Sports

US Open countdown: Raymond Floyd stellar in final round to grab first Open title

86th U.S. Open | June 12-15, 1986

Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, Shinnecock, N.Y.

Leaderboard

Raymond Floyd, United States 75 - 68 - 70 - 66 279
Chip Beck, United States 75 - 73 - 68 - 65 281
Lanny Wadkins, United States 74 - 70 - 72 - 65 281
Hal Sutton, United States 75 - 70 - 66 - 71 282
Lee Trevino, United States 74 - 68 - 69 - 71 282

It was kind of dumbfounding why it took Raymond Floyd this long to make his move.

For years, colleagues used to brag about Floyd’s steely staredowns, rock-solid nerves and clutch putting as ideally suited to win a U.S. Open.

But in his first 21 national open appearances, he placed inside the top 10 twice (1965, 1971) — truly a stupefying result.

So here came Floyd, well past his prime approaching 44 years old. And he wasn’t coming in with a whole lot of steam behind him. During the previous week, he contended at the Westchester Classic, but blew up for a final-round 77 to drop out of sight.

But something important happened on the drive from Rye, New York, to Shinnecock Hills. As Floyd stewed on his meltdown, his wife, Maria, wanted him to open up about his disappointment — which he did.

What it also made Floyd realize was that he wasn’t going to have many more opportunities to win the U.S. Open, so he’d better get on it.

Plus, why not him? Jack Nicklaus had won the Masters Tournament a few months earlier at age 46.

The golfer to beat that week was Greg Norman, who completed his own sort of “Norman Slam” that year — leading at the 54-hole mark of each major championship. His lone victory was at The British Open.

It was a wild final round where 10 players held a share of the lead. Floyd joined the nine co-leader fray with his 11th-hole birdie, then watched as, one by one, the other names fell off the leaderboard.

Floyd’s key exchange came a hole later when he rolled in a 20-foot putt to save par. He then birdied the 13th hole, took over sole possession of the lead at No. 14 and solidified his standing with a final 10-foot birdie at No. 16.

“The only thing I know about the final nine holes of the U.S. Open,” Floyd told reporters afterward, “is that everybody starts making bogeys. And, one by one, eight of the nine fell flat.”

Floyd was 43 years and 284 days old to become the oldest U.S. Open champion at the time, surpassing the previous record of Ted Ray, set in 1920. A few years later, Hale Irwin (45) erased Floyd’s mark.

It was the 20th of Floyd’s 22 PGA Tour victories — and the last of his four major championships. He took home $115,000 for the victory.

Nicklaus tied for eighth in this national open — his last career top-10 finish.

todd.milles@thenewstribune.com

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