If the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach was known for Tiger’s 15-stroke rout, then ’72 was about Nicklaus-Palmer drama and the 1-iron, ’82 about the chip-in and ’92 about a Kite going low in the wind.
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Jack Nicklaus shot 2-over-par 290 and won by three over Bruce Crampton and four over Arnold Palmer. Nicklaus, that year’s Masters champion, left with a $30,000 first prize and the first two legs of the Grand Slam. Palmer was two behind Nicklaus before a key moment: Nicklaus made an 8-foot bogey putt at 12 as Palmer missed a 10-foot birdie putt at 14. Had the make-miss been reversed, Palmer would’ve led by one. Palmer then bogeyed the next two holes. Nicklaus was ahead by three when his 1-iron shot through wind hit the flagstick at 17 and ended up 6 inches from the hole. Nicklaus’ 290 was the second-highest winning score at a U.S. Open since 1935.
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Tom Watson shot 6-under 282 and won by two over Jack Nicklaus, earning $60,000. The two were tied for the lead until Watson chipped in for birdie-2 at 17 as Nicklaus watched on television from the scoring tent. Before the chip-in, caddie Bruce Edwards said, “Get it close,” to which Watson responded, “Get it close, hell. I’m going to hole it.” Watson then birdied the par-5 18th and heard these words from Nicklaus, “You little S.O.B.; you did it to me again. I’m proud of you.” Nicklaus had started the final round three shots behind co-leaders Watson and Bill Rogers but charged into a tie with five consecutive birdies at Nos. 3-7.
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Tom Kite shot 3-under 285 and won by two strokes over Jeff Sluman and three over Colin Montgomerie, earning $275,000. Kite closed with a 72 on a windy day when 20 of the 66 players shot in the 80s. In winning, Kite shed the unwanted label of the best player never to have won a major. He entered the Open with 16 PGA Tour victories and as the Tour’s all-time leading money winner. His main obstacle entering the weekend was Gil Morgan. The non-practicing optometrist was seven strokes ahead and an unheard-of 12-under par after his seventh hole of the third round but faded with 77-81. After Kite chipped-in for an improbable birdie at the little seventh and saved a “wonderful bogey” after finding a lateral hazard at No. 9, he had a three-shot edge.