Casper and the 1966 U.S. Open

By Mercer BaggsFebruary 8, 2015, 6:04 am

Billy Casper never thought he had a chance. No one did. No one thought anyone other than Arnold Palmer was going to win the 1966 U.S. Open.

All Casper wanted to do was hold off Jack Nicklaus for second place. Standing on the 10th tee during the final round at Olympic Club in San Francisco, Calif., he confessed as much to Palmer.

“And Arnold Palmer being an extremely nice guy says, ‘Billy, don’t worry about it. I’ll do anything I can to help you. Hang in there and make some birdies and you’ll be fine,’” said Ian O’Connor, author of “Arnie and Jack: Palmer, Nicklaus, and Golf’s Greatest Rivalry.”

When a man leads the national championship by seven strokes with nine holes to play, and that man is a seven-time major winner, and that man is Arnold Palmer, that man is not concerned with anyone else in the field. That man is focused on history.

And history said Ben Hogan held the 72-hole U.S. Open scoring record at 276, set in 1948 at Riviera.

That’s what Palmer wanted. He and Hogan had history. Ever since …

But, this isn’t about Palmer.

Casper shared the 36-hole lead at Olympic, but fell three back after shooting 73 to Palmer’s 70 in the third round. Palmer shot 32 to Casper’s 36 over the first nine in the final round and, voilà: seven-stroke cushion.

All Palmer had to do was shoot 1-over 36 on the back nine and the Open record was his.

But …


[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"977926","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"350","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"600"}}]]

Billy Casper reacts to a birdie at No. 11 during the 1966 U.S. Open playoff. (AP)


Palmer started making bogeys and when Casper birdied the 15th and Palmer dropped another shot, the difference was three with three to play.

“All of a sudden, Casper says to himself, ‘I’ve got a chance to win this tournament,’ and he stops talking to Arnold,” O’Connor said. “Arnold gets mad at that because, ‘Hey, you’re my buddy. I encouraged you earlier and all of a sudden you’re trying to take this away from me?’”

There was another birdie-bogey exchange at 16 and Palmer made bogey again at 17. Seven shots, gone in eight holes. Palmer had to get up and down on the 18th, and have Casper miss his birdie putt, just to make an 18-hole playoff.

Monday was a similar scenario. Palmer led by two at the turn but fell apart on the back nine, shooting 40. Casper won by four shots to claim his second of three career major victories. Walking off the final hole of competition, Casper put his arm around Palmer … and apologized.

“I said, ‘Arnold, I’m sorry.’ And I truly was sorry, because he had played such great golf,” Casper said recently. “He should have and potentially could have won the championship, but the back nine was his nemesis.”

People will forever remember the 1966 U.S. Open for Palmer’s defeat. But Casper, ever in the shadows, played his part and earned his victory. He shot 69 that day and had shot 32, to Palmer’s 39, on Sunday’s back nine.

“It was such an important thing in my life, because I had the good fortune to win the Open in ’59. I had learned course management from watching Hogan when I was a teenager and it resulted in me winning,” Casper said. “As I won the Open I wanted to win it again, and then to be locked up in such an experience with Palmer there at Olympic Club – it was fascinating, because everybody was in Arnie’s Army and as I started catching up, many of them became Casper Converts.”

Getty Images

Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.


Masters victory


Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative


Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ


Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket


Man of the people


Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief


Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together


Ace at 17th at Sawgrass


Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018


Departure from TaylorMade


Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade


Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'


Victory at Valderrama


Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm
Getty Images

Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.