Palmer Shines Brightest in 63 Western Open


The year was 1963. The place was Chicago. The event was the Western Open, the third oldest tournament on the PGA Tour. And the characters were Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Julius Boros ' three of the biggest names in golf at the time.
Palmer and Boros were at the peak of their games. Boros had won the U.S. Open in an 18-hole playoff over Palmer. Nicklaus was one year removed from his rookie season in 1962, but already on the verge of greatness. He had won the U.S. Open in 62, and the Masters and the PGA already in 63. The PGA was the week before the Western Open, and all three arrived at the top of their game.
Palmer hadnt won a major for the first time since 1960, but he was on a prolonged victory roll. He had won five tournaments in 1963 by the time the Western came in July. Obviously, he was a man to be reckoned with, also.
At the end of regulation, the three best players of 1963 stood all alone atop the leaderboard ' Boros, Nicklaus and Palmer. And in the 18-hole playoff, it was almost as close. Nicklaus shot a 73 and went by the wayside, but Palmer shot a 71, two putting for par on No. 18. That left only Boros, who had a little seven-footer for birdie at 18 to tie Palmer.
Boros had just rifled in a magnificent approach shot that rolled up to the shadow of the flag. Palmer completed his par and anxiously waited on the side, wondering if he would win, prepared to go to sudden death if Boros made it.
Boros studied the putt from all sides, then settled in for the stroke that would decide this battle of the best of 1963. He crouched over the ball, stroked it solidly ' then watched while it barely missed. Palmer was the champion.
The win was Palmers sixth, and he would win No. 7 before the year ended. Boros would win three times, including the win over Palmer in the U.S. Open playoff. And Nicklaus won five times in 1963, including his two majors.
This week, the professionals gather once again the Western Open, as they have off and on since 1899. Lately it has changed names often, having as sponsors such names at Beatrice, Centel, Sprint, Motorola and now Advil. Never, though, was there such a gathering of luminaries who played as great as the 1963 Western.