Interview: Billy Casper Didn’t Watch Leaderboards

Interview: Billy Casper Didn't Watch Leaderboards 1
Billy Casper focused on his own game.

LAST SUMMER I INTERVIEWED BILLY Casper, whose Hall-of-Fame career included 51 PGA Tour wins (three of them majors), eight Ryder Cup appearances and five Vardon Trophies. No American, by the way, has won more Ryder Cup points than Casper.

I thought the following was interesting. A man who had won so often and achieved so much success on the golf course never watched the leaderboard.

Q: Were you a scoreboard watcher, Billy?

BILLY CASPER: No, no. I trained myself not to look at the scoreboard. I knew if I was making proper decisions and playing well and putting well, that I would win. Or I would be right there at the end. I remember two incidents very distinctly.

One was the San Diego Open in 1966. The last day was very cold, and the wind blew from the east which is uncommon that it blows all day that way. I started four shots behind in the final round. I shot 32 out, and I birdied 10 and 14. And 14 was normally a drive and a wedge and I hit a drive and a 4-iron and I made birdie. I birdied 15, parred 16, birdied 17 and walked to the 18th tee. I said to my friend who was with me, who worked with the FBI, How do I stand? He said you have a four-shot lead.

And the other tournament that I played where I didn’t know what I was doing, which, you know, where you stood in the tournament, was at Indianapolis. I started the final round one shot ahead of George Bayer, and two shots ahead of Jerry Steelsmith. Steelsmith shot 63, Bayer shot 64. As I walk off the green at 17, I was 7-under par. I said how do I stand to my caddie. And he said you need to make birdie on this hole to win the tournament. It was a five par. I knocked it on in two and made birdie and won the tournament. I shot 64, Bayer shot 64 and Steelsmith shot 63. And yet they didn’t win.

Q: Was that the Speedway Open?

BILLY CASPER: Yeah, that was one of the years at the Speedway. This is the way I played. I couldn’t change what other players were doing. So what do you want to watch the board for? I wasn’t like Palmer. Palmer liked to watch the board. I just wanted to be in total control of myself. And I used all my energy for myself, not anyone outside. That was my thinking.

Q: It worked well for you.

BILLY CASPER: Yes, it did.

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Neil Sagebiel

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