TIME Magazine, June 29, 1962, p. 38|
The Prodigious Prodigy
...TV cameras zeroed in to carry the scene to 9,000,000 home viewers across the nation. But Jack Nicklaus might have been alone on the practice green for all the emotion he displayed. Intently, impassively, he hunched over his 2-ft. putt. Daintily, deliberately, he stroked the ball toward the hole. When it plunked safely into the cup, he permitted himself a change of expression-- a boyish grin and tip of his cap to the crowd. With that putt, at 22 and in his first year as a professional golfer, burly Jack Nicklaus had one the biggest golf tournament of them all: the US Open.
The youngest U.S. Champion in 39 years... in a tense, head-to-head play-off before a hostile gallery, Nicklaus beat the world's best-known golfer, Arnold Palmer, grimly refusing to yield to a classic Palmer surge, and winning finally by the comfortable margin of three strokes, 71 to 74...
...Twice National Amateur champion (in 1959 and 1961), Nicklaus was, until his decision to turn pro last November, the most talked-about amateur since Bobby Jones. He played in his first U.S. Open as a fuzzy-cheeked 17-year-old. In 1960, at 20, he finished second by two strokes to Palmer, and his 72-hole score of 282 was the lowest ever shot by an amateur in the Open...
...In his first professional tournament, the Los Angeles Open, he was a co-favorite with Palmer and Gary Player. Nicklaus tied for 50th and took home a purse of $33.33. Not until last week did he manage his first tournament victory. But he has finished in the money in all 18 tournaments he has entered, ranks third in money winnings behind Palmer and [Gene] Littler, and wit the 1962 pro tour only half over, he has already earned almost twice as much money ($43,198) as any other rookie in history. Bonuses, royalties and endorsements resulting from last week's U.S. Open victory could swell Nicklaus' income by $250,000, making him, at 22, one of the world's highest-paid athletes. Unless the prospect bores him, Jack can reasonably expect to have made a million by the time he is 25...
"He Plays Too Slow." On the very first hole, a downhill, 455-yd. par-four, Palmer pushed his drive into the rough, knocked his No. 6-iron approach over the green, overshot the pin by 15-ft. with a chip shot, two-putted for a weak bogey five. Playing near-flawless golf at a deliberate, almost indolent pace ("He plays too slow," said Palmer, "and I told him so"), Nicklaus made his par and took a one-stroke lead that he never relinquished...
After eight holes, grimacing, shaking his head, cursing his "crooked" putting, Palmer trailed Nicklaus by four strokes, and hundreds of his rooters streamed dejectedly toward the air-conditioned clubhouse bar. But at that moment, when his cause seemed most hopeless, Palmer's cold putter turned hot. Plagued all tournament long by putts that simply would not drop-- including one eight-footer that hung stubbornly on the rim while he waited 3½ minutes [see photo]-- Palmer now could not miss. He birdied the ninth and eleventh holes, holed another birdie on the twelfth, and sliced Nicklaus' margin to a single stroke. Scoreboards flashed the news, and fans flocked back to watch Palmer stage another one of those whirlwind rallies that have made him the most exciting golfer of his time.
"Don't Be an Idiot." "I wasn't scared," recalls Nicklaus. "I wasn't supposed to beat him anyhow, so why should I be scared? I just told myself, 'Most people get flustered when Palmer does this and start bogeying. Don't be an idiot. Remember, you've played twelve holes and you're one up-- that's all that counts. Just play your own game. Palmer can bogey them too.'" On the par-three, 161-yd. 13th hole, Palmer did just that: he underclubbed himself, hit the green 40 ft. short of the pin and three-putted.
Now Nicklaus had a comfortable two-stroke cushion, and Palmer was running out of holes... "I told myself not to play conservatively for any reason," says Nicklaus, "because if I did, I'd lose. So I went for birdies on every hole. I didn't make them, but neither did Arnie. By the 18th, I still had a two-stroke lead.
"I hadn't been frightened all day, but I was worried about my tee shot on 18. I pulled it about 18 in., into the rough at the left. I had an awful lie, but at least I was in bounds. I had about a 180-yd. shot to the green, but I had to clear a trap, and from my lie it was questionable. So I did the safest possible thing: I took out my wedge and played it onto the fairway short of the trap. I figured that I was 103 yds. from the pin. 'An easy 9-iron will get you to the front,' I said to myself. 'A hard 9 will get you over. So let's hit a nice easy one.' Then Palmer hit his pitch shot and I thought, 'Oh God, I guess I just have to expect it to go in.' But it didn't; it rolled past about 10 ft. Even then, I wasn't sure of winning. If he made his putt and I three-putted, we were going to the 19th-- and even making a two-footer isn't easy when it means a national championship. But Arnie missed, and I thought, 'Well, finally, it's over.'" All that remained was the last, quick putt, and a brief handclasp from a tired, dejected, and thoroughly-beaten Palmer...
Arnold Palmer waited 3½ minutes for this "hanger" to drop after an 8-foot putt in the 1962 US Open at Oakmont. It didn't fall. Sports Illustrated photo by John G. Zimmerman, from Time Magazine, 6/22/1962.|
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