Bear beats the King: Film relives 1962 U.S. Open

By Doug FergusonApril 29, 2012, 5:35 pm

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jack Nicklaus was a 22-year-old rookie, golf's next big star still without a win as a pro. Arnold Palmer, the Masters champion and first golfer to transcend his sport, was at the peak of his popularity and playing before a home crowd at Oakmont for the U.S. Open.

''You can't write that script,'' award-winning producer Ross Greenburg said.

That epic 1962 U.S. Open, a pivotal moment in one of golf's most celebrated rivalries, is what the USGA delivered Greenburg to create a one-hour documentary. This is the 50-year anniversary of Nicklaus' playoff win over Palmer for the first of his record 18 major championships.

''Jack's First Major'' will be the first USGA film shown on network television, broadcast by NBC Sports on June 17 before its final-round coverage of the U.S. Open.

The film will make its international debut a week earlier on British-based Sky Sports.

''I was a 22-year-old kid with blinders on,'' Nicklaus said. ''People ask me about Arnold's backyard, Arnold's gallery. I never heard it. All I was doing was playing golf and trying to win a golf tournament. I looked back and said, 'Wow! Look what happened.' It's amazing that was my first win. Arnold treated me great. He couldn't have been nicer. He's always been that way with me.''

Greenburg, who won 51 Sports Emmy awards during his tenure at HBO Sports, already has spent two hours with Palmer and Nicklaus. The real treat comes next month when the King and the Golden Bear return to Oakmont.

The hole locations will be where they were that Sunday afternoon for the 18-hole playoff, when Nicklaus built an early lead, withstood a charge by Palmer in the middle of the round and wound up with a 71 for a three-shot victory.

''It literally was a creation of what went on to be the best rivalry in golf we've ever seen, or one of the best,'' USGA executive director Mike Davis said. ''We went to NBC and said, 'What do you think of our concept?' NBC loved the idea. That got us to thinking. Why wouldn't we promote some of this wonderful history? People love the game. And this is a great way to educate people.''

Nicklaus at first struggled with details of the 90 holes he played that week - the opening two rounds with Palmer - but the more he talked, the more questions he fielded, the more it came back to him.

There was that 4-foot putt on the 17th hole in regulation that he hit firm to eliminate the break, knowing that if he had missed the ball likely would have rolled off the green. On some of the toughest greens in golf, Nicklaus only had one three-putt all week. The olive pants - his wife called them his ''Army pants'' - that he liked so much he wore them again in the playoff. And the 18th hole in the playoff, when Palmer picked up Nicklaus' ball, only for USGA executive director Joe Dey to run onto the green and remind them it was stroke play and Nicklaus had to finish the hole.

Mostly, though, there was the cigarette.

Nicklaus used to smoke during golf tournaments, as many golfers did in that era, and a turning point in his behavior on the golf course came after that U.S. Open. It became such an important change that Nicklaus still remembers the day – Dec. 8, 1962 – when the USGA shipped him a film of his big win at Oakmont. He watched the key putts and booming drives, his straight left leg and upright posture. What unsettled him was a scene of him setting down a cigarette to tap in a putt during the playoff.

''It was the worst example for youth I can imagine,'' Nicklaus said. ''It was the last time I ever smoked a cigarette on the golf course.''

Greenburg wasn't about to leave that out of his documentary, but he uses it to share Nicklaus' story on what caused him to give up smoking on the golf course, and years later, to give smoking for good.

''We have Jack telling the story,'' Greenburg said. ''It was a time period where people are just smoking and not thinking about the ramifications. It's interesting that at 22, Jack figured out at that point that it's not the way to act as a role model. When he saw that film, he was taken aback.''

Greenburg had much more to work with for the project. In collaboration with the USGA Museum, he shows early footage of Nicklaus as the prodigy who won the 1959 U.S. Amateur and nearly won the U.S. Open a year later at Cherry Hills until he shot 39 on the back and Palmer charged home with a 65 to beat him and Ben Hogan.

There are interviews with Dow Finsterwald, Gary Player and Billy Maxwell, who played the final two rounds of regulation on Saturday with Nicklaus, along with journalists Dave Anderson and Marino Parascenzo, who covered the 1962 U.S. Open.

He also spoke with Nicklaus and Palmer. It was supposed to be a one-hour interview. Both gave him two hours of their time.

''The rich tradition of these championships really speaks to building the brand that is the USGA,'' Greenburg said. ''At the end of the day, this championship is measured through its past. Every year is a building block to what the U.S. Open stands for, and there's no better way to celebrate the U.S. Open.''

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.



It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.



Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.



Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.



Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.



After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.



Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.


Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters


Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.