Meanwhile, O'Meara was working his way to a 68 at Cypress Point, having caught it on a moderately calm day, which means the life lines were stowed. Coming down the stretch, he made four birdies, once just missing a hole-in-one when his six-iron tee shot stopped two inches from the cup.
On Sunday, O'Meara went after his first important pro win. "I was playing conservatively, but no one was making a move, and on a course like Pebble Beach, you just try to hang on," he said later. His only birdie came at the par-5 6th hole, where he made a 20-footer, after he'd bogeyed the previous hole.
He also bogeyed the par-3 12th, hitting a three-iron left and leaving an 18-foot putt short. With Arai up ahead and Strange, O'Meara's playing partner, now tied at four-under, a stroke behind, O'Meara steadied himself with a six-foot par putt on the 15th, a six-footer for par on the next hole and a par at the 17th that will be remembered for some time.
Such is the difficulty of Pebble Beach that many of its success stories—Watson's chip-in on the 17th at the '82 U.S. Open is a notable example—involve the adroit way a golfer has escaped from the course's hazards. A five-iron by O'Meara at the 209-yard 17th Sunday left him with a buried lie in a bunker. "I was just hoping to get on the green," he said later. O'Meara blasted out, his ball rolling to a stop 12 feet past the pin, and then holed the putt for a heroic par that sent him to the final hole with his one-stroke lead.
After two one-irons, an eight-iron approach and two putts from 14 feet on the last hole for a safe par and Strange's missed birdie putt, O'Meara visited the press room. He sounded more relieved than victorious, more a survivor than a winner, but that's life for a golfer on the Monterey Peninsula. "Straight down the middle," Bing used to sing. "Straight down the middle." At the Crosby, unlike some places, that is easier said than done.