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Destiny's New Favorite: Palmer beats Nicklaus and Hogan at Cherry Hills

Quite apart from the flamboyant golf it provided, the 60th Open was a notably enjoyable occasion. Cherry Hills had the air of a friendly country fair, an altogether different atmosphere from the chill metropolitan remoteness which prevailed last June at Winged Foot. A newborn community of large green tents almost overwhelmed the rambling neo-Tudor clubhouse. Marshals in red slacks and women scorers in red skirts and red-ribboned gondolier hats moved endlessly among the cottonwoods and the Chinese elms. Around the perimeter of the course kids straight out of Norman Rockwell had set up lemonade stands and were marketing their drinks for a nickel or a dime a glass. In the distance rose the eastern slopes of the Rockies and, not far beyond, a higher ridge covered with snow that looked like an old calendar or a new beer ad—perhaps more like the latter in the minds of the galleries parched by the unrelenting sun.

Best-run Open
If there was something of an old-time picnic flavor to this Open, there was also order. Cherry Hills, no question about it, was far better prepared to run the championship than any club had ever been before. Nothing was overlooked, everything seemed to move without effort. It is significant that the general chairman, Mr. H. R. Berglund, took a leave of absence from his business two years ago and spent the intervening months working solely on the Open.

Because of these circumstances, it would be agreeable to report that the course itself presented an unusually good championship test. This, I am afraid, was not the case. Cherry Hills is simply too short a layout to examine the skills of our present-day professional and amateur stars. Time, moreover, has outmoded some of the strategic features of its topography. It does have four excellent short holes, and the last five holes, designed to be punishing, add up to a rough finishing stretch, but no less than seven of its par-4s play as a drive and a short pitch for the likes of Palmer and his colleagues.

At the same time, Cherry Hills did possess a certain degree of difficulty, for the greens were small, well guarded with traps and water hazards and, above all, hard to hold unless the approach shot was cleanly struck with plenty of spin. Early in the week the officials of the U.S. Golf Association were worried that the combination of the direct sun and the afternoon winds would bake out the greens to the point that they would become almost unplayable. But with judicious watering at night and plain good luck this extreme condition never came to pass. As it played, Cherry Hills did not require the full vocabulary of shotmaking, but it took accuracy and touch and unflagging concentration. Then it could be scored on.

At the end of the first two rounds, as was not entirely unexpected, several Open marks had been broken. First, the halfway cut-off point (to determine the low-50 scorers, and ties, who would be eligible for Saturday's double round) was 147, a shot below the old record set in 1948 at Riviera. Second, Mike Souchak, putting together an opening 68 on which he used only 26 putts and a 67 replete with some truly brilliant patches, eclipsed the old record for the first 36 holes with his total of 135. On the second day the spotlight was all on Souchak, but on the opening day he was forced to share the stage with Tommy Bolt, a man who is hard to ignore. Old Tom, under the weather to begin with and feeling little better after taking a triple bogey on a short hole, hit his first drive off the 18th into the wide lake that separates the tee from the distant fairway. He hit his second into the water. Then, after reaching the fairway on his third attempt, he threw his driver after the lost balls. Considering the size, beauty and beckoning nature of the water hazard, there was something classic about Bolt's performance, like Hillary scaling Everest or Stanley finding Livingstone. Bolt finished his round and then withdrew.

Uphill downfall
In a much more serious way, the 18th, a 468-yard par-4 climbing to a high plateaued green, the most rugged hole on the course, was the start of Souchak's downfall. Beginning to tire from the heat, he double-bogeyed it at the conclusion of his third round after pushing his first tee shot out of bounds. This cut his lead to two shots, and that margin disappeared very quickly once Palmer and the other oncoming challengers started taking par apart in the wild fastnesses of the afternoon.

In the final analysis Palmer, long respected for his astonishing physical and competitive endurance, simply outlasted his rivals. Nicklaus three-putted the 67th and 68th. Jack Fleck, after a great showing, also had trouble on the greens down the stretch. Julius Boros, once again a force in the Open, found sand traps on the 68th and 72nd and missed a three-footer on the 71st. Souchak, still fighting hard to make up ground, couldn't buy a birdie putt. And so it went, with Ben Hogan suffering the cruelest fate. After hitting 34 consecutive greens in par or better, he was four-under and tied for the lead with Palmer as he played the 548-yard 71st. He elected to gamble for a birdie on his third shot, a little 55-yard pitch over a creek to the island green where the pin was at the front. He lobbed a soft pitch that was just too short, two feet too short. The ball landed at the edge of the water on the far bank, and his stirring bid for his fifth Open title was over. Palmer parred the last two holes and was in.

What can you say about Arnold Palmer? Nothing seems beyond his doing. First that birdie-birdie finish at Augusta. Now this awesome finish in which he came on to win from seven strokes back, something no other golfer has ever accomplished in the Open. He will undoubtedly perform other prodigious deeds in the years ahead. He has an everimproving all-round game and he can hole the long ones. He has unshakable faith in himself and is wonderfully ambitious. Behind him lie the Masters and Open now and before him the Centenary British Open. He will go to St. Andrews with a very good chance to continue his sweep, for here is not only a marvelous golfer but, if you will forgive a Victorian phrase, he seems to be destiny's favorite.

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