LA JOLLA — The late Billy Casper might be best remembered for his comeback victory at the 1966 U.S. Open, where he made up seven shots on Arnold Palmer over the final nine holes.
On the day that Casper's death was announced, Lee Elder stopped by the Farmers Insurance Open to talk about playing in that tournament as a newcomer to pro golf and sticking around to watch Casper's historic performance.
"To win the event, it did a lot for him — good and bad," Elder said of the man who would later become his friend. "There were people who did not like the fact that he beat Arnold Palmer."
Palmer looked to be in command at the Olympic Club in San Francisco but fell apart down the stretch as Casper made a string of birdies to force a playoff. The next day, Palmer again led at the turn only to lose by four shots.
"I tell you, [Casper] hit some great shots," Elder said. "I talked to him about it, and he always would kid and say, 'Aw, I was lucky.' "
The victory gave Casper the second of his three major titles. For Palmer, it was his third U.S. Open playoff loss in five years. He would come close a few times in the ensuing years but would not add to his seven career majors.
Good reviews for Torrey Pines
Torrey Pines might have been a tough course this week, but in the end it got favorable reviews from the players.
Many of them compared the rough and greens to what they usually get at the U.S. Open.
"The back nine starting at 14, it's got a lot of teeth in it," said Charles Howell III, who finished tied for fifth at eight-under. "That's a far cry from what we're used to seeing."
Players praised the course for being what J.B. Holmes called "a very fair test."
Defending champion Scott Stallings, who reached the four-man playoff, put it this way: "They did a great job setting it up. You had opportunities to make birdies, but you definitely had opportunities to make bogeys as well."
Tournament winner Jason Day not only won $1,134,000 with his victory at Torrey Pines on Sunday, but he got a special treat afterward.
Day is from Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia, and a San Diego reporter hooked him up by phone with another champion from Rockhampton, Rod Laver, among the greatest tennis players ever.
Laver, who lives in Carlsbad but recently returned from several months of vacationing and visiting in Australia, got a lot of "yes-sirs" from another awestruck Aussie.