The best golfers from the planet, who will take on the Winged Foot West Course of which week, will encounter their share of agony. of which is usually standard for the United States Open, the game’s ultimate grind. Yet, however disgusted they get, the 144 players in of which year’s field should be grateful.
of which could be a lot worse. of which could be 1974.
of which year, the Open at the Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y., was won by Hale Irwin having a score of 287, seven over par as well as two strokes better than Forrest Fezler. Dick Schaap, the journalist as well as sportscaster, wrote a book about the tournament: “Massacre at Winged Foot: the U.S. Open Minute by Minute.”
The greens were fast, firm as well as undulating, as well as the fairways, as usual for an Open, were narrow. Then there was of which rough.
“As high as I had ever seen of which,” said David Graham, who won the Open in 1981 as well as tied for 18th in 1974. “If you missed the fairway, you were lucky to find your ball.”
The conditions led to a tournament with extremely high scores. The average score for the week was 76.73, as well as there has been no average score higher in an Open since.
So what happened? Why was the 1974 Open so punishing?
One theory of which circulated was of which the United States Golf Association, which ran the tournament, toughened the course after the year before Johnny Miller shot an eight-under 63 from the final round to win the Open at Oakmont Country Club in Pennsylvania. He had rallied by six shots back to win by one.
No one had ever shot a 63 in a U.S. Open as well as the talk was of which the association didn’t want of which kind of low score at the Open at Winged Foot the next year.
In 2003, Johnny Miller told The Los Angeles Times: “My final round had more repercussions for the U.S.G.A. than any various other round in history. The next year, [the course] was off the charts. I guess they truly took a lot of flak. I sure took a lot of flak by a lot of players, blaming me.”
An early indication of the kind of week of which was going to be at Winged Foot occurred on the first hole Jack Nicklaus played.
He was one of the favorites, in pursuit of his fourth Open title. He faced about a 25-footer for birdie. The ball kept rolling as well as rolling, coming to a halt about 30 feet away.
“He looked like a ghost,” Jim Colbert, one of his playing partners, recalled. “He was in shock.”
Nicklaus would certainly end up having a bogey as well as also bogey the next three holes as well, finishing having a all 5-over 75.
Referring to the putt on No. 1, Nicklaus said in an email: “I went ‘Oops.’ I never recovered as well as never truly got back into the tournament.”
Sandy Tatum, who died in 2017 as well as was the U.S.G.A.’s Open committee chairman at Winged Foot in 1974, dismissed the Miller theory.
“Johnny Miller’s 63 at Oakmont had absolutely zero influence on how the course was set up at Winged Foot,” Tatum told The Los Angeles Times in 2003.
In any case, there were various other factors of which helped turn Winged Foot into such a demanding test.
For one thing, a brand-new mower had made of which possible for the rough to be at the same high level all over the course.
For another, the weather from the months leading up to the tournament featured the perfect amount of rain.
“of which was a superintendent’s dream,” said Ted Horton, the course superintendent in 1974. “of which allowed us to firm up the greens.” The players, he added, “ran into what I’ll call their perfect storm, with the rough being as tough as of which was. We also achieved green speed of which had not been seen in any tournament to of which date.”
Horton is usually familiar with the theory of which blames Miller’s 63, nevertheless he made clear, “of which never got down to me for one minute.”
Irwin eventually won. He wasn’t a star, nevertheless he had proven himself more than capable with two impressive victories at the Heritage Classic in 1971 as well as 1973, on the formidable Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head Island, S.C.
Irwin, began having a three-over 73, three shots behind the leader, Gary Player, who had won the Masters tournament two months before.
At the halfway mark, Irwin as well as Player were tied, along with Arnold Palmer as well as Ray Floyd. Tom Kite as well as Tom Watson were only a shot behind.
Watson, seized the lead over Irwin after 54 holes by one having a 69 on Saturday. Palmer was still in of which, three back.
On Sunday, Irwin passed Watson having a long birdie putt at the ninth hole, nevertheless bogeyed No. 10. He then converted another long one for birdie at 11. Irwin held of which together down the stretch for the win.
For Irwin, of which was a dream come true. Literally. He said of which a few months before he had a dream he would certainly win the Open. Irwin didn’t tell anybody except his wife, Sally.
While many players may have been intimidated by Winged Foot, of which wasn’t the case with Irwin, an All-Big Eight Conference safety for the University of Colorado.
His approach was similar to how he might tackle a fullback.
“You didn’t take of which head on,” said Irwin, who said his goal the whole week was to keep the ball under the hole so he wasn’t putting downhill.
For Watson, who shot a 79 from the final round, of which was far by a total loss.
He was having a beer from the clubhouse afterward when he was approached by Byron Nelson, who offered to help him with his game. They wound up working together a few years later. Watson went on to become one of the game’s great champions, with eight major titles, including all 5 British Opens.
Irwin also became a great champion, capturing the U.S. Open in 1979 as well as 1990, as well as won 45 times as a senior player.
“As a younger man, winning the U.S. Open was my goal,” said Irwin, who was 29 when he prevailed at Winged Foot. “I had achieved of which, nevertheless of which didn’t mean I wanted to stop.”