Johnny Miller’s Sunday round at Oakmont in the 1973 U.S. Open remains one of the most historic rounds of golf ever played.
As we approach the 2016 tournament, to be played in the same Pittsburgh suburb, we look at five crazy stats from Miller’s incredible round.
There are low scores and there are low scores at majors … and then there are low scores at majors on Sunday at the hardest track in North America when the rest of the field can’t sniff a birdie.
The Sunday Miller scorched the earth, just four players shot under 70, including Miller. Lanny Wadkins shot 65. Jack Nicklaus and Ralph Johnston shot 68. That’s it.
This wasn’t a case of a soft course giving up a bunch of birdies. Johnny just made more than everyone else.
OK, you probably recognize the number. But it remains the lowest final round score ever fired at the U.S. Open as well as the lowest at any major in the final round.
The holy grail of rounds in a major has been 62 for essentially the 40+ years since Miller shot his 63. And he’ll be the first to tell you it very easily could have been a 60. Miller three-putted the eighth hole and had a pair of birdie putts lip out.
Often lost in the majesty of his Sunday round is Miller’s Saturday score: 76. His 13-shot improvement between rounds is the largest margin for a winner in U.S. Open history.
On a course as difficult as Oakmont, being six shots behind after a brutal Saturday round probably made it seem nearly impossible for Miller to be a factor for the championship.
Which brings us to…
Four players shared the 54 hole lead at three under: Jerry Heard, John Schlee, Arnold Palmer and Julius Boros. In fact, the top 10 included Tom Weiskopf (-2), Lee Trevino (-1), Jack Nicklaus (+1) and Gary Player (+1).
Those scores also give you a good idea of just how tough Oakmont was playing, making the Sunday 63 even more magical.
There have been nine U.S. Opens at Oakmont and no one has ever shot 31 on the back nine. No one except Miller, whose 63, you might imagine, is the course record.
Coincidentally, though, Miller’s front-nine 32 was actually matched that year by Wadkins, whose final-round 65 deserves some credit in its own right.
His score just didn’t come with a chance to win the U.S. Open.