A White House hacker named Gerald R. Ford won low President, golf's new Hall of Fame building edged out the Northpark shopping center in Dallas for architecture, half the field tied for the World Open after 72 holes in the pines and sand of North Carolina, Frank Beard set some kind of a record for a ball taking bad bounces as it came off a putter—that's how the pros sometimes say they blew a short one—Jack Nicklaus turned mortal again, Tom Weiskopf lost another bout with himself, and when the last big tournament of the year finally ended last week Johnny Miller (yawn, nod, chin on chest) had won again.
To get the necessary and impressive statistics out of the way first, it was Miller's seventh victory of the year, the 10th of his fresh career, and the $60,000 first prize sent his 1974 earnings screaming up to $316,383, making it all but certain that he will break the money-earning record for a single year that Nicklaus set two seasons ago. Miller needs roughly $4,000 more to do it. A mere bagatelle in the financial world of the touring pro.
As for the quality of all this achievement, by conquering wonderful old Pinehurst No. 2, Miller emphasized the fact that he is a fairly nifty customer on some of the game's finer layouts. Who else today can boast that he has scored a couple of pure knockouts over such treasured relics as Oakmont and Pinehurst? Miller ran a 63 into the veins of each.
It was, in fact, Miller's eight-under 63 in the second round at Pinehurst that vaulted him into the World Open lead, and thereafter it was his classy variety of shotmaking that enabled him to get into and survive the theatrics of last Sunday evening's four-way sudden-death playoff.
"I shoot low rounds because I'm not afraid to keep making birdies," Johnny said later. "Most guys go out there, make a couple of birdies and think to themselves, 'Gee, I hope I can get in with a 69, that would be a good score today.' When I start hitting it close and getting them in the hole, I try to keep doing it. I want to make all I can to make up for the round I may have tomorrow when nothing drops."
Actually, what it all came down to, in terms of Miller's victory, is that he hit a delicate and dangerous little chip shot just perfectly on the final hole of the tournament to save his par and join Nicklaus, Frank Beard and Bob Murphy in the swatfest that began on the 15th tee—the first televised hole, of course.
There, Murphy picked up on his way to a double bogey. On 16, Miller, displaying the stylish and almost effortless way he swings a golf club, laced a gorgeous three-wood through the tunnel of pines on the 504-yard par-5 hole that came to rest eight feet from the cup.
Beard, who blew winning putts on the last green and on the first sudden-death green—putts of only six feet—had reached the green, but he was 40 feet away and Miller's beautiful shot must have disheartened him because the 40-footer hurtled 12 feet past the hole. When he could not sink it coming back, Beard was out.
It was after Miller's beauty on 16 that Nicklaus had to try to duplicate a shot he had made earlier in the day with his trusty one-iron. This time he pulled the ball into an awkward lie just off the green, had virtually no chance to get his chip shot close, and did not. That was basically it. Miller wound up with the luxury of being able to two-putt from eight feet for another championship.
"I guess you can say that Johnny's good shot caused me to hit a bad one," said Nicklaus. "But although I knew he was close, I knew it wasn't an easy putt. So I lost another golf tournament, but I never enjoyed playing a golf course more. Pinehurst No. 2 is fabulous. I learned about five things about design this week—on a course 50 years old."