64th U.S. Open | June 18-20, 1964
Congressional Country Club Blue Course, Bethesda, Md.
|Ken Venturi, United States||72||-||70||-||66||-||70||—||278|
|Tommy Jacobs, United States||72||-||64||-||70||-||76||—||282|
|Bob Charles, New Zealand||72||-||72||-||71||-||68||—||283|
|Billy Casper, United States||71||-||74||-||69||-||71||—||285|
|Gay Brewer, United States||76||-||69||-||73||-||68||—||286|
|Arnold Palmer, United States||68||-||69||-||75||-||74||—||286|
There are national opens won and lost, and forgotten about a short time later.
And then this U.S. Open unfolded, one that was as drama-filled and impactful on future championships as any in history.
At this point, this wasn’t the same Ken Venturi who was primed for a successful 35-year run as CBS Sports’ lead golf commentator (and movie star portraying himself in “Tin Cup”).
In 1964, Venturi was struggling so badly on the PGA Tour he had to resort to asking old friends for sponsor exemptions to get into tournaments so he could try to make money. He had not won a PGA Tour tournament in four years.
Moreover, he was in constant pain in his back from a car wreck three years earlier, and in his hands from what was later diagnosed as carpal tunnel syndrome.
In fact, nine months before this U.S. Open, he contemplated retirement from the Tour.
But the San Francisco native — who was known most for his colossal collapse as an amateur at the 1956 Masters Tournament, shooting a final-round 80 to lose by a stroke to Jack Burke, Jr. — qualified for this national open.
Venturi trailed Tommy Jacobs — who shot a tournament-record 64 in the second round — by five strokes. Arnold Palmer was four shots ahead. But the 32-year-old, who grew up playing at TPC Harding Park, fired a jaw-dropping 66 in the morning third round when the rest of the field averaged 75.0.
But as temperatures climbed to near 100 degrees, it was obvious something was desperately wrong with Venturi as he closed out his third round missing two short putts for par.
Venturi was met by Dr. John E. Everett in the locker room between rounds. Everett could tell the golfer was dehydrated and suffering from heat exhaustion, and advised him to withdraw because it was life-threatening.
Venturi declined, but asked if the doctor would follow him the entire final round, giving him salt tablets and ice packs, if needed.
Then the golfer had to appeal to the USGA for an extended “rest” break. An extra 30 minutes was granted.
So Venturi played the last 18 holes with attendants — a doctor; a marshal who carried an umbrella over him to block the sun, another marshal who could contact emergency-aid officials on a walkie-talkie if something happened, and a police officer. Oh, yeah, and playing partner Raymond Floyd.
Venturi played steady in the final round, eventually passing the leaders on the 10th hole. Jacobs, who held the tournament 54-hole scoring record at 206, shot a final round 76 to fall off the pace.
On the final hole, Venturi got up and down from a greenside bunker, sinking a 10-footer for par to win the tournament. He yelled, “My God, I’ve won the Open.”
After anxiously watching the Venturi medical situation unfold, USGA officials voted to change the U.S. Open format one more time, extending it a day so a golfer played 18 holes per day — not 36 on the final day.