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1972


Jack Nicklaus

Jack Nicklaus, 32, won his third Open Championship with a score of 290 at the Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach, California. Only Willie Anderson, Bob Jones, and Ben Hogan won as many; each won four. Nicklaus either led or was tied for the lead throughout and finished three strokes ahead of Bruce Crampton of Australia. Arnold Palmer was third with 294 while Lee Trevino, the defending Champion, tied for fourth with Homero Blancas at 295.

The winning score was the highest since 1963 when Julius Boros, Jacky Cupit, and Arnold Palmer scored 293 to tie for first place. Boros won the eventual playoff. Pebble Beach was not only the most scenic course ever host to the Open, but also was as stern a test of golfing skill as the Open has presented. As testimony to its difficulty, only 48 of the 150 starters scored lower than 80 on both the first two days, and only 40 rounds of par 72 or lower were played by the 70 contestants who finished 72 holes.

Low score the first day was 71 with six players tied for the lead, the most every to tie for the lead after the first round and the most ever to tie for the lead after any round since 1896, the second year of the Open. They were Nicklaus, Orville Moody, 1969 Champion, Juan Rodriguez, Mason Rudolph, Tom Shaw and Kermit Zarley, Jr.

Scoring improved the second day with 15 players shooting par or better. Lanny Wadkins and Arnold Palmer both scored 68, low for the Championship. Wadkins moved into a tie for first place at 144 while Palmer was seventh with 145. Six players were again tied for the lead: Nicklaus, Homero Blancas, Bruce Crampton, Cesar Sanudo, Wadkins and Zarley.

On the third day Pebble Beach continued to plague the field when only 13 players were able to match or better par. Nicklaus with a 72 ended the day in sole possession of first place with a 216 total - even par. Bruce Crampton and Kermit Zarley shared second place with Lee Trevino at 217. Trevino had been hospitalized with a slight case of bronchial pneumonia the week preceding the Open, but he was still the only player in the field to improve on his scores in the first three rounds.

The third day was highlighted by Jerry McGee's hole-in-one on the par-3, 180-yeard 5th hole - the first scored in an Open since 1956. To thoroughly upset the rules of probability, Bobby Mitchell holed his tee shot on the same hole the next day.

The last day was sunny but windy - not a day for low scoring. In fact, there were only two final-day scores of par or better: a 70 by Mason Rudolph and a 72 by Jim Simons, one of the three amateurs to play the entire 72 holes. The final round could hardly have been more dramatic: Trevino was grouped with Nicklaus, whom he had beaten in a playoff for the 19971 title. The anticipated duel did not develop, however.

Trevino finally succumbed to physical ills and could not keep up. Nicklaus was apparently in full command of the Championship after nine holds and had increased his lead to four strokes with Trevino, Crampton and Arnold Palmer his closest pursuers. The 10th and 12th holes nearly changed the complexion of the Championship. On the 10th Nicklaus was blown off balance by a sudden gust of wind as he drove. His drive soared over a cliff and onto the beach below. Nicklaus elected to take a one-stroke penalty and dropped outside the hazard. He then hit a 2-iron, but the ball landed short and to the right of the green on the steep bank of the cliff and again in the lateral water hazard. He was able to play the ball as it lay, however, and got on with a wedge and two-putted for a 6. His lead was cut from four strokes to two.

Nicklaus parred the 11th then came to the 12th. Palmer, two holes ahead of him, had made a par-3 at the 12th and was only one stroke behind on the scoreboard. On the 555-yard, par-5 14th Palmer had an eight-foot putt for a birdie. Meantime, on the 12th, Nicklaus hit a 3-iron shot over the green into a terrible lie. He needed two more shots to reach the green, eight feet away from a bogey-e.

The Open Championship finally hinged on the play of two shots by Palmer and Nicklaus. If palmer made his and Nicklaus missed, Palmer would be ahead...If they both sank, they would be tied. Palmer's putt eased by the edge and Nicklaus holed his to retain the lead. Palmer then bogied the 15th and 16th holes to end his challenge. Nicklaus parred 13 and 14, birdied 15, parred 16, and then hit the flagstick on the par 3, 218-yard 17th hole with a 1-iron shot that left him only a six-inch putt for a birdie. Four strokes ahead of Bruce Crampton, Nicklaus played the 18th hole cautiously, three-putting for a bogey 6.

