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FOCUS ON GOLF | Jim Murray

Punk Kid Shows No Respect to Open

June 12, 2003|Jim Murray

OAKMONT, Pa. — This column by the late Jim Murray was first published on June 18, 1973:

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OAKMONT, Pa. -- The 1973 U.S. Open was won Sunday by a tall blond kid who shot 63. I think it was Johnny Miller. On the other hand, maybe it was Larry Hinson or Fred Marti or Jack Montgomery or Tom Shaw or Bert Greene or Jim Simons. I swear I can't tell one of these kids from another. The only thing I'm real sure of is, it wasn't Chi Chi Rodriguez.

These kids all look alike, swing alike. They all got long legs, long blond hair and look like they were found hanging around the college malt shop. None of 'em look old enough to vote. They weren't born, they were Xeroxed.

They're always going out and shooting 63.

You're not supposed to shoot 63 in a U.S. Open, but Johnny Miller -- if that's who it was -- is too young to know that.

These kids are too young to know U.S. Opens are supposed to be won by Jack Nicklaus. They can't tell the difference between the U.S. Open and the Memphis Open. They don't know there is such a thing as a triple bogey yet.

You know how you are at 26. All your parts are in working order. You never get a bellyache or a self doubt. You can't for the life of you understand why those old gaffers are putting side-saddle or why you stick a bottle of Rolaids in your bag or put your feet in a bucket of hot water at night.

They're always combing their hair. Their slacks fit without a belt. Their bellies are flat. They got all 32 teeth. They can tell the sex of a gnat two fairways away. They have 360-degree swings without hurting their backs. Their tee shots are 300 yards, all carry.

I hate 'em.

Imagine shooting a 63 in a U.S. Open! That's almost like stoning a church, painting mustaches on statues of saints. You're supposed to win an Open with four 71s or three 69s and a 72. Your swing is supposed to choke up as you get near first money. You're supposed to look up at the leaderboard and say, "My God! What am I doing leading a U.S. Open? Where do I come off beating Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer and Lee Trevino and Gary Player?!" Then you're supposed to go out and faint or shank and shoot bogey-bogey-bogey-double bogey.

You're supposed to be 35 years old and have been playing golf since you were 10 and won the National Amateur and 50 other tournaments to win the Open.

No one has ever shot 63 in an Open before. No one would have dared. Only one of these kooky kids with all that long hair would have had the nerve. They got no respect for their elders. "Flippy-wristed college kids," Tommy Bolt called them. They could one-putt Rhode Island. The Open to them just means that they don't have to go out and qualify for a year. Nobody who had any great respect for its tradition would go out and shoot a 63. It's embarrassing. What do they think this is, Tucson? The Foxfire Satellite?

I'm pretty sure it was Miller, but do you know who shot a 65 the last day? A kid named Lanny Wadkins, a college dropout. He looks like he eats in a high chair. He ain't even shaved yet and he's steering it around with two eagles on the front nine and three birdies on the back.

They ought to take these kids out behind the woodshed and poke some manners in them. I wouldn't mind if Johnny One-Putt had shot four 71s and then beat Bob Charles or somebody in a playoff, but if these baby-faced Johnny Colleges or Lanny Wake Forests are going to go around shooting 63s and 65s in the last round of the Open, they may have to have an age limit in these things.

Arnold Palmer, who didn't win this thing for the 13th straight year, looked over at the leaderboard on the 12th tee and, in rich Elizabethan English, said "I almost threw up! I couldn't believe anyone was shooting a 63 in the Open." He promptly went bogey-bogey-bogey. That's what these kids do to an Open.

The reason I think it was Johnny Miller is because seven years ago, at Olympic, he showed up to caddie in the Open. Just for the hell of it, he went and qualified. All he did was finish eighth. He was 19 at the time, barely out of high school.

He figured if it was that easy, he might as well turn pro and, as soon as he had graduated from Brigham Young, he did.

He scattered the flower of American golf in his nine-birdie round.

But the damage he did to the field is nothing compared to the damage he did to the Open. It's like a Navy that's been scuttled, an Army that has handed over its sword. Proud Oakmont will have to have its picture turned to the wall. They have had five Opens here and 67 was the best anybody could do.

But, of course, these Johnny Blondhairs don't know that. "I don't know much about Open history," this blond kid, whichever one it is, said in the press interview. In other words, they make history, they don't read it.

Doesn't seem fair. Kind of reminds me of the guy who picks a fight in a bar with the heavyweight champion and knocks him out, then, outside, he almost faints when told who it was.

"If I'd of known that, I'd never have been able to do it!"

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