Sports

US Open countdown: Lou Graham uses military-like precision to beat John Mahaffey in 1975 playoff.

75th U.S. Open | June 19-23, 1975

Medinah Country Club, Medinah, Illinois

Leaderboard

x-Lou Graham, United States 74 - 72 - 68 - 73 287
John Mahaffey, United States 73 - 71 - 72 - 71 287
Frank Beard, United States 74 - 69 - 67 - 78 288
Ben Crenshaw, United States 70 - 68 - 76 - 74 288
Hale Irwin, United States 74 - 71 - 73 - 70 288
Bob Murphy, United States 74 - 73 - 72 - 69 288
x-won in playoff

When Lou Graham wore his favorite dark blue shirt and light blue trousers on the golf course, you knew he meant business — and low scores.

On a weekend when some of golf’s biggest names collapsed — notably Tom Watson (tied 36-hole scoring record at 135, but was 20 strokes worse in the final two rounds), Jack Nicklaus (one shot back with three holes to play, but finished with three consecutive bogeys), and even FrankBeard, the third-round overnight leader (no birdies in the final round) — it was Graham and John Mahaffey who emerged from the rubble to duke it out in an 18-hole playoff.

And Graham showed up in the same outfit he showcased in the third round when he shot a 3-under-par 68. In the playoff, he intended to make pars — and did, firing a 71 to Mahaffey’s 73.

Graham birdied the fourth, fifth and 10th holes to grab an advantage. Mahaffey went birdie-free all day.

“My goal was to play for pars,” Graham told reporters afterward. “I know when I do that … I’ll get a (birdie) or two.”

Up to that point, it had been an underwhelming career for the Tennessee native, who should not be confused with Lou Gramm (lead singer for Foreigner) or even fellow U.S. Open winner David Graham, who captured the national open in 1981.

Lou Graham served as a member of “The Old Guard” in the U.S. Army, which was the ceremonial honor guard that guards the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.

Three years after also playing for the U.S. Army golf squad that won the interservice title in 1961, he jumped to the PGA Tour.

By 1967, he had won a tournament but also was experiencing hand soreness so severe it required surgery to repair tendinitis. After that, Graham fell into a slump and wondered if he should hang up tour golf.

The win at the U.S. Open was a career-maker. He ended up winning six times on the PGA Tour — with half of them coming in 1979 when he was named the tour’s comeback player of the year.

Five months after Graham’s win at Medinah, the USGA passed another significant rule for its U.S. Open for men and women — golfers could use their own caddies starting in 1976.

And since the USGA moved the U.S. Open to the four-day format, the 1975 national open’s final round was the only one not played on Father’s Day.

todd.milles@thenewstribune.com

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