1972 US Open: Nicklaus Wins At Pebble Beach

Plus the final scores of the 1972 United States Open Championship

Jack Nicklaus (left) is congratulated by Lee Trevino after Nicklaus won the 72nd US Open Golf Tournament at Pebble Beach.
Jack Nicklaus (left) is congratulated by Lee Trevino after Nicklaus' victory in the 1972 US Open. Bettmann/Getty Images

The 1972 U.S. Open was the first U.S. Open ever played at Pebble Beach Golf Links. So it's only appropriate that it was won by Jack Nicklaus, who once stated that if he had only one round of golf left to play, he'd choose Pebble Beach as the course to play it on.

Quick Bits

  • Winner: Jack Nicklaus, 290 (final scores below)
  • Dates: June 15–18, 1972
  • Golf course: Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, Calif.

The Final Nicklaus-Palmer Battle

The 1972 U.S. Open is notable as the last major championship in which Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer battled head-to-head - although that battle was in a relatively brief stretch of the final round.

In its history of the 1972 U.S. Open, the USGA describes what happened:

"... In the final round, a double-bogey 6 left (Nicklaus) just two strokes in front of Arnold Palmer. A key moment came as Nicklaus stood over an 8-foot bogey putt at the par-3 12th right at the time Palmer lined up a 10-foot birdie at 14. Nicklaus converted and Palmer didn’t. Not realizing he trailed by only one shot, Palmer played too aggressively over the next two holes and bogeyed each one to eventually finish with a 4-over 76, four strokes off Nicklaus’ winning score."

How Nicklaus Built His Lead

Nicklaus shot 71 in the first round, good for a 6-way share of the lead.

After a second-round 73, Nicklaus was still in the lead - and the lead was still shared by six golfers, including the eventual runner-up, Bruce Crampton. Palmer was one behind at that point, and defending champion Lee Trevino - who got out of the hospital (treatment for pneumonia) just two days before the tournament began - was two behind.

A 72 in the third round gave Nicklaus the outright lead, one stroke ahead of three pursuers, Crampton, Kermit Zarley and Trevino. Palmer was tied for fifth, two off the lead.

A 74 Good Enough to Win '72 US Open

Nicklaus shot 2-over 74 in the final round, which doesn't sound like a very good score. But, in fact, it was the best score of the final round among the contenders. Trevino, for example, shot 78; Palmer had a 76 and Zarley scored 79.

Nicklaus' last pursuer was Crampton, but Nicklaus finished off the win with what many consider one of the best shots in U.S. Open history. On the tee at the par-3 17th, Nicklaus held a three-stroke lead. He removed any doubt about the win by carving a 1-iron through the wind. The ball hit the green, bounced once, and struck the flagstick, settling inches away.

The fourth-round scoring average for the field was 78.8, the highest final-round scoring average in the post-World War II era at any U.S. Open. Nicklaus' winning total of 290 is the second-highest winning total since World War II.

Crampton Foiled by Nicklaus: A Recurring Theme

Australian Bruce Crampton was a 14-time PGA Tour winner, and later went on to win 20 times on the Champions Tour. His runner-up finish at the 1972 U.S. Open was his second-consecutive second-place finish in a major (he tied for second at the 1972 Masters).

Later, Crampton also finished second at the 1973 PGA Championship and the 1975 PGA Championship. He never won a major.

What do the four majors at which Crampton finished second have in common? They were all won by Nicklaus.

Placing the 1972 US Open in Nicklaus' Major Timeline

The victory here was Nicklaus' third U.S. Open victory. It was his 11th professional major championship win, which tied Walter Hagen's then-record for most wins in the pro majors.

Counting his two U.S. Amateur wins, it was Nicklaus' 13th combined (amateur and pro) win in a major, tying Bobby Jones' then-record for most combined wins in pro/amateur majors. (Nicklaus finished his career with a total of 18 wins in pro majors and 20 combined amateur/pro majors.)

Nicklaus won the 1972 Masters a couple months earlier, but his quest for three in a row came up just short at the 1972 British Open.

