The United States Open is set up to be an austere test of golf. 46 years ago Billy Casper defeated Arnold Palmer 69-73 in a playoff to win the 1966 U. S. Open Championship at The Olympic Club near San Francisco. It was the site of one of the most famous comebacks in golf history.
Arnold Palmer was ahead by three strokes after 54 holes. On Sunday he scorched Olympic’s front nine with a 32 to build his lead to seven strokes. The popular Palmer was on his way to winning his second U. S. Open and 8th major title. With his aggressive game, Palmer was trying to beat Ben Hogan’s U.S. Open record of 276 that stood in the record books since 1948. A one-over on the back nine would set a record.
Billy Casper played on the Tour when the Big Three, Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player were in the spotlight. Casper remained in the background even though he won 51 times on Tour. On that Sunday at Olympic, Casper played an exceptionally steady game and shot 3-under par 32 to tie Palmer who struggled to a 39.
In the play-off on Monday, Casper was two down at the turn, but again came back. He outscored Palmer by six strokes on the back nine. History may say that Palmer lost the tournament, but Billy Casper played championship golf shooting all five rounds under par 70.
Tomorrow Casper will be back at Olympic to celebrate his greatest victory. He is 81-years-old and is scheduled to present the trophy to the winner of the 2012 U.S. Open. He will also be seen autographing his new autobiography, “The Big Three and Me.” It will be a wonderful week of recognition for the unsung champion who won the title at Olympic 46 years ago.
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