Or did he? The year was 1966, the site was the Olympic Club. It was the final round and Arnie had a commanding seven-shot lead nine holes from the end.
When Palmer bogeyed No. 10, no one thought much about it. He was still six shots ahead in this runaway with only eight holes to go. Billy Casper was back there winning the battle for second place. Palmer already had the title in the real battle.
Both parred the 11th and both birdied the 12th, so Palmers edge was six shots with now just six holes to go. No reason for anyone to get upset, Arnie was certainly going to win.
There still wasnt much worry when Palmer bogeyed the 13th, shooting for the flag as he always did. Casper made a par, hanging on to second, playing safe to defeat the rest of the field. Both parred the 14th, leaving Palmer ahead by four just four holes remaining.
Suddenly, at the 15th, Palmer was again going for the flag and again making bogey. And at the same time Casper was sinking a 20-footer for birdie. Hmmm. Well, this might get close, everyone thought. Casper would probably still finish second, since he was now three shots behind with just three holes left to play. But there was going to be a better match than it showed when Palmer was ahead by seven midway though the round.
I started to feel I could win when I was walking to the 16th tee, revealed Casper. Hey, I thought, I can win this tournament.
On the 604-yard 16th, Casper was his same dependable self, finding the fairway with his drive. Palmers drive wasnt so lucky, nailing a tree and finding rough. Instead of just advancing it down the fairway, Arnie tried to lash at it with a 3-iron and moved it only about 30 yards.
He had to hit a 9-iron next, leaving himself 270 yards away for his fourth shot. Meanwhile, Casper had taken out his 2-iron to position himself nicely, needing a 5-iron to land on the green within 15 feet of the hole.
Palmer played a wonderful shot for his fourth, but it wound up in a greenside bunker. His fifth-shot explosion landed near the pin, but Casper holed his putt for birdie. When Palmer saved his bogey, he now led by only one shot.
It was all gone at the next hole, 17. Palmer bogeyed yet again, while steady Billy made par. Casper had made up an unbelievable seven shots in just eight holes. What was once an afterthought was now a reality.
They both parred 18, Palmer with a four-foot putt, and they were destined to an 18-hole Monday playoff.
Monday Arnie led at the turn by two, but once again, the final nine did him in. By days end he shot 73 while Casper had a 69. The greatest collapse in the history of the U.S. Open was complete.
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