Dow Finsterwald, United States 71 - 69 - 70 - 73 283
Jack Fleck, United States 70 - 70 - 72 - 71 283
Dutch Harrison, United States 74 - 70 - 70 - 69 283
Ted Kroll, United States 72 - 69 - 75 - 67 283
Mike Souchak, United States 68 - 67 - 73 - 75 283
a-amateur

Never before had three stars of a sport, albeit at different junctures of their careers, intersected on a wild back nine in the final round of a U.S. Open.

In the end, it was a record-breaking performance by Arnold Palmer that netted him his only national open triumph.

Not only did Palmer fire a final-round low of 7-under 65 to come from behind to win the U.S. Open, but he also overcame a tournament-record seven-stroke deficit on that final day.

Mike Souchak had built a reputation for making birdies and scoring low. He long held the tournament scoring record on the PGA Tour with a 27-under 257 at the 1955 Texas Open.

And he also knew how to win tournaments, winning 15 times on the PGA Tour. He also had 11 top-10 finishes at major championships.

At Cherry Hills, Souchak got off fast, setting the U.S. Open 36-hole record of 7-under 135. He was the only man under par.

But on the final hole of the third round, Souchak ran into deep trouble, and made a triple bogey for a 73. It sent him into a tailspin, and he fell off dramatically.

That left the door open for three legends – a past-his-prime Ben Hogan, a hitting-his-prime Palmer and a not-quite-there Jack Nicklaus, who had Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes following his every round so he could phone in a daily report to the local newspaper in Columbus, Ohio.

During a break in between the third and final rounds, Palmer asked longtime sports writing pal Bob Drum of the Pittsburgh Press what a final-round 65 would do for his chances. Drum laughed, saying it would do Palmer no good.

The vote of no-confidence sent Palmer to the first tee steaming — and he drove the 346-yard, par 4 with his tee shot, and made birdie.

Palmer birdied six of the first seven holes — three on putts of 30 feet or longer. He made the turn in 30, then birdied the 11th hole. That is when he noticed his gallery starting to grow.

With a front-nine 32, Nicklaus went into the back nine with the lead at 5 under. But a string of three-putt bogeys pushed him back — but not too far because his 282 total was the lowest for an amateur in tournament history.

The steady Hogan was tied with Palmer on the 17th tee. He hit his third shot at the par 5 pin high, only to watch it spin back into a greenside creek, leading to a fatal bogey. He ended up tying for ninth.

After Palmer sank a 4-footer for par on the final hole, he took the cap off his head and tossed it into the air. He knew he had won this historic showdown.

With the win, Palmer had the first two legs of the Grand Slam, winning earlier at the Masters. But three weeks later, Palmer lost to Kel Nagle by one stroke at the British Open. He also finished seventh at the PGA Championship — a title Palmer would never win.

todd.milles@thenewstribune.com

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