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US Open countdown: Jack Nicklaus survives Pebble Beach to win 1972 crown

72nd U.S. Open | June 15-18, 1972

Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach, Calif.

Leaderboard

Jack Nicklaus, United States 71 - 73 - 72 - 74 290
Bruce Crampton, Australia 74 - 70 - 73 - 76 293
Arnold Palmer, United States 77 - 68 - 73 - 76 294
Homero Blancas, United States 74 - 70 - 76 - 75 295
Lee Trevino, United States 74 - 72 - 71 - 78 295

There is nice, serene Pebble Beach Golf Links, largely considered the most breathtaking walk in golf.

And then there was the Pebble Beach that greeted the world’s best golfers for the final round of this tug-o-war U.S. Open.

When it was all finished, Nicklaus more survived than steamrolled on Pebble Beach, firing a 2-over-par 74 — which felt like a 64, considering the 25 mph wind gusts that howled off the nearby Pacific Ocean, making the granite-hard greens even more impossible to putt on.

Afterward, Nicklaus, 32, called it “a day when golf skills tended to be eliminated.”

Scoring backed that up: The 78.8-stroke average in the final round was the highest in the post-World War II era. Nicklaus’ 290 total was also the second highest winning score during those years.

Nicklaus never did fall out of the lead, but he had hiccups at the sixth and 10th holes, making double bogeys.

He did make some fantastic bogey saves, like at No. 12, where his tee shot went over the green and down an embankment. He rolled in a 15-foot putt to limit the damage.

Palmer could have tied him at the 14th hole, where Nicklaus made his final bogey. But “The King” missed a 10-footer for birdie to stay one shot behind. That is as close as anybody got to Nicklaus the rest of the way.

Nicklaus got a shot back at No. 15, sinking a 20-footer for birdie.

Then came one of golf’s hallmark shots — Nicklaus’ 1-iron tee shot at the famous par-3 17th hole, which had an hourglass-shaped green.

Many golfers played the safe shot — hitting it into the middle of the green. Not Nicklaus, who hit a booming, curving 1-iron that not only sliced through a stiff breeze, it hit the flagstick off one bounce and stopped inches from the cup for a tap-in birdie.

Counting his two U.S. Amateur victories, Nicklaus tied childhood idol Bobby Jones with his 13th major win, most all-time. Nicklaus went on to capture 20 of them (18 professional, two amateur).

It was also Nicklaus’ third U.S. Open victory.

todd.milles@thenewstribune.com

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