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On This Date in Sports June 20, 1982: Chip in the Pebble

In collaboration with sportsecyclopedia.com

It’s one of the great golf shots of all time, Tom Watson, in the rough off the green at the 17th hole in the final round of the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, chips the ball 16 feet into the hole for a remarkable birdie to take the lead against Jack Nicklaus. Watson would also get a birdie on the final hole to win his sixth major championship, finishing the U.S. Open with a six-under-par 282, two strokes better than Nicklaus and Bill Rogers.

The U.S. Open was held at the splendid Pebble Beach golf links on the northern pacific coast near San Francisco. Jack Nicklaus won his third U.S. Open at Pebble in 1972. A decade later, Nicklaus looked to win the U.S. Open for the fifth time and claim his 18th major title. Jack Nicklaus got off to a slow start at the 1982 U.S. Open, with a two-over 74 in the first round as Bruce Devlin and Bill Rogers each had a 70 to end the day atop the leaderboard. Devlin shot a 69 in the second round and went into the weekend five-under. Nicklaus shot a 70 to get back to par, while Tom Watson had par-72 in the first two rounds. 

Moving day on Saturday saw Tom Watson take flight, as he shot a four-under-par 68 to find himself tied with Bill Rogers at -4. Jack Nicklaus had a 71 and stood three strokes back. Nicklaus, meanwhile, was joined by Calvin Peete at one under. Also in contention at -2 were George Burns, Bruce Devlin, David Graham, and Scott Simpson. 

Tom Watson started the final round in a share of the lead with Bill Rogers at four under par, while the legendary Jack Nicklaus seeking a fifth U.S. Open title, lurked three strokes back. As he did many times before, Nicklaus, who had previously won 17 majors, had his best round on Sunday at a major, shooting a three-under-par 69 to get into contention. Rogers, who struggled most of the day, was two-over-par but still in position for a playoff as the tournament reached its final holes.

Tom Watson was holding steady in the final round, but suddenly after a bogie on the 16th, he was in a tie after leading most of the round. Shaken up by the poor shot, Watson hit a poor drive on the par-three 17th hole, landing in the high rough. That is when he took out his sand wedge and made the shot for ages.