As happens so often, the winner of the U.S. Open did not exactly win. Andy North survived.
It took a quadruple-bogey 8 to bring T.C. Chen back to North five holes into the final round; grateful, North staggered to victory today almost exactly the way he had seven years ago in the Open.
"Pretty hard to remember all those shots," North joked. "There were some ugly things."
For the round, there were 74 blows, or four over Oakland Hills par; for the tournament, North shot a one-under 279. He beat Chen, Denis Watson and Dave Barr by a stroke.
North finally found some fairways the final nine holes, and made a spectacular sand shot on the 71st hole that he likely will remember most.
That blow, within inches of the cup, saved par and made victory possible with a bogey on the final hole. A pressure up-and-down from the sand on the final hole enabled him to win the '78 Open.
But North was only a witness to the hole and the shots that will become an important part of the already-rich Open lore.
On his fifth hole today, and 59th of the tournament, Chen hit double par after striking his ball twice with the same swing in the rough.
Chen led after the first round, with a 65 that tied the course record; he led after the second and third rounds, with scores that equaled the Open records.
Had the Taiwan native parred in after the fourth hole, he would have tied the 72-hole Open record Jack Nicklaus set in 1980. He also would have been the first Oriental to win an Open, and the first player to win an Open on his first try since Francis Ouimet in 1913.
He achieved a sadder immortality.
Chen drove well on the fifth, into the fairway, and was only a four-iron from the pin on the 457-yard hole. A pushed approach started his slide.
In the rough, Chen bumped the ball into more trouble. On his fourth swing, he popped the ball from high grass and accidentally swiped it again on the follow-through.
That double-hit cost him a penalty. So the pitch Chen hit about eight feet past the pin was his sixth shot; he two-putted for eight.
"Sometimes (golf) is funny," Chen said, none too pleased. "Everything is gone."
Ironically, an equally unusual penalty -- for waiting too long for his ball to drop after a putt -- cost Watson two strokes on the first round; he lost the tournament by one.
"I put that out of my mind Thursday," Watson said today.
Surely, it hopped back in after North took the safe bogey he needed on No. 18. Publicly, Watson added: "I don't think it will (haunt me); this was my first Open."
Briefly, Barr had a two-shot lead on the back nine. From three-under for the tournament, he bogeyed the 13th, 17th and 18th holes, after erratic tee shots.
"The Monster bit back today," Barr said, a reference to so many players shooting such low scores the first two rounds on a course long regarded as frighteningly tough.
Barr also expressed what all the others surely felt after Chen birdied the second hole to go eight under: "Nobody expected him to back up that far."
But he did, and bogeyed the next three holes after that quadruple dropped him into a four-under tie with North. But a shaky two-putt for par on the ninth hole, and some weak play by others, kept him in contention.
Except for North, nobody with a decent chance at winning the Open had much of a record under pressure. And he had not won since that Open in Denver.
"But this is the first time in eight or nine years," he said, "that I've really had no pain. It's been fun coming to the golf course."
He had elbow surgery two years ago and still putts with that dime-store putter and stooped-over stance.
"My problems are kind of reversed from most people," he said. "I was a very good ball striker when I was young, but a terrible putter. I was putting cross-handed when I was 14 or 15 years old."
For North, there was a 12-hole stretch from the beginning today that he hit either a bunker or rough from the tee nine times. He was four-over through 11 holes.
A five-iron within 10 feet on the 13th hole "was really the shot I needed," he said. "Everybody kinda stumbles around sometimes, and then gets it back."
North made that putt for the birdie 2 that lifted him into a tie for the lead again, at two under. Chen had gotten to two under with a bird at the par-5 No. 12, Barr with a bogey at 13.
Barr faded from contention on the hole that also proved pivotal for North and Chen: the par-3 17th.
On the tee, Barr had trouble deciding between a four- and three-iron, and chose the longer club. A few feet off the green, but behind a mound, he was in terrible trouble.
For any hope of getting the ball close, he had to loft it extremely high. He missed the shot just enough to create a 35-footer for par, which he also missed.
Then he missed his tee shot at 18, missed his four-iron approach out of a bunker and just missed a delicate chip from above the hole for par.
Meanwhile, Chen had nailed his tee shot onto the green on 17, but in a similarly impossible position to putt near the hole without a dangerous journey through the fringe.
Chen also had a 35-footer for par; he also missed.
North's ball landed in a bunker. Still, he said, "I had a three-to-one better chance for par than T.C. You have to be on that (right) side of the hole.
"I also had a perfect lie."
North scooped a wedge that only missed perfection by inches. With a tap in, he needed bogey on the final hole to win. And that's what he played for.
"Andy would have to have gone off the charts to blow it then," Barr said. "Especially when he was in the fairway off the tee."
North played short, and smart, with both his approach from the fairway and his pitch from about 30 yards. After tapping in, he raised his fists in celebration and hugged his caddy.
"A lot like '78," he said, "and so nice to get that monkey off my back. What a relief it will be to not have 100 people come up to me each week and say: 'Why are you playing terrible?' "