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Ouimet's 74 was the second-best score of the third round, allowing him to share the 54-hole lead with Vardon and Ray. After dubbing his tee shot on the 140-yard 10th hole during the fourth round and making a double bogey, however, Ouimet faced a steep climb and needed to play the last six holes in two under to get into a playoff.
He chipped in for a birdie 3 from a difficult position on the 13th. Pars on the next three holes meant he still needed to birdie one of the last two to tie. After using his jigger (a 4-iron equivalent) to hit his second shot on the par-4 17th to 15 feet, Ouimet's bold putt, traveling on turf he knew from dawn and dusk sneak-ons, rattled the back of the cup for a vital three. A chip-and-putt par at 18 gave him a closing 79 and an appointment with destiny.
"Whoever wins," Darwin wrote, concluding his dispatch after Ouimet's fourth-round rally to tie Vardon and Ray, "there is only one hero of this Championship, and that one is Mr. Ouimet."
Ouimet wouldn't let Lowery (whose name was widely misreported as "Laurie" in the newspapers) be bullied off his bag by more seasoned hands prior to the start of the playoff. The little fellow urged on Ouimet with a patriotic message before the extra 18 began. "You've just got to beat those fellows, Francis," Lowery told him. "They never can take the championship across the water with them."
The day again started gloomy and damp, a mist hovering over the The Country Club's topography, which Darwin described as "rolling meadow land, thickly and prettily wooded, with every now and then a formidable rock that adds a touch of wildness and romance."
There would be more than moisture in the air. "Golf is an uncertain game in which breaks can and often do play a large part," Ouimet later observed. He got two really good ones -- beyond having the puckishly encouraging Lowery for a sideman -- in the playoff.
On the 420-yard, par-4 fifth hole, Ouimet's hands slipped off the rain-slickened grip of his brassie on his second shot. His ball flew sharply to the right and out of bounds, then a distance-only penalty. "Ouimet was lucky; if the ball had remained in play among the trees and underbrush, he might have made any score," wrote Robert Sommers in The U.S. Open: Golf's Ultimate Challenge, describing the moment. "Still calm, he dropped another ball, played a wonderful shot onto the edge of the green, and made his 5, matching Vardon and Ray."
Five holes later, at the short 10th that had been so costly to him in the fourth round, still tied with Vardon and Ray, he hit the green and two-putted for par. The Brits, though, fell behind Ouimet after they were left in a predicament after their tee shots. "This green was so soggy," Ouimet wrote in A Game of Golf, "that both Vardon and Ray, after pitching on, had to chip over the holes made by their balls as they bit into the soft turf and hopped back."
The bogeys by the Brits gave Ouimet a lead he did not relinquish. Heeding the advice McDermott had offered him as he warmed up before the playoff, Ouimet wasn't worrying what his highly favored opponents were doing. "& I did not wish to be unduly influenced by anything they did," was Ouimet's description of his mindset. "I was simply carrying out McDermott's instructions and playing my own game." As a modern sport psychologist would term it, Ouimet was into the process, staying in the present. Had there been scoreboards, he likely would have resisted sneaking a peek.
"I was fearful at the beginning that I should blow up," Ouimet would write, "and I fought against this for all I was worth. The thought of winning never entered my head, and for that reason I was immune to emotions of any sort."
Ray's form presently left him, and he trailed Ouimet by five after 16 holes. Vardon, however, was still a threat, only one behind as the threesome got to the 17th, which treated Ouimet so sweetly in the fourth round. But the best golfer the world had known -- so accurate it was said in afternoon rounds his tee shots would find fairway divots he had taken that morning -- succumbed to the moment as well.
"The pressure on them and myself was entirely different," Ouimet told Life magazine in 1963. "Their prestige was at stake. It had finally dawned on them how terrible it would be if I beat them."
Vardon took a bold line up the left so he would have a shorter approach, but his tee shot didn't carry far enough, finishing in a bunker near the lip, a lie that forced him to play safely to the fairway. A Vardon bogey to Ouimet's second birdie in a row on the hole adjacent to the young man's home meant breathing room for the finale. It was all over but more shouting from the damp, deliriously happy gallery. Ouimet's routine par 4 gave him an even-par 72 to Vardon's 77 and Ray's 78.
Darwin's pre-championship prognostication had been wrong, but he heaped praise upon the surprise winner, who had only played better as the pressure increased. "I think today's achievement was finer still," Darwin reported after the playoff. "He had had a night to sleep on the situation in which he suddenly found himself. He had to play against Vardon and Ray actually in the flesh, not merely against their scores on paper. He had to see their shots and follow them. He was one David against two Goliaths, and moreover, it was not that Ray and Vardon played badly."