There were 4,196 acceptable entries filed for the 1972 Open, of which 1,661 were from amateurs, more than in any previous year. Fourteen of them made it into the Championship proper, after local and sectional qualifying rounds, and three finished 72 holes. Prize money totaled $202,400, with $194,600 going to professionals in the Championship proper and $7,800 in Sectional Qualifying Championships.

OPEN RECORDS


Starts - 44

Best Finish - Winner 1962, '67, '72, & '80

Rds - 160

Cuts Made - 35

Top 3 - 9

Top 5 - 11

Top 10 - 18

Top 25 - 22

Avg. - 72.59

Scores In 60s - 29

Rds Under Par - 37

Earnings - $372,245.05
Historical Notes
On Oct. 4, 1895, the first U.S. Open Championship was conducted by the United States Golf Association on the nine-hole course of Newport (R.I.) Golf and Country Club.
The first U.S. Open was considered something of a sideshow to the first U.S. Amateur, which was played on the same course and during the same week. Both championships had been scheduled for September but were postponed because of a conflict with a more established Newport sports spectacle, the America's Cup yacht races.
Ten professionals and one amateur started in the 36-hole competition, which was four trips around the Newport course in one day. The surprise winner was Horace Rawlins, 21, an English professional who was the assistant at the host course. Rawlins scored 91-82-173 with the gutta-percha ball.
Prize money totalled $335, of which Rawlins won the $150 first prize. He also received a gold medal and custody of the Open Championship Cup for his club for one year.
In its first decade, the U.S. Open was conducted for amateurs and the largely British wave of immigrant golf professionals coming to the United States.
As American players began to dominate the game, the U.S. Open evolved into an important world golf championship. Young John J. McDermott became the first native-born American winner in 1911 and repeated as champion in 1912.
In 1913, the U.S. Open really took off when Francis Ouimet, a 20-year-old American amateur, stunned the golf world by defeating famous English professionals, Harry Vardon and Ted Ray, in a playoff.
Another surge in the championship's popularity coincided with the amazing career of Georgia amateur Bob Jones, who won the U.S. Open four times (1923, 1926, 1929, 1930). Spectator tickets were sold for the first time in 1922 and a boom in entries caused the USGA to introduce sectional qualifying in 1924.
In 1933, John Goodman became the fifth and last amateur to win the U.S. Open. The others were Ouimet, Jerome D. Travers (1915), Charles Evans Jr., (1916), and Jones.
In each era, the world's greatest players have been identified by surviving the rigorous examination provided by the U.S. Open. Ben Hogan's steely determination boosted him to four victories (1948, 1950, 1951, 1953). Arnold Palmer's record comeback win in 1960, when he fired a final round of 65 to come from seven strokes off the lead, cemented his dashing image. Jack Nicklaus' historic assault on the professional record book began when he won the first of his four U.S. Open Championships in 1962, his rookie season as a professional.
Nicklaus, who also won in 1967, 1972, and 1980, is one of only four golfers to win four U.S. Opens. The others are Willie Anderson (1901, 1903, 1904, 1905), Jones and Hogan.
In 1954, the U.S. Open course was roped from tee to green for the first time. That year also marked the first national television coverage. Coverage was expanded by ABC Sports in 1977 so that all 18 holes of the final two rounds were broadcast live. In 1982, on the ESPN cable network, the first two rounds were broadcast live for the first time. NBC began televising the U.S. Open in 1995.
The format of the U.S. Open has changed several times. The USGA extended the championship to 72 holes in 1898, with 36 holes played on each of two days. In 1926, the format was changed to 18 holes played each of two days, then 36 holes on the third day. In 1965, the present format of four 18-hole daily rounds was implemented for the first time.
In 2002, a two-tee (Nos. 1 and 10) start was used for the first and second rounds. In addition, Bethpage State Park's Black Course in Farmingdale, N.Y., was the first facility owned by the public to host a U.S. Open. International qualifying sites were added in 2005 and the champion at Pinehurst Resort in N.C. was Michael Campbell, who qualified in England.