Imagine Golf Blogs

The Perfect Script

With the upcoming PGA Championship being held at Hazeltine, Imagine Golf Club's Dermot Gilleece looks back at Tony Jacklin's great victory there

Posted Aug 10, 2009 by Dermot Gilleece

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 Much has changed at Hazeltine National since the US Open was first staged there on June 18th to 21st, 1970.  It was an occasion when the opening round was swept by winds of up to 40mph causing scores to soar, with Arnold Palmer carding a 79 while Jack Nicklaus had an embarrassing 81, the worst round of his US Open career.

Not surprisingly, struggling players blamed everything but themselves.  So we had some memorable comments about the course, which was designed by the celebrated American architect, Robert Trent Jones.  "Jones has so many doglegs on this course, he must have laid it out in a kennel," was one of the choicer contributions from Bob Rosburg.

Yet it was here that Tony Jacklin captured the US Open for a distinction which has yet to be matched by a European player.  And he took the title by the crushing margin of seven strokes while managing to increase his lead each day.  So there is a fascinating ring to his memories of that triumph, especially with the PGA Championship returning there this week, with Padraig Harrington defending the title.

"By any standards, it was a fantastic occasion for me, right from the start," Jacklin recalled.  "Indeed looking back over a long career, it was probably the best performance of my life, all things considered."  He went on: "On the opening day, I managed to shoot a 71 against an average for the field of 79.1. So, with a two-shot lead over Julius Boros, Mason Rudolph and Chi Chi Rodriguez, it became a matter of playing great golf and keeping my head about me from then on.

"Now, all these years later, it surprises me to some degree that I remain the last European to win the US Open.  I suppose the different nature of the courses, the way they're set up and the general standard of play over there, is bound to make it more difficult for players making the odd raid, than it was for me.

"When I won at Hazeltine, the US was my circuit. But there were other elements which became important, like the fact that the weather wasn't particularly good for the first two days. As it happened I got off to a great start while half the field were blown away. I just minded my business and got on with what I was doing. A second round of 70 increased my lead to three strokes over Dave Hill at the half-way stage and I had another 70 to be four strokes clear of Hill with one round to play.  And for good measure, I finished with a 70."

Jacklin remembered missing short putts which led to bogeys at the seventh and eighth on the final day, but luck was with him on the ninth. His long-range birdie putt smacked into the back of the hole and popped up a few inches before dropping into the cup. That settled him down and by the time he was going up the 18th for the last time, he knew this was as good as it was ever going to get.  "I remember hitting a good drive and then a four-iron second shot to about 20 feet short of the hole," he said.  "Next thing, I was standing over the putt and thinking that holing it would be a helluva way to finish.

"Then, as I was thinking it I was doing it.  And the ball dropped. And it was just a wonderful moment. I was the first English winner of the title since Ted Ray, back at Inverness in 1920. Ben Wright (the British-born golf writer turned television commentator) was there. In fact I think he was the only reporter from home.  Not many of them travelled in those days."

He concluded: "At the level of a major championship, golf is very much a mind game. And ultimately, it comes down to whether you can handle the heat. Of course you've got to be fortunate as well and I was lucky at Hazeltine in that I opened up such a strong lead that I didn't really need too many favourable bounces. Then there was that birdie on the ninth which gave me priceless confidence coming down the stretch. Soon it was all over. I'd done it.
With the way my lead increased every day, it leads me to think that if you were to write the perfect script for a major championship win, it would be difficult to improve on Hazeltine 1970."




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