1960 US Open: Palmer's Stunning Comeback

A plaque by the No. 1 tee at Cherry Hill Country Club commemorates Arnold Palmers' 1961 US Open victory
This plaque by the first tee at Cherry Hills Country Club commemorates Arnold Palmer's victory in the 1960 US Open tournament. Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

What is one of the most famous come-from-behind wins in golf history happened at the 1960 U.S. Open, and Arnold Palmer is the golfer who pulled it off.

The leader after three rounds of play at Cherry Hills Country Club outside Denver, Colo., was Mike Souchak. Souchak was a fine player, someone who won his share of tournaments (he finished with 15 career wins on the PGA Tour); he shot what was only the sixth round of 60 ever posted on the PGA Tour at the 1955 Texas Open, and Souchak set 72-hole scoring records that week that stood for more than 40 years.

In other words, he was no slouch.

Souchak was also seven strokes ahead of Palmer at the start of the final round. Palmer was so far back he wasn't even considered among the contenders. Those who were among the contenders were Julius Boros and Dow Finsterwald, Ben Hogan and a 20-year-old amateur named Jack Nicklaus.

In fact, Nicklaus took the lead about midway through the final round. Hogan, playing with Nicklaus, said afterward that Nicklaus should have won. But the Golden Bear was still just a cub, and he 3-putted the 13th and 14th holes. Nicklaus wound up second, the best finish by an amateur since Johnny Goodman won the 1933 U.S. Open. Nicklaus' 282 total remains the best score ever shot by an amateur in a U.S. Open.

Hogan kept himself in the mix most of the final round. He hit every green through the 16th hole (in total, over the final two rounds, Hogan hit 34 consecutive greens), but just couldn't make any putts.

Then he found water on the last two holes, and fell back to a tie for ninth. Hogan could have tied Palmer at 280 with pars on the 71st and 72nd holes, but played them in 4-over.

But the story of the day was Palmer. Souchak struggled to a 75 and wound up tied for third, but Palmer immediately charged, driving the 346-yard first hole and making birdie.

Birdies followed on the second, third and fourth holes, and more later as Palmer fashioned a front-nine 30.

Unlike Hogan, Palmer didn't make a mess of the final two holes, parring both to record a 65 and post 280. Starting the last round seven strokes behind, Palmer wound up winning by two over Nicklaus.

Palmer's feat remains the best final-round comeback by a winner in tournament history.

On the day of Palmer's charge, an article carrying Palmer's byline appeared in The Saturday Evening Post. The article was titled "I Want That Grand Slam," and in it Palmer said that the modern Grand Slam should be considered The Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship (as opposed to the U.S. and British opens and amateurs - the Grand Slam that Bobby Jones accomplished in 1930).

The article - and that sentiment about the makeup of the Grand Slam - really marks the beginning of the contemporary era of golf, in which those four professional tournaments are the majors, the ones that the great golfers build their seasons and careers around.

Palmer got it started, and after his charge in the final round of the 1960 U.S. Open, Palmer - who two months earlier won the 1960 Masters - had the first two legs of the modern Grand Slam.

Alas, his quest ended a month later at the 1960 British Open when Palmer lost to Kel Nagle by one stroke.

His victory in the 1960 U.S. Open wound up being Palmer's only win in this tournament, although he came close many more times. After this, Palmer recorded four second-place finishes in the tournament, including three losses in U.S. Open playoffs.

1960 U.S. Open Golf Tournament Scores

Results from the 1960 U.S. Open golf tournament played on the par-71 Cherry Hills Country Club in Cherry Hills Village, Colorado (a-amateur):

Arnold Palmer72-71-72-65--280$14,400
a-Jack Nicklaus71-71-69-71--282 
Julius Boros73-69-68-73--283$3,950
Dow Finsterwald71-69-70-73--283$3,950
Jack Fleck70-70-72-71--283$3,950
Dutch Harrison74-70-70-69--283$3,950
Ted Kroll72-69-75-67--283$3,950
Mike Souchak68-67-73-75--283$3,950
Jerry Barber69-71-70-74--284$1,950
a-Don Cherry70-71-71-72--284 
Ben Hogan75-67-69-73--284$1,950
George Bayer72-72-73-69--286$1,240
Billy Casper71-70-73-72--286$1,240
Paul Harney73-70-72-71--286$1,240
Bob Harris73-71-71-72--287$840
Johnny Pott75-68-69-75--287$840
Dave Marr72-73-70-73--288$630
Donald Whitt75-69-72-72--288$630
Jackson Bradley73-73-69-74--289$472
Bob Goalby73-70-72-74--289$472
Gary Player70-72-71-76--289$472
Sam Snead72-69-73-75--289$472
Al Feminelli75-71-71-73--290$390
Lloyd Mangrum72-73-71-74--290$390
Bob Rosburg72-75-71-72--290$390
Ken Venturi71-73-74-72--290$390
Claude Harmon Sr.73-73-75-70--291$367
Lionel Hebert73-72-71-75--291$367
Robert Shave Jr.72-71-71-77--291$367
Richard Stranahan70-73-73-75--291$367
Chick Harbert72-74-69-77--292$360
Harold Kneece76-71-71-74--292$360
Rex Baxter79-67-76-71--293$330
Frank Boynton73-72-75-73--293$330
Dave Douglas75-71-76-71--293$330
Doug Ford73-72-70-78--293$330
Huston Laclair70-74-76-73--293$330
Bruce Crampton70-71-75-78--294$300
Stan Dudas71-74-73-76--294$300
Al Mengert75-71-74-74--294$300
David Ragan71-72-78-73--294$300
Bill Johnston73-74-73-75--295$300
Cary Middlecoff77-70-72-77--296$270
Henry Ransom69-76-73-78--296$270
Art Wall72-73-78-73--296$270
Doug Sanders70-68-77-82--297$260
Charlie Sifford74-70-77-76--297$260
Jim Turnesa76-71-72-78--297$260
Walter Burkemo74-72-72-80--298$240
Howie Johnson72-75-74-77--298$240
Sam Penecale73-73-77-75--298$240
Frank Stranahan72-73-74-79--298$240
Bob Verwey75-72-79-75--301$240
Robert Watson72-73-73-84--302$240
Bob Goetz73-74-74-85--306$240

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