Guts, Grit And Grandeur: Raymond Floyd wins the 1986 U.S. Open

Raymond Floyd 2, U.S. Open
Al Kooistra/
The 1986 U.S. Open was the last of Floyd's four major victories on tour.

But when Floyd arose on Thursday to begin his good war on the U.S. Open, he discovered a funny thing. Outside his window, rain and wind were making it look like the British Open. Maybe that was only fitting considering the surroundings.

Shinnecock Hills, 95 years old, is a links-ish lady of ill-tempered rough, small, slick greens and ravenous bunkers, ones that seem to reproduce overnight. The last time the United States Golf Association held the Open at Shinnecock was in 1896, and most of the players had never even seen the course before last week. With Thursday's wicked, sometimes violent, rains and winds that reached 40 miles per hour, getting home under par on the old course was not the question. Getting home at all was. Only Tway, who has already won twice this year, shot par, which is 70. Norman was one back. The average score was 75.32. Forty-five players shot 80 or worse, and one of them was very nearly Nicklaus, who pulled a Magic Johnson on the back nine with a triple double -- double bogeys at 10, 13 and 18, including a lost ball at 10, the first he could recall losing since the British Amateur in 1959. Luckily, he had extras.

For Floyd's part, he was in at 75 and happy about it. "I won the tournament on Thursday," Floyd would say Sunday. "I played terrible, had no feel and somehow survived."

Floyd was bogeyless on Friday, and his 68 kept him four behind the leader, Norman, and one behind Trevino, who was going as well as ever at 47. "If I win," Trevino said, "my wife has promised me a son. If I win, we're staying indoors until Friday."

Powerful incentive, but could either of them hope to reel in Australia's Great White Shark, Norman, who had won $415,535 in the two months since he bogeyed the last hole to lose to Nicklaus at the Masters? "Greg Norman is playing as well right now as anybody I've seen in a long, long time," said Nicklaus himself, and that seemed even truer Saturday. Norman shot 71 to keep a one-shot lead over Trevino and Sutton, who had dealt himself in with a 66. So what fate would keep Norman, 31 and so hugely talented, from winning a major this time? Remember the Masters? Remember Winged Foot and the Open in 1984?

"I'm smarter than I was at Winged Foot," Norman said. "I'm street-smarter. The more you play on the American tour, the tougher you get."

Boy, is Norman getting tough. Minutes after double-bogeying 13 on Saturday, he was confronted with some obstreperous fans. "You're chokin', Norman!" said one of the rowdy bunch, shark-baiting. Norman slapped his eight-iron shot to the 14th green, then marched directly to the gallery ropes and called down the offending customer, a semiconscious fan wearing an open white shirt, red nose and a smile.

"C'mere!" Norman said. Norman waggled a finger in his face. "If you want to say that, then say it to me afterward. But until then, shut your face!"

Bobby Jones promptly did a 360 in his grave. Any minute, you expected the Flyers' front line to join in. This was history being made. What do golfers do when they fight, anyway, throw down their gloves?

"I just felt like I had to get it off my chest," Norman said after the round. "Maybe that was a mistake. But I would have been upset otherwise.... I guess people in this part of the world are upset because we've got the America's Cup."

You don't think Norman has a sore spot about the choking label some people are sticking him with, do you? Nahhhhh. This finally looked like his chance, and it would be gone for good and.....

fifteen minutes into his Sunday round, Norman's lead had been gobbled up. For the next two hours, owning part of the lead at the U.S. Open was about as prestigious as making the telephone book. At exactly 4:25 p.m., EDT, Floyd birdied the par-3 11th to complete a nine-way tie for first.

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