Final Scores at the 1972 US Open

Results from the 1972 U.S. Open golf tournament played at the par-72 Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, Calif. (a-amateur):

Jack Nicklaus71-73-72-74--290$30,000
Bruce Crampton74-70-73-76--293$15,000
Arnold Palmer77-68-73-76--294$10,000
Homero Blancas74-70-76-75--295$7,500
Lee Trevino74-72-71-78--295$7,500
Kermit Zarley71-73-73-79--296$6,000
Johnny Miller74-73-71-79--297$5,000
Tom Weiskopf73-74-73-78--298$4,000
Chi Chi Rodriguez71-75-78-75--299$3,250
Cesar Sanudo72-72-78-77--299$3,250
Billy Casper74-73-79-74--300$2,500
Don January76-71-74-79--300$2,500
Bobby Nichols77-74-72-77--300$2,500
Bert Yancey75-79-70-76--300$2,500
Don Massengale72-81-70-78--301$1,900
Orville Moody71-77-79-74--301$1,900
Gary Player72-74-75-80--301$1,900
a-Jim Simons75-75-79-72--301 
Lou Graham75-73-75-79--302$1,750
a-Tom Kite75-73-79-75--302 
Al Geiberger80-74-76-73--303$1,625
Paul Harney79-72-75-77--303$1,625
Bobby Mitchell74-80-73-76--303$1,625
Charles Sifford79-74-72-78--303$1,625
Gay Brewer77-77-72-78--304$1,427
Rod Funseth73-73-84-74--304$1,427
Lanny Wadkins76-68-79-81--304$1,427
Jim Wiechers74-79-69-82--304$1,427
Miller Barber76-76-73-80--305$1,217
Julius Boros77-77-74-77-- 305$1,217
Dave Eichelberger76-71-80-78--305$1,217
Lee Elder75-71-79-80--305$1,217
Jerry Heard73-74-77-81--305$1,217
Dave Hill74-78-74-79--305$1,217
Tom Watson74-79-76-76--305$1,217
Brian Allin75-76-77-78--306$1,090
Larry Hinson78-73-72-83--306$1,090
Hale Irwin78-72-73-83--306$1,090
Barry Jaeckel78-69-82-77--306$1,090
Ron Cerrudo77-77-76-77--307$994
Tony Jacklin75-78-71-83--307$994
Jerry McGee79-72-71-85--307$994
George Rives80-73-79-75--307$994
Mason Rudolph71-80-86-70--307$994
Tom Shaw71-79-80-77--307$994
Billy Ziobro76-77-77-77--307$994
Bobby Cole72-76-79-81--308$930
Gibby Gilbert77-77-77-77--308$930
David Graham77-77-79-75--308$930
Ron Letellier75-77-74-82--308$930
John Schroeder78-75-75-80--308$930
Mike Butler78-73-77-81--309$890
Tom Jenkins73-80-75-81--309$890
Ralph Johnston74-72-79-84--309$890
Tommy Aaron76-76-77-81--310$835
Martin Bohen77-76-77-80--310$835
Bob Brue77-75-79-79--310$835
Tim Collins79-71-81-79--310$835
Hubert Green75-76-78-81--310$835
Bobby Greenwood77-75-72-86--310$835
Jim Hardy78-76-79-77--310$835
Mike Hill75-77-75-83--310$835
Jim Colbert74-79-76-82--311$800
Bob Murphy79-74-83-75--311$800
George Archer74-74-77-87--312$800
Bruce Devlin75-78-74-85--312$800
Dick Hendrickson80-74-79-82--315$800
Austin Straub76-77-75-87--315$800
Dwight Nevil76-77-81-82--316$800
a-Dan ONeill78-76-77-86--317 

Comings and Goings at the 1972 US Open

  • This was the first U.S. Open played by future 8-time major champion Tom Watson, who tied for 29th. Watson won the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
  • Tom Kite, playing as an amateur, made his first U.S. Open cut and tied for 19th. He won the 1992 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
  • And it was the final U.S. Open played by Bob Rosburg, the 1959 PGA Championship winner.