Lee Trevino, 31, defeated Jack Nicklaus, 31, in a playoff at the Merion Golf Club, Armore, Pennsylvania. Both players had scored 280 for the 72 holes and Trevino scored 68 in the playoff against a 71 by Nicklaus. Nicklaus twice left shots in bunkers - once on the second hole, again on the third, to allow Trevino to take a two-stroke lead.
Nicklaus never was able to catch Trevino, although several times he narrowed the margin to one stroke. Trevino had rounds of 70-72-69-69-280 and Nicklaus scored 69-72-68-71-280. Both had chances to win outright on the 72nd hole but they both missed putts. Trevino was ready to stroke a six-foot putt for a par 4 and 279 when a spectator fell from a bulletin board causing a distracting noise. Trevino backed away, and then missed the putt. Nicklaus had a 14-foot putt for a birdie on the final hole and barely missed.
James B. Simons, a 21-year-old amateur from Butler, Pennsylvania needed a birdie on the last hole to tie Nicklaus and Trevino, but he drove into the rough, gambled on reaching the green with a wood, and failed. He made 6 and finished in a tie for fifth with 283. Robert R. Rosburg of French Lick, Indiana three-putted the 72nd and tied for third with James J. Colbert, Jr., of Prairie Creek, Arkansas at 282. Labron Harris, Jr., Stillwater, Oklahoma, shot 67 and led the first round. Bob Erickson of Sanford, Florida and Colbert shared the second round lead at 138.
Simons shot 65 in the third round, one stroke above the Open's single round record set initially at Merion in 1950, and took the 54-hole lead with 297, two strokes ahead of Nicklaus, who was in second place. Simons still led after nine holes of the final round, but made a 5 on the par 4 10th to fall into a tie with Nicklaus and then Trevino played a great 8-iron 15 inches from the hole on the 12th and made a birdie and forced a three-way tie.
Trevio went ahead with a birdie on the 14th and held the lead until he made 5 on the par 4 18th,setting up the playoff. For the sixth time in nine years the defending Champion failed to survive the 36-hole cutoff. Tony Jacklin shot 152 and was eliminated.
The entry was 4,279, the largest for any USGA Championship ever. Prize money totaled $200,000 with $192,200 awarded to professionals in the Championship proper and another $7,800 in Sectional Qualifying Championships. This was the 13th USGA event held at Merion. No other Club had been host to so many.
Starts - 23
Best Finish - Winner 1968
Rds - 77
Cuts Made - 15
Top 3 - 2
Top 5 - 6
Top 10 - 8
Top 25 - 11
Avg. - 72.74
Scores In 60s - 12
Rds Under Par - 17