1960: Arnold Palmer wins Masters with 65 on Sunday
Golf's modern version of the Grand Slam was defined over cocktails on a trans-Atlantic flight.
The credit goes to Arnold Palmer and golf writer Bob Drum.
The Grand Slam had been a forgotten term since Bobby Jones won his version three decades earlier, but Palmer stirred interest in 1960 with his wins in the Masters Tournament and U.S. Open.
On a flight to Scotland for the British Open, Drum and Palmer discussed the possible feat.
"We got to talking about it over a vodka and I said to Bob, 'You know, you ought to do something about the Grand Slam of golf.' He said, 'What are you talking about?'" Palmer said.
They discussed how unlikely it would be for an amateur to duplicate Jones' feat, but Palmer pointed out that a pro version that included the Masters and PGA, coupled with the two opens, was possible.
"He picked up on that, and he wrote that story," Palmer said. "We started what we know as the Grand Slam of golf."
Jones, a co-founder of the Masters and Augusta National Golf Club, won the original Grand Slam in 1930, taking the U.S. Open, British Open, U.S. Amateur and British Amateur. In that era, American pros Walter Hagen and Gene Sarazen also traveled overseas to win the British Open.
But prohibitive travel costs, coupled with a looming war in Europe, began to limit the number of Americans who made the journey. Even after World War II, top U.S. pros rarely made the trip. Sam Snead and Ben Hogan each won the oldest major once, while Byron Nelson never claimed the claret jug.
THAT ALL BEGAN to change in 1960 with Palmer, who rallied in spectacular fashion to win the Masters.
Ken Venturi was already in the clubhouse at 5-under-par 283 as Palmer played the final few holes. Palmer had led from the start, but with three holes to play he trailed Venturi by one.
At the 16th, Palmer's long birdie putt rattled off the pin (it was OK to leave the pin in the hole then), and he settled for par.
At the 17th, Palmer's approach left him a 20-foot putt for birdie. His putt looked like it would come up short, but it tumbled into the cup and an excited Palmer danced across the green.
Needing a birdie to win, Palmer's iron shot to the 18th green wound up about four feet from the cup. Palmer made the putt.
"The Masters in 1960 was a real tough thing to end up winning as it turned out," Palmer said. "I was very elated, very happy, and I went to Cherry Hills pretty confident. I was playing good. I thought I would have a pretty good chance of doing some good there."
AT THE U.S. OPEN, played outside Denver, Palmer struggled through the first three rounds. Back then, the tournament was held over three days and concluded Saturday with 36 holes. Palmer was none too happy as he went in the clubhouse between rounds the final day, and a meeting with golf writers Drum and Dan Jenkins did nothing to make matters better.
"I asked Drum what a 65 would do for me," Palmer recalled. "He said, 'For you it would do nothing.' That really irritated me."
Palmer took out his anger on Cherry Hills. He drove the first green, a par-4, to set up an easy birdie and went on to birdie six of the first seven holes en route to a 30 on the opening nine. Palmer quickly overtook 54-hole leader Mike Souchak, but a pair of players challenged him over the final nine holes.
The first challenger was an amateur from Ohio named Jack Nicklaus. Just 20, Nicklaus missed some short putts down the stretch.
The other was the veteran Hogan, who was making a bid to win the U.S. Open for a record fifth time. But Hogan found the water on the par-5 17th.
Palmer fired 65 in the final round, and the victory gave him the year's first two majors.
Up next was the British Open at St. Andrews, the birthplace of golf. Palmer's dream of winning all four ended when he finished second to Kel Nagle.
"Even though I didn't win, I felt like I should have," he said. "It kind of revived the British Open. It got the Americans interested in it, and they started coming over in earnest."
PALMER NEVER WON the PGA to complete the career Grand Slam, but that year he finished seventh at Firestone Country Club.
Since Palmer in 1960, only Nicklaus (1972) and Tiger Woods (2002) have won the first two legs of the Grand Slam.
Much attention is being given to this year's major championship venues.
For just the second time, Augusta National, Pebble Beach Golf Links and the Old Course at St. Andrews are all playing host to majors in the same year. (Whistling Straits, site of the PGA Championship, can't match the history of those courses.)
With that rotation, talk of a Grand Slam follows. In 2000, the first time the three famous courses were venues in the same year, Tiger Woods won the U.S. Open at Pebble, the British Open at St. Andrews and the PGA at Valhalla. He completed his "Tiger Slam" the following year with a win at Augusta National.