As officials scurried around putting the gallery ropes back in place on the first and second holes, preparing for a sudden-death playoff, Miller hit a three-wood off the 17th tee and then hit one of those seven-irons for which he was famed in his glory days.
Back then, Miller was always a close-to-the-flag hitter; when he was on a hot streak, he could tear the pins out of the cups. That's how he shot the 63 at Oakmont when he won the 1973 U.S. Open, and that's how he twice shot rounds of 61 while winning all those tournaments in the desert.
Now at the 17th Miller stuck a seven-iron in there about four feet from the flag, and when he confidently rammed the birdie putt into the cup with his new-old putter, the tournament was his. His four rounds totaled up to a 15-under 265 and the check for winning added up to $54,000.
The Tucson Open also belonged, off and on, to Halldorson. The tournament began the way most desert tournaments do, with somebody shooting a 63. This time it was Halldorson. The public had every right to ask: Who's Dan Halldorson? Within the preceding three months, he'd twice been a winner, but not on television and hardly in newsprint.
A stout, blond, bespectacled 28-year-old Canadian, Halldorson won the Pensacola Open, the last official event of 1980. It was his first victory on the PGA tour. The Pensacola Open was played in the middle of October, which is to say it was played in the middle of football season and the baseball playoffs and didn't attract much attention.
Two months later he teamed up with countryman Jim Nelford to win the World Cup in Bogota, Colombia, but that didn't attract much notice, seeing as the event was played without a coup or a revolt or a record drug bust taking place on the premises. Thus, Halldorson was in Tucson as an oddity: a combination two-time winner and basic unknown.
Halldorson yielded the lead to Miller after 36 holes, but reclaimed it by firing a 66 during Saturday's third round, while Miller had an even par 70. Halldorson built his two-stroke lead to three after seven holes of the final round on Sunday. From there on, however, he had more bogeys than birdies, and his one-over-par performance for the day wasn't good enough to stave off Miller or Hinkle. Halldorson settled for third, but it's evident golf is going to hear more from him.
The Tucson Open wasn't televised, so the latest—perhaps that should be final—step in Miller's comeback was witnessed only by desert folk. Winning is one thing, but winning the way Miller did it—under pressure—is something else entirely. Chances are he could have done it even if he hadn't been in the desert. Fans of golf must hope so.
So also must PGA Tour Commissioner Deane Beman, who has been genuinely concerned lately about an apparent trailing off of interest in golf. The return of Miller, always a crowd-pleasing figure, has to be good news. It's certainly a far better solution to the popularity problem than last year's gambit—Official Statistics. These were issued weekly and were intended to create an ongoing interest in the game that the money list couldn't engender. The stats were relegated to agate type or oblivion by sports editors, but the computer stayed on the job.
It can now be revealed that the leaders in some of the categories in 1980 were as follows: Dan Pohl was the longest driver with an average whap of 274.3 yards; Jack Nicklaus hit the highest percentage of greens in regulation (.721); Andy Bean made the most birdies (388); Jerry Pate averaged the fewest putts per round (28.81); and Mike Reid was the most accurate driver, hitting the highest percentage of fairways (.795).