Biggest Final-Round Comebacks to Win the U.S. Open

What is the largest-ever come-from-behind win in the U.S. Open? If we qualify that to mean that most strokes made up by a golfer in the final round, the answer is seven strokes. And one of the giants of the game set the record.

Arnold Palmer holds the record for largest U.S. Open comeback to win after 54 holes. Palmer trailed the leader by seven strokes as the final round of the 1960 U.S. Open began, only to win it in the end. Palmer's is the only final-round, 7-stroke, come-from-behind win in U.S. Open history. There is one golfer who pulled off a six-stroke comeback win in the final round, but that happened after Palmer's.

So whose record did Palmer break in 1960? Multiple golfers by that point had staged 5-stroke, final-round comeback victories in the U.S. Open. But the first golfer to do that was Walter Hagen in 1919.

The List: Best Comeback by Winner, Final Round

  • 7 strokes — Arnold Palmer (72-71-72-65), 1960 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills Country Club, Englewood, Colorado. Palmer trailed Mike Souchak by seven after 54 holes, then shot 65 to Souchak's 75 in the final round.
  • 6 strokes — Johnny Miller (71-69-76-63), 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club. Arnold Palmer, Julius Boros, John Schlee and Jerry Heard were the third-round leaders at 210. Miller scored 63 in the final round; Schlee's 70 was the best any of the third-round leaders scored.
  • 5 strokes — Walter Hagen (78-73-75-75), 1919 U.S. Open at Brae Burn Country Club, West Newton, Massachusetts. Hagen was in second place but five behind leader Mike Brady after three rounds. Hagen shot 75 and Brady 80 in Round 4, tying at 301, then Hagen won the 18-hole playoff.
  • 5 strokes — Johnny Farrell (77-74-71-72), 1928 U.S. Open at Olympia Fields Country Club (No. 4 Course), Matteson, Illinois. Bobby Jones was the third-round leader with Johnny Farrell tied for sixth place. In the final round, Farrell had a 72 to Jones' 77, tying them at 294. Farrell won the 36-hole playoff.
  • 5 strokes — Byron Nelson (72-73-71-68), 1939 U.S. Open at Philadelphia Country Club (Spring Mill Course), West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. Nelson was tied for 10th place with Johnny Bulla in the lead after the third round. Nelson then carded a 68, Bulla a 76 that dropped him to sixth. Nelson won a 36-hole playoff over Craig Wood (Denny Shute, also in the playoff, was eliminated after 18 holes).
  • 5 strokes — Lee Janzen (73-66-73-68), 1998 U.S. Open at The Olympic Club (Lake Course), San Francisco, California. Payne Stewart was the leader after each of the first three rounds. But in the final round, Janzen shot 68 and Stewart 74.

Palmer was tied for 15th place after the third round of the 1960 U.S. Open. Angered by a newspaper columnist's dismissal of his chances, Palmer was pumped up on the first tee and famously drove the green of the par-4 hole at Cherry Hills. He birdied that hole, and then the next three as well — four holes, four birdies to start the round. He added birdies on Nos. 6 and 7 before his only bogey of the round on No. 8. Palmer made just one birdie on the back nine, but it totaled up to 65. He wound up winning by two strokes over a young amateur named Jack Nicklaus.

Miller's 6-stroke, final-round comeback came 13 years after Palmer's. Miller's victory is more famous for the 63 he scored in the final round — not just the first 63 in U.S. Open history, but the first 63 recorded in any of the four professional major championships.

We'll end by looking back one more round, to the halfway mark: What is the largest come-from-behind win after 36 holes in the U.S. Open?

Best 36-hole comeback to win: At the 1975 U.S. Open, Lou Graham had a score of 146, which was 11 strokes off the lead at that point of 135. But he wound winning the trophy in a playoff. And that's the record for biggest U.S. Open comeback to win after 36 holes — 11 strokes.

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