'Chasing Greatness: Johnny Miller, Arnold Palmer, and the Miracle at Oakmont'

Adam Lazarus and Steve Schlossman spent years researching and interviewing the golf legends who were at the 1973 championship at Oakmont, and the pair does a thorough job of recreating the drama and retelling the four-day event from the perspective of all of the key players of that time.

As any golfer will attest, Oakmont Country Club’s golf course is "a field of nightmares" and carries with it a "reputation as the meanest test in American championship golf." Since its creation in the early 1900s by iron baron Henry C. Fownes on rolling farmland northeast of Pittsburgh, Oakmont has hosted eight U.S. Open tournaments, testing the abilities of the world’s greatest golfers.

But perhaps no tournament—with the exception of Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus’ playoff in 1962—is as legendary as the 1973 championship. That’s when a young, relatively unknown Johnny Miller "overwhelmed a legendary course and a Murderer’s Row of golf legends" to come from six strokes back and shoot 63, the lowest score ever at Oakmont, and win the U.S. Open championship.

That is the focus of Adam Lazarus and Steve Schlossman’s book, Chasing Greatness: Johnny Miller, Arnold Palmer, and the Miracle at Oakmont. Lazarus and Schlossman spent years researching and interviewing the golf legends who were there that day, and the pair does a thorough job of recreating the drama and retelling the four-day event from the perspective of all of the key players of that time.

Winning a U.S. Open title is huge for any golfer, but arguably the 1973match meant more to Pittsburgh’s favorite son, Arnold Palmer, than to any other golfer out there that weekend.

This was a chance for the hometown hero to redeem himself after his shocking loss to 22-year-old Nicklaus in ’62. And considering Palmer was entering the back half of his career, the 1973 match would perhaps be his last chance to take a major title.

Entering the fourth and final day of the tournament, it appeared as if Palmer, who led the pack, just might pull off the victory. But in the end, it was Miller who "endured and [overcame] everything." The book goes on to describe that time and place:

"The forlorn, confused feelings of earlier in the day. A six-stroke deficit. The toughest golf course in America. The specter of Jack Nicklaus. The colossal shadow of Arnold Palmer and his hometown crowd. The grinding consistency of Lee Trevino. The inspired charge of Tom Weiskopf. And the spirited, dark-horse, upset bid of John Schlee … [to become] the United States Open champion."


Chasing Greatness: Johnny Miller, Arnold Palmer and the Miracle at Oakmont by Adam Lazarus and Steve Schlossman; New American Library; $24.95.