Arnold Palmer, 51, of Latrobe, Pa., won the Senior Open Championship at the Oakland Hills Country Club in Birmingham, Mich.
Although it was the second Senior Open, it was the first at the lowered age format of 50 and older. Palmer became only the second golfer to win three different USGA championships. Palmer joined JoAnne Gunderson Carner, who won the Girls' Junior once, the Women's Amateur five times and the Women's Open twice. Palmer had won his first, the 1954 Amateur Championship, just 19 miles down the road at the Country Club of Detroit. The second was his memorable come-from-behind victory in the 1960 Open Championship at Cherry Hills Country Club in Englewood, Colo.
The first round leader was former PGA champion Lionel Hebert with a score of 70. Three players were home with 71s -- Jim Ferree, and two former Masters winners, Art Wall, Jr., and Bob Goalby. Palmer and Stone were in a group at 72 that included Sam Snead, a former British Open, PGA and Masters champion. Casper, the two-time Open champion and a former Masters winner, was at 73.
On the second day, Goalby posted a second consecutive 71 for a 142 total, one stroke ahead of Wall, Stone and George Bayer. Casper's 72 left him at 145, three off the pace, and Palmer stumbled to a 76 that left him at 148, six behind Goalby. Hebert, the first round leader, posted a 77 and fell out of contention.
Before a large Saturday crowd, Palmer recorded a 68, the championship's first under par round. It gained him a tie for the 54-hole lead with Casper and Wall at 216. Casper had a 71 and Wall a 73. Stone posted a 74 and was one stroke back at 217.
At one point in the fourth round when Wall and Stone finished the 14th hole and Palmer and Casper the 13th, all four players were tied at seven over par for the championship. Wall lost a seven over par for the championship. Wall lost a stroke to par on each of the last three holes to finish 10 over. Stone three-putted the 17th and 18th to finish nine over. Casper bogeyed the 14th and 15th, but parred the final three holes to finish nine over. Palmer bogeyed the 16th when he overshot the green and parred the 17th.
Standing on the 18th tee, Palmer had a one stroke lead over Casper, his playing companion and Stone, who had finished ahead of him. Palmer pulled his second shot to the 18th green and missed a 10-foot putt for par. Casper two-putted from 25 feet for a par. Palmer, Casper and Stone were deadlocked at 289, nine over par, setting the stage for a playoff on the fifth day.
In the playoff, Stone birdied the second hole and eagled the fifth hole, holing a 7-iron from 170 yards out. At this point he was 3 under par and five strokes ahead of Palmer.
When Palmer three-putted the sixth, he trailed Stone by six strokes. Casper, who had one bogey and the rest pars, was four strokes behind Stone.
From the seventh hole on, Palmer had four birdies, one bogey and the rest pars. When Stone bogeyed the seventh and ninth holes and Palmer birdied the eighth and ninth, Stone's lead was reduced from six strokes to two.
At the 12th hole, Palmer birdied from 10 feet and drew even with Stone, who bogeyed. At the 13th, a par 3, Stone regained the lead when Palmer three-putted, but Palmer drew even again with a par at the 14th. Casper, playing steady golf throughout, was just one stroke behind Palmer and Stone after 14 holes, but an 8 on the par-4 16th ended his chances. Palmer went on to birdie the 15th with a 40-foot putt after bouncing a low 3-iron shot onto the green. He then parred his way home from there while Stone was making three successive bogeys. Palmer finished with an even-par 70 to Stone's 74 and Casper's 77.
Forty-four professionals and six amateurs made the 36-hole cut at 154, 14 over par. Glenn Johnson was the low amateur with a 301 total. A total of $150,000 in prize money was awarded, an increase from $100,000 for the 1980 championship. The USGA received 743 entries, up from 631 the first year.