Larry Nelson, 35, played the last 36 holes in 132 strokes - 10 under par- and won by one stroke over Tom Watson, the 1982 Champion. Nelson, from Marietta, Georgia, shot 75-73-65-67 - 280, four under par, at the Oakmont Country Club, in Oakmont, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh. Nelson's 65 and 67 were the two lowest single rounds of the Championship. His 132 broke the former 36-hole record of 136 set by Gene Sarazen in 1932. It had been matched six times. Watson had 72-70-70-69 - 281.
Gil Morgan, the only other golfer to break par for the Championship, shot 73-72-70-68-283. Calvin Peete and Severiano Ballesteros tied for fourth place at 286. The first round co-leaders at 69, two under par, were Ballesteros, John Mahaffey, and Bob Murphy. Mahaffey won the 1978 PGA Championship at Oakmont. Nelson's opening 75 left him six strokes off the lead. Second-round play was interrupted for two and a half hours by a severe thunderstorm in the early afternoon.
Two spectators, struck by lightning near the second green, were taken to a hospital for treatment and later released. Through it all, Mahaffey managed a 72 and shared the 36-hole lead, at 141, one under par, with Joe Rassett, a first year professional who had posted rounds of 72 and 69. Watson and Raymond Floyd shared third place, at 142. Peete moved into contention with 68 and a total of 143, the same as Ballesteros, who shot 74, and Hal Sutton, with 73-70. Murphy dropped out of contention with 81.
Because of the rain delay, 38 contestants, including Peete, had to complete their second rounds on Saturday morning. Sixty-nine professionals and two amateurs made the 36-hoe cut, at 151