Sports

US Open countdown: Zoeller forces Norman to wave white flag of surrender at 1984 Open

84th U.S. Open | June 14-18, 1984

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

Leaderboard

x-Fuzzy Zoeller, United States 71 - 66 - 69 - 70 276
Greg Norman, Australia 70 - 68 - 69 - 69 276
Curtis Strange, United States 69 - 70 - 74 - 68 281
Johnny Miller, United States 74 - 68 - 70 - 70 282
Jim Thorpe, United States 68 - 71 - 70 - 73 282
x-won in playoff.

One on of the most famous courses in America came one of the most-recognizable final-round gestures by a to-be-champion in U.S. Open history.

Of course, what would you expect from one of the biggest jokesters in PGA Tour history — Fuzzy Zoeller?

Zoeller, an Indiana native who won the 1979 Masters in his debut appearance, started the final round trailing Hale Irwin, who won the national open on this same layout in 1974.

When Zoeller ripped off four consecutive front-nine birdies in the final round, Irwin crumbled behind two early bogeys — and shot 79 to finish in sixth place.

Zoeller reached 7-under for the tournament, and held a four-shot advantage over Greg Norman, the shiny blond from Australia who was in the middle of his first full PGA Tour season.

Slowly over the back nine, Zoeller began giving shots back with bogeys at the 10th, 14th and 17th holes.

And Norman was the one gaining on him with improbable par saves over the final stretch of holes.

Norman made a 7-foot putt at No. 16. And after landing his drive on No. 17 on a tree root, forcing him to chip out sideways, the “Great White Shark” escaped again after landing his 6-iron third shot on the green, and sinking a 10-footer.

On the finishing hole — a slightly uphill par 4 — after a perfect drive, Norman hit arguably the worst shot of the round when his 6-iron leaked far right and into the grandstands over the green.

He was given a free drop, and his chip shot scooted across the green, 45 feet from the hole.

Norman’s magic continued — his putt took down the ridge and tracked right into the cup for a par.

Watching this all unfold from the 18th-hole fairway, Zoeller grabbed a white flag, and began waving it in mock surrender. It became the quintessential moment of the whole championship.

The two golfers tied at 4-under 276. It was the first time in four national opens at Winged Foot that somebody broke par for 72 holes.

As the pair of standouts waited at the first tee before the 18-hole playoff began the next day, Zoeller pulled out a phone and asked his counterpart, “Want to make your last call?” Norman enjoyed the moment.

But he did not enjoy the playoff. And it turned for good on the second hole where Norman’s drive sprayed into deep rough behind a tree. He scrambled to make double bogey while Zoeller rolled in a 68-footer for birdie.

That three-shot swing was all Zoeller needed. He shot 67 — a U.S. Open record in a playoff — to Norman’s 75.

And on the finishing hole of the playoff, it was Norman who waved the white towel in surrender — an appropriate salute.

todd.milles@thenewstribune.com

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