1984: Fuzzy Zoeller
For the 1984 event, USGA officials made some effort to take a bit of the punishment out of the Winged Foot layout, softening the greens and easing back on the rough. The result was a tournament that looked more like a typical U.S. Open.
Through three rounds, both Zoeller and Norman lurked behind a familiar name – Irwin – on the leader board. Entering final round play, Irwin stood at five-under, one better than Zoeller and two ahead of Norman.
Winged Foot stood up and fought back on Sunday. Irwin bogeyed three of the first five holes, labored to a 79, and fell back into sixth place. Zoeller, meanwhile, ran off a string of four straight front-nine birdies to lead Norman by four after just six holes.
But that was the end of Zoeller’s Sunday fortune. While he shot three-over the rest of the way home, Norman came in one-under capped by a 50-foot par putt on the 18th – as Zoeller watched from the fairway — to force a Monday playoff.
That playoff belonged to Zoeller, whose birdies on the two opening holes set up a 67. He led Norman by three on the third tee and won by eight. With a 2.74 standard deviation from the moderate (for Winged Foot) 290.86 four-round field average, Zoeller’s is the most dominant Open performance on that course.