Against a legacy of green jackets and Claret Jugs, a final-round charge at Cherry Hills and countless appearances in all corners of the globe, Arnold Palmer’s win at the 1973 Bob Hope Desert Classic would hardly seem to resonate.
But, oh, how it meant everything to him.
“The sweetest ever,” Palmer said that February Sunday 47 years ago.
Sweeter than any of his four Masters? His two Open Championships? His historic 1960 U.S. Open? Truthfully, probably not – except that for all the emotions Palmer harbored in the early days of 1973, it’s understandable he would have expressed such joy after his final-round 3-under 69 at Bermuda Dunes to finish at 17-under 343.
On so many levels, it was memorable. Partly because of whom he edged by two strokes — the incomparable rival, Jack Nicklaus, and a 25-year-old desert juggernaut named Johnny Miller, who was months away from making U.S. Open history at Oakmont. Partly because it was his fifth win at “the Hope,” a five-day convergence of golf, showbiz celebrities, big business executives and politicians that seemingly was invented for the charismatic Palmer.
But most of all, because the 62nd and final win of Palmer’s storied PGA TOUR career was his first stroke-play triumph since the 1971 Westchester Classic, a drought of 30 stroke-play tournaments that encompassed his only winless season, 1972, between 1955-1973.
“I hope it’s not as long before my next win,” Palmer said to the assembled media that day.
Sadly, his wish did not come true.