The Backspin Issue: 1960March 22, 2010

One To Remember

Nick Seitz recalls covering the 1960 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills

Arnold Palmer came from seven shots back in the final round to win the 1960 U.S. Open.

Arnold Palmer came from seven shots back in the final round to win the 1960 U.S. Open.

I was at the 1960 U.S. Open, a boy newspaper reporter in that part of the country. What I remember about that week at Cherry Hills in Denver comes back in digital, high-def clarity -- but don't ask me about the rest.

In the first round I chanced to be at the scene of the crime when Tommy Bolt drowned two shots off the 18th tee and then heaved his driver as far as he could into the large pond. A photograph in a local paper caught him at the top of his classic cast. I searched for myself in the background but found only disappointment.

I mostly followed my first hero, Hogan, 47 and gamely seeking his fifth Open title. Hitting virtually every fairway and green but freezing over putts, he and the beefy amateur Nicklaus were three behind after their third round.

Masters champion Palmer was another four back. Writer pals Bob Drum and Dan Jenkins fired him up during the lunch break by scoffing at his chances of making up seven shots.

So Palmer drove the green on the par-4 first hole and went on a furious charge. I was ahead of him following Hogan and launching my now-vast collection of Great Shots I've Just Missed. But it was impossible to miss the mighty roar, and I doubled back to catch the consummation of Palmer's birdie.

Fast forward to 5 o'clock shadows and a fatigued Hogan at the par-5 17th, tied for the lead. Two typically solid shots left him facing a half-wedge to an island green, the pin teasingly cut just over the water.

Trying for birdie, he hit a crisp shot to the front of the green … that spun back into the water. Some claimed the ball landed on the bank. I was standing opposite where it came down a good yard on the green.

After intense deliberation, Hogan put a foot in the water, splashed the ball out and made bogey. On the 18th tee he gambled on a dangerous line -- and didn't quite clear the water.

Palmer won with the record Open comeback. Nicklaus was second with the record low amateur total. Hogan tied for ninth. Years later I realized the historic nature of the event.