The playing quality of the course was wholly responsible for the low scoring in this Open. It had nothing to do with the golfers improving or being up for this tournament, or pushing each other to remarkable deeds. The greens were soft from rains earlier in the week—soft underneath—and this made the iron shots hold on the putting surfaces. Never in the four days did the greens putt with the speed and quickness one expects at a U.S. Open. The fairways were not only wide, but they were also perfect, a blend of Astoria and Seaside bent.
Baltusrol yielded more subpar rounds than any Open course ever had, and five men broke the par of 280, as if this were some regular event on the PGA Tour. "I just shot the fourth lowest score in the history of the U.S. Open," said Watson of his 276, "and I lost by four shots." Indeed, Nicklaus' winning total of 272 encourages one to think of the Baltusrol tournament as the Greater Hartford Sammy Davis, Jr. U.S. Open, which is how it might have been remembered if, let's say, Fergus had made a few more putts.
But it was Nicklaus who did the putting and joined Willie Anderson, Bobby Jones and Ben Hogan as the only men ever to win four Opens, and matched Anderson as the only man to have won the Open twice on the same course, Anderson having done it at the Myopia Hunt Club in 1901 and '05. It is Nicklaus—18 years after his first Open victory—who holds or is tied for all the Open records now.
That was the longest walk Jack had ever taken out there last Sunday, up that final hill at Baltusrol. He knew how far he had come—all the way back from the land of fallen idols. Golf may not see such a thing again for a long while.