Lee Elder of Washington, D.C., finished what he called "by far the best U.S. Open of my career" on a mixed note today, shooting a final-round 78 to share a five-way tie for 11th place at 74-72-69-78 - 293.

"When you are in contention," said Elder, who started the day in fifth place, "you have to go out there and hope everything falls in place. As soon as something goes wrong, you have to start taking some gambles to catch up."

Elder bogeyed the third hole and never made a birdie all day. At the 11th and 17th, he had his only two double bogeys of the tournament.

"you like to get your doubles out of the way early, but they got me late," said Elder, whose previous Open best was 22nd place. "I'm not going to feel bad. You have to look at all 72 holes together and I'm not going to let this last round make me forget the first 54."

Elder's fate was typical an a day of brutal pin and tee placements when only three players broke 70 - Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Jim Simons, all with 68s.

"The fact that I was there on the last day with a chance to win, the fact that I broke 300 on a really tough golf course, that makes me feel good," said Elder, who gets an automatic Open shot in 1980 for making the top 16. "Who knows, I'd gotten it going and shot another 69. . . "