The U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in 1955 provided one of the spectacular upsets of the century--in any sport--when Jack Fleck beat Ben Hogan in an 18-hole playoff. But golf historians contend the 1966 U.S. Open here was equally significant because it marked the end of the Arnold Palmer era.
Palmer doesn't agree. After all, he played well in subsequent major tournaments, including a second-place finish in the '67 Open, and won 15 more tournaments on the PGA Tour.
It is a fact, however, that he never won a major tournament after his disappointment in 1966 and the Open winner the next year was Jack Nicklaus, who became the sport's dominant force for the next two decades.
If anything is unfair in retrospect, it is that the focus has been almost entirely on Palmer as the loser in '66 instead of Billy Casper as the winner.
Casper was no Fleck, having already won a U.S. Open in 1959.
But even he admitted years later in a book, "Arnie: Inside the Legend," that he was stunned by Palmer's collapse after Palmer had built a seven-stroke lead on the back nine of the final round. He speculated that Palmer started concentrating on breaking Hogan's Open scoring record of 276 instead of winning.
"At first, Arnold was thinking about Hogan's record," Casper said. "Then when that slipped away and I started gaining on him, he panicked. I've played with Arnold a lot, and that's the first time I've ever seen him choke."
Palmer lost his lead, then lost the 18-hole playoff the next day.
Casper agrees with those who believe Palmer was never the same.
"It did affect him down deep," Casper said.
If USC officials believe an upcoming Sports Illustrated article will stop short of anointing Mike Garrett as the successor to Mother Teresa, they're probably right. . . .
One reporter on the story was Don Yaeger, who has co-authored a couple of books, "Under the Tarnished Dome," an expose of Notre Dame's football program, and "Pros and Cons: The Criminals Who Play in the NFL." . . .
Thirty years after winning gold medals in 15 events, the 1968 U.S. Olympic track and field team will be honored tonight at a dinner sponsored by Xerox in New Orleans. . . .
Santa Monica College Athletic Director Tommie Smith will be there. . . .
He won the 200 meters in Mexico City but is better remembered for the Black Power salute he and bronze-medalist John Carlos performed on the victory stand. . . .
"I have no regrets, I had no regrets, I will never have any regrets," Smith says. "We were there to stand up for human rights and to stand up for black Americans." . . .
Smith no longer has the black glove he wore. . . .
"Somewhere on the way home, I must have lost it," he says. . . .
Johnny Gray was not on the '68 team. It just seems like it. . . .
Gray, however, will be in New Orleans to compete in the U.S. championships Friday, his 38th birthday. . . .
Lou Duva, the manager-trainer inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame last weekend, was in Los Angeles on Tuesday to sign welterweight Jose Luis Lopez. . . .
Duva says Oscar De La Hoya, Felix Trinidad, Ike Quartey and Lopez can save boxing. . . .
But, Duva adds, they have to fight one another, as Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran and Marvin Hagler did in the '80s. . . .
De La Hoya is fighting mad about criticism he's avoiding quality opponents. . . .
As a result, his promoter, Bob Arum, is trying to make a match between De La Hoya and Quartey in November. . . .
The Kings will unveil their new uniforms and logo Saturday at noon at Universal Studios. . . .
One of the models is Patrick Warburton, who played Elaine's body-painting, hockey-fan boyfriend on "Seinfeld." . . .
He used to be a New Jersey Devil fan. Robbie Ftorek must have scared him away. . . .
According to a national survey by Golfsmith International Inc., golfing dads' first choice for a playing partner would be Fred Couples. . . .
Three times more fathers named him than runner-up Tiger Woods. . . .
That old joke about England and the United States being divided by a common language? Graham Marsh, who will defend his U.S. Senior Open championship next month at Riviera, says it applies also to Australians and Americans. . . .
On a courtesy bus to the Cincinnati airport, he asked the driver if curbside check-in was available. . . .
"Oh, no, sir," she told him. "We only have Kentucky Fried Chicken here."
While wondering why the Lake Course has no water, I was thinking: I liked it better when woods were really woods, it appears as if the free world will survive the Casey Martin threat, I'd be happy if I had Justin Leonard in the office pool.