Bruce Devlin was signing his scorecard as the leaders were teeing it up. Under no pressure and under benign conditions as the wind, which had played havoc with field over the past two rounds, disappeared, leaving only the numerous bunkers and slick greens–which were there no matter what–Devlin shot a 63. That vaulted him up the leaderboard to twelfth, at the time, and left him at even par for the tournament. Needing about a dozen golfers to back up past him was an impossibility–not with this tour, but Devlin, who could have just as easily packed up and left, decided to hang around the clubhouse bar and watch on TV. He got a hell of a show.
Dow Finsterwald was attempting to go wire-to-wire. Up by one shot starting the day, he never could seem to get his engine started. 69 on a Sunday is pretty good. 69 against this crowd and in these conditions saw him come up two shots short.
Playing with Walter Hagen in the final pairing, Finsterwald scrambled twice for par in the first three holes. That luck ran out at four as Finsterwald’s tee shot landed in the Church
Pews. But it’s a par five and Finsterwald had a good shot at the green for his approach. Except he flew the green by a bit and hacked at a chip before two-putting for bogey. On the green in regulation for the next two holes, Finsterwald’s putter betrayed him, as he pushed a pair of ten-footers for birdie. He parred all the way through ten then finally made one of those ten-foot birdie putts at eleven. He parred the long five par at twelve before his putter got him again at thirteen. Lagging a 35-foot birdie putt to three feet, Finsterwald rimmed out and took a bogey four. But he recovered nicely at the short par four next, making a five-footer for birdie, then two-putted fifteen before scrambling for par at sixteen. Finsterwald’s final birdie was at seventeen when he dropped a sixteen-foot putt. He almost had one final birdie at the last, which only would have made a difference between finishing second and third, as he missed just a hair wide from 42 feet (a result of “2”).
So, Finsterwald and his 69 finished one shot better than where he started the day, his 5-under 275 good only for show money. Still, $680,000 moved Finsterwald into ninth place on the money list at just under two million four.
Finsterwald’s playing partner, Hagen, one stroke back starting play, dropped one more with a 71, as he ended him in seventh at 2-under, five behind the winner.
Hagen’s bogeys at five and eight effectively ran him out of the competition. A rotten 3-metal off the tee at five saw Hagen also miss the green with his approach. Still, he had six feet to make par and he missed badly. And, at the 294 yard par three eighth, Hagen hit a fat ol’ push shot. Still looking at over 60 yards, the club face on Hagen’s pitch opened up and he found himself laying two in the bunker. Unable to get up and down, he made bogey four. The final insult came at the last, when he pushed a driver, was only able to advance the ball about 130 yards out of the heavy rough and made his third and final bogey of the day.
Like Bruce Devlin, another man who seemingly came out of nowhere and almost won the darned thing was Arnold Palmer. Starting at even par and about an hour behind the leaders, Palmer, whose home course is not too far away in Latrobe, made Oakmont his own personal shooting gallery.
Yesterday, Palmer couldn’t find the fairways with a roadmap, hitting only three, though he recovered quite nicely to hit thirteen greens and, considering the windy conditions, finish with a respectable 71. Today, he missed just one fairway, hit fifteen greens and took five fewer putts once he landed on them. After a couple routine two-putt pars, Palmer birdied three of the next four. At three, it was a 9-iron approach to two feet. At four, it was a 34-foot birdie putt. And, at six, it was a 7-iron over the stick at the 191 yard par three and a six-footer for birdie.
Like Popeye had his spinach, Arnie had his can of Arnie at the turn and the onslaught continued. Ten was a 334 yard bomb off the tee and a sand wedge to within nine feet of the 473 yard hole. The putt was just about dead center and Palmer was 4-under for the day. Palmer could have picked up another stroke at eleven but missed a ten-footer. No matter, as he got it at twelve as he hit driver/3-metal just over 600 yards. Still 67 yards out, he missed wide with his approach. But his putter was up to the task as he canned a 24-foot birdie putt. At fifteen, Palmer’s 7-iron approach from 206 missed short and left. But his putter came through again, this time from 22 feet. Palmer always had his following–“Arnie’s Army”–but new recruits were joining at every hole as he climbed the leaderboard, almost to the point that there were plenty of empty greenside seats for Finsterwald and Hagen.
Unfortunately, Palmer got derailed at sixteen, as every club he used took a siesta, pushing a 4-iron off the tee, leaving plenty of room to chip and run with but missing badly, then two-putting for bogey. In the end, that and maybe eighteen were the difference between winning (or tying) and finishing as runner-up. Palmer got back to his birdie ways at seventeen, hitting a 60 degree wedge approach to seven feet and making the putt. Eighteen was a 326 yard laser off the tee and an 8-iron to eighteen feet. But Palmer never gave himself a chance, midjudging the speed and coming up well short, but making the six footer for par nonetheless. 64. Very nice. But one shot short.
