Remembering Larry Nelson: Champion at the 1983 U.S. Open at Oakmont

cc from Oakmont CC

This week, June 16th- 19th, 2016, the 116th U.S. Open golf tournament will be held at the historic Oakmont Country Club in Pennsylvania. This is one of the four Major golf tournaments in professional golf, and in many peoples' minds (including mine) the most prestigious of them all. I wanted to remember one of my favorite U.S. Opens in 1983, when one of my favorite golfers Larry Nelson won.

About Oakmont and the U.S. Open

Oakmont has held more Major golf championships than any other golf course in the U.S., including 8 U.S. Opens and 3 PGA Championships. The course was built in 1903 by designer Henry Fownes, and is considered one of the most difficult courses in America, rated #4 in Golf Digest.

Since 1983, there have been 2 Opens held here, one in 1994 when Ernie Els won, and one in 2007 when Angel Cabrera won. Before 1983, greats such as Johnny Miller won here in 1973, Jack Nicklaus won in 1962, and Ben Hogan won in 1953.

1983 U.S. Open

Personally, I think the U.S. Open is the best golf tournament in the world, and is greater than even the British Open. This is the championship of golf period. The high rough, fast greens, and long courses are always testing the best players in the world to their limits.

In 1983 this was no different, as Tom Watson, Seve Ballesteros, Calvin Peete, and Larry Nelson fought for the title. Mostly the battle was between Tom Watson and Larry Nelson, although this was Seve's second best effort in an Open (4th overall).

Tom had won the Open for the first time in 1982 at Pebble Beach in the famous tournament where he chipped in a birdie at the difficult 17th hole to edge out Jack Nicklaus. It looked as though Tom was going to march right on through the field to win his second Open in a row, yet there was this quiet man called Larry Nelson going on a tear at Oakmont.

Larry shot a 6 under (65) on Saturday to emerge from the field and enter into the final day at Even. Tom and Seve were in the final group starting Sunday at -1, Calvin Peete started the day also at Even. The 65 was the hottest round of the tournament, and Larry kept up the heat on the final day.

Larry had won the PGA Championship in 1981, and went on to win his third and last major in 1987 with another PGA Championship. Tom came closer than anyone to winning multiple U.S. Opens in the 80s, but only captured the one in 1982.

Larry went on to win the 1983 U.S. Open by one shot after a weather delay caused the last few holes to be postponed til Monday. The lighting was threatening the players, and Tom was the first (as usual) to smartly say he wanted off the course.

The play resumed on Monday morning, and on the first hole Larry played (long par 3 16th), Larry made a monstrous putt for birdie to gain a one stroke advantage. Tom went on to bogey the 17th, giving Larry a two shot advantage finishing up on the 18th.

Larry went on to three putt and bogey the 18th, giving Tom one last chance to tie with a birdie. The tough 18th hole was long par 4, not easy to par much alone birdie, and Tom's birdie chip missed, grazing the hole and rolling over 30 ft away. Miraculously, he putted his par putt in, but it was too late and Larry was the winner by one stroke.

1980s Was Best Decade of Golf

I've watched all the U.S. Opens in the 1980s because of the YouTube channel I've shared below. You too can watch the entire final round of the 1983 U.S. Open from this channel.

Personally, I think the 80s was the greatest decade in golf, because it was the time right before the metal woods came out. The competition was better than ever and the clubs still required genuine skill to strike the ball solid. In my opinion the 80s was the last time golf wasn't ruined by technology and sponsors. This is why I enjoy watching 80s golf more than the tournaments today.

Larry Nelson is one of my favorite players because of his humility, his faith in Jesus Christ, his bravery to serve in Vietnam, and his talent at the game of golf. He was about as pure of a natural talent as there ever was in golf, breaking Par on 18 holes within the first year of picking up golf! This was his shinning moment in golf, and the long putt on the 16th hole from over 40 ft was emblematic of the entire tournament – it was his destiny to win.

Tom was a gracious man in defeat, smiling and saying Larry deserved to win caused he played the best golf. Simply put, but considering Tom played the front 9 of the last day with a -5 under, he had to think the tournament was his.

Indeed, Tom's final day 69 (-2) was brilliant, but Larry's 67 (-4) was simply better. In fact, his 65-67 finish was simply amazing, considering only three players finished under par for the tournament: Larry (-4), Tom (-3), and Gil Morgan (-1). Gil played some last moment heroics to shoot a hard fought 68, but was never really in the mix on the last day. Really, only Seve, Tom, and little known Larry Nelson were in the picture throughout the day.

2016 U.S. Open Golf Winner Predictions

As for this year at Oakmont, we have a whole new pack of players vying for the title. Phil Mickelson is the sentimental favorite, as this is the major he's never won, although he's been painfully close a few times. No one in the golf world would complain seeing Phil win this year, but sometimes wanting something so badly makes it even tougher. Just like Seve and Sam Snead never winning the U.S. Open, although Sam, like Phil, was so very close many times.

Personally, my pick for the this years 2016 U.S. Open is Matt Kuchar. Matt has never won a Major, and is a mature 37 years old. He's been playing as good as anyone this year, and I think he has the right attitude and game to win on Oakmont.

Also look out for Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia, as they, after Phil, are likely the most hungry and capable out of the chasing pack. As for a dark horse prediction, I would pick Shane Lowry (chosen after 1st round because I found out Ken Duke wasn't in field), who's has played inspiring golf this year and is more confident than ever.

I'll be paying attention to this years tournament at Oakmont, but because I don't watch television and it's not being played on PGA Tour Live, I might not get to see most of it. Sometimes I can watch some online live with certain channels, although this year it's on FOX. (Watched it on U.S.Open App and website for free).

That's another thing that made 80s' U.S. Opens so great, was the ABC broadcast crew of Jim Marr, Jim McKay, Peter Alliss, Bob Rosburg, Judy Rankin, and Ed Sneed. There's never been a better crew of announcers, although I do enjoy Nick Faldo, Jim Nantz, and Johnny Miller. Regardless, enjoy the 1983 and 2016 U.S. Open golf tournament, and here's to many more.   

1983 U.S. Open Golf


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