U11 ROUND OF RENOWN Sunday, June 10, 2007 TRIB TOTAL MEDIA 107th U.S. Open Championship, Oakmont Country Club Johnny Miller’s dissection of Oakmont stands test of time He outdueled Arnold Palmer, among others, with his record- setting, final-round 63 in 1973. BY MIKE DUDURICH TRIBUNE-REVIEW At 60, the passage of time has allowed Johnny Miller additional perspective on what happened at Oakmont Country Club 34 years ago. Remember that incredible final-round 63 he shot in the 1973 U.S. Open? It’s one Miller will certainly never forget. “Well, it was voted as the best round of golf ever played,” said Miller, as he relaxed on a couch in one of NBC’s trailers at The Players Championship. “I knew it was a great round. But I was more impressed with the fact that I won the Open.” Not only was that round a winner, it was the first time anyone had shot a 63 in a major. Further, Miller’s historic round was the lowest 18-hole score in U.S. Open history and remains two shots better than anyone has posted in the final round of the Open. “Now that I’m older, to look back at all the rounds that have ever been played and when you say there have been 59s and then, well, 63 in the final round to beat Arnold Palmer, I give it to Johnny Miller,” said Miller, smiling. “It’s sort of cool — no, it’s really cool — to think you maybe played the best round ever in the U.S. Open.” Miller came into that final Sunday six shots out of the lead. A third-round 76 appeared to have sealed his fate. “I had forgotten my yardage book on Saturday,” he said. “My wife, Linda, went back and got it for me and gave it to me on the 10th tee. By that time, I was 5-over-par.” Miller, 26 at the time, was certain he was headed home. “I figured after shooting 76 on Saturday, I was done,” Miller said with a shrug. “And I could catch that last flight out to San Francisco (Sunday night). I was the kind of guy who got out of town quicker than anybody in the game.” Miller, who had teed off an hour earlier than the leaders — one of whom was Palmer — birdied his first four holes. In fact, birdies appeared to be the order of the day. Despite a three-putt bogey on the long par-3 eighth, Miller birdied Nos. 9, 11, 12, 13 and 15. When he walked off 18, Miller had posted nine birdies and one bogey. It COURTESY USGA ARCHIVES was a spectacular display of shot-making on a golf course that had been tamed by Johnny Miller holds the championship trophy after winning the 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club. persistent rain. “I played really well,” Miller said. “I hit all 18 greens in regulation. My will handle what he believes to be the putting wasn’t that good. If it had been, greatest test in U.S. Open golf. the score could have been a lot lower.” Miller’s 1973 U.S. Open scorecard “After this Open, Oakmont might Miller credits his iron play in helping become the No. 1 course in the United cast a “magical day.” at Oakmont’s par-71 course (final round 63, 8-under-par) States,” Miller said. “Shinnecock is “I knocked it close on just about every close, but tee to green, Oakmont is the hole,” he said. “I was in a definite zone, 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 OUT 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 IN best test of anywhere in the world.” like in another world. When I look back And what will it take to hoist this at my face, I was very aware of what was 4 4 4 5 4 3 4 3 5 36 4 4 5 3 4 4 3 4 4 35 year’s U.S. Open trophy? going on. I never did choke with any iron “They (the USGA) can make it where shots the whole day.” 3 3 3 4 4 3 4 4 4 32 4 3 4 2 4 3 3 4 4 31 it’s unplayable,” Miller said. “So, I Miller’s birdie on the 13th hole tied wouldn’t be surprised if over-par will him with Palmer. A birdie on No. 15 gave win. But if they get some breezes and him the outright lead — a lead he never no rain, it could be a little embarrassing relinquished. 76 remains the fifth-highest third-round Jack Nicklaus, who finished tied for with some of the scores these guys will One of those ahead of him on the board score by an Open winner. He’s the last fourth with Palmer, wasn’t having any shoot.” was John Schlee, one of four co-leaders player to have such an inflated score and of it, either. Either way, Miller is sure the public (including Palmer). His share of the go on to win the tournament. “Johnny was done before I teed off, I will “fall in love” with Oakmont’s lead was short-lived. Schlee hit three In some quarters, Miller’s round remember that,” Nicklaus said at the distinctive layout. tee shots off No. 1, took a double bogey was criticized as it was played on a rain- Players in May. “They’ve had all kinds “It’s sort of a true inland links course and eventually lost by a stroke. softened course. He takes exception to the of rumors of what happened at the golf with the fescue and no trees except for a Palmer finished with a final-round 72. criticism. course. The sprinklers got stuck on or few landmark ones near the clubhouse,” Julius Boros and Jerry Heard each shot “I’ll tell you what: The ball was rolling whatever … so the golf course was extra Miller said. 73 and finished tied for seventh. maybe 5 or 10 yards that day, that’s it,” wet. And we didn’t know that in the Miller is proud his only U.S. Open Miller hit 18 greens and missed only Miller said. “I was swinging as hard as afternoon, because the golf course played win — one of 25 PGA Tour titles — played one fairway. He hit five approach shots I could all day. Oakmont after a rain is its normal way. out at the renowned Oakmont. inside 6 feet, two of which rolled to within harder than most courses dry. The sub- “But I don’t care if the sprinklers were And while Miller walked away with a foot of the cup. soil is clay that doesn’t absorb water at stuck on or the holes were six inches the championship that wet Sunday His comeback was the second best all. It wasn’t as if we were throwing darts wide,” Nicklaus added. “That was one afternoon in 1973, the legendary golfer by a winner, one shot behind Palmer’s at those greens. I could have shot 59, and heck of a round of golf.” accepts he will be remembered for that memorable comeback at Cherry Hills in only three other guys broke 70.” Miller is excited to come back to final-round 63. 1960. Miller gave little notice to the chirping Oakmont this week as NBC’s lead analyst. “It’s going to be on my tombstone,” On the flip side, Miller’s third-round that followed his record-setting round. He can’t wait to see how the top players he said, laughing.