And the winner is… Willie Campbell. Playing in the penultimate group with the third member of the triumvirate at 3-under starting today’s play, Retief Goosen, Campbell applied the pressure by going out in 32 on his way to a 66.
Campbell almost eagled two, almost holing out from 99 yards. At three, it was on in regulation and a 24-footer for birdie. After getting up and down out of the sand for par at five, Campbell had no such luck at six, underclubbing a 7-iron and making bogey four. But he bounced right back at seven and eight. At seven, he overshot the green with a 7-iron from 185 by not too much and chipped in for birdie. And, at the long par three eighth, Campbell landed safely on the green–no small feat–and, in the process of lag putting, drained a 38-footer for birdie anyway. Par at nine and out in 32.
Driver, pitching wedge and six-foot birdie putt at ten put Campbell into the lead at 7-under as Arnie, about five holes ahead, had gotten it to 6-under. Campbell fell back into a tie with Palmer as he missed the green left at the par three thirteenth and couldn’t scramble his way out of it. But, again, Campbell rebounded by cashing in at the 346 yard fourteenth with a well-placed 3-metal and a three-quarter sand wedge to seven feet and a birdie putt.
Campbell had to maintain that for the next four holes. Fifteen was a safe 3-metal off the tee and a two-putt par. Sixteen was a knee-knocker as his 4-iron off the tee at the 238 yard par three was wide left. The good news was that Campbell had a lot of green to work with. The bad news was that his pitch and run could have been better. But his ten foot par putt fell in the side door (a result of “6”). Back to normal at seventeen with a routine two-putt par. An eighteen turned out to be a no-doubter, Campbell electing to hit driver at the 490 yard hole, hitting it 308 dead down the middle then putting his 6-iron pin high and nine feet left, easily two-putting for the win.
I COULD HAVE BEEN A CONTENDER:
Scott Verplank, who started the day at 1-under, ran his score to 5-under after seven, including three in a row starting at three. And, even though Verplank went out in a more than respectable 32, a driver into the ditch at nine and a subsequent bogey precipitated his downfall, as he also bogeyed twelve and sixteen, shooting 1-over 36 on the back and eventually finishing with a 2-under 68.
Leo Diegel was never really in it, starting the day at 2-over. Three of each on the front side sent him to the halfway mark in an even par 35. But Diegel lit it up on the back to the tune of five birdies and a bogey, mostly with the putter as he made three birdie putts of twelve feet or more, but also with the sand wedge as he nearly holed out from 79 yards at seventeen, tapping in for birdie three. Still, he finished at 2-under and, if the front side looked even remotely like the back nine, Diegel might have made a run.
Retief Goosen went out in 3-over 38 thanks mostly to bogeys at one, when the green seemed to be a moving target, and at two thanks to a drive into the ditch. Goosen never quite recovered from that and finished with a 73 and even par for the tourney. If he shoots 67, as he did in the opening round and under pretty much the same conditions, save for the Sunday pin placements, Goosen would have been right in the thick of things.
SHOTS OF THE DAY:
Considering the end result, Campbell’s effort at two has to merit serious consideration. But, there were three that were better, one of those much better.
The honorable mentions: The second hole was apparently a great place to watch golfers take aim as both Craig Wood and Scott Hoch holed out for eagle. For Wood, being well off the pace (+11 for the tourney) and a heavy hitter, he went for broke at the 335 yard hole, almost driving the green then pitching in from 22 yards. For Hoch, also well out of it, eventually finishing at +12, he also dialed long distance. But he’s not the heavy hitter that Wood is and only hit his drive 281. He holed out from 56 yards.
And the best shot of the day goes to… Jug McSpaden. At three, after pushing a driver way right and under a tree, McSpaden hit a low running slice (OK, he “shaped” it. Whoop-de-do.) from 180. With lots of fairway and green to work with, McSpaden’s ball rolled up and in. He finished well back in the pack at 6-over.
ROUNDING OUT THE TOP TEN:
Well, there’s Campbell, Palmer and Finsterwald at -7, -6 and -5, respectively. Verplank (68 today), Tony Lema and Ralph Guldahl (both with 69) finished tied for fourth at -3. Diegel (66) and Hagen (71) finished tied for seventh at -2. And, in a four-way tie for ninth at 1-under are Bobby Nichols (66), Ted Kroll and Old Tom Morris (68) and Byron Nelson (71).
ELVIS HAS LEFT THE BUILDING:
Some must leave, thirteen, to be exact. They might not be missed, but they will definitely be replaced–by thirteen others from the Staffa Tour. The relegated are: Antonio Cerda, Willie Smith, Stuart Appleby, James Braid, Jim Colbert, Mike Weir, Jimmy Clark, Bob Lunn, Sam Byrd, Bob Murphy, Bob Goalby, Gardner Dickinson and Herman Keiser.