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Dan Jenkins
June 26, 1978
Andy North knew he didn't need par on the awesome 18th. One over would suffice—and two high-pressure shots got it for him
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June 26, 1978

The Bogey That Won The Open

Andy North knew he didn't need par on the awesome 18th. One over would suffice—and two high-pressure shots got it for him

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He got over the ball, paused and backed away. He got over the ball again, paused and backed away. But the third time he crouched over the putt—and just when most everybody knew he would surely blow it—Andy North rammed the ball into the cup.

It might have been the 30th or 40th four-footer he made in this Open. No matter. It was definitely the longest putt the last player in the field ever made on the last hole to win an Open.

Later, North said, "Making a four-foot putt to win the Open is something you usually only pretend to do in practice rounds."

Who is Andy North? Well, he's a tall, friendly, likable chap who won only one tournament as a professional before last week. That was last summer's Westchester Classic. He is a long hitter like so many other young men on the tour, another of those fellows who learned his trade in the college ranks at the University of Florida. It may have added to his relative obscurity that Florida's two NCAA golf championships came the year before Andy got there and the year after he left. Of late, he had mainly been known as a close friend of Tom Watson. In the locker room, Watson and the others call him "Drew."

The record will show that North's concluding 74 was the most mediocre finishing round for a winner since Cary Middlecoff's 75 back in 1949, but all along the players had guessed that Cherry Hills' tangled bluegrass rough, and the rugged homeward stretch—and the devilish 18th—would produce a winning total of even par, or near there. North's 285 was one over. In further testimony to Cherry Hills' confounding problems was the fact that both Stockton and Snead had made a good run at the title by producing nothing more blazing on Sunday than one-over 72s. Stockton will dwell for a certain amount of time, no doubt, on the curious statistic that he played the 18th in four over for the tournament, and lost by one.

As for Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus, they may be thinking of opportunities lost in the final round. Player started Sunday only one stroke back of North, and paired with him. He was, as his friend and manager Mark McCormack described him, "in a deep spiritual mood" to win the Open and carry the title along with the Masters toward a possible Grand Slam. Gary shot a stunning 77, however, largely because of some atrocious putting. He wound up in a six-way tie for sixth place with Nicklaus, Bill Kratzert, Andy Bean, Johnny Miller, who had two gorgeous rounds of 68 and 69, and Watson, who kept last week from being an embarrassment by plodding back with a couple of 70s after a terribly indifferent beginning.

Nicklaus was another weird story. He was very much a part of the tournament all the way until a pair of double bogeys did him in on Sunday. On Saturday he had a triple bogey 7 on 13. He did it with his own little wedge from the heart of the fairway. He first hit a fat wedge into a creek, then he hit a strong wedge over the green and into a bunker, and the only thing humorous about any of it was that Jack had paused after his tee shot to visit a portable John. Make up your own jokes.

If not always a laugh a minute, each day of the Open was fascinating and filled to the brim of the bag with weird events. There were aces and whiffs, eagles and triple bogeys, shots soaring into the water, shots disappearing into the blue-grass, greens firmed up to make wedges bounce all the way to Cheyenne, footnotes to history and outside agencies distracting competitors to the point of compelling them to curse and scream.

Thursday's opening 18 had barely started, for example, when a fellow named Bob Impaglia became a part of golfing lore. At around 10:15 that morning Impaglia (page 19) was given a two-stroke penalty for slow play—the first such penalty ever in the U.S. Open.

Also on Thursday, a few thousand people decided to go out to the 1st tee and watch Arnold Palmer drive the green, as he had in 1960 when he came from all of those strokes behind to win the Open with a 65 in the last round. Except it was a different 1st tee this time, one which had been constructed to make the par-4 play much longer and more of a dogleg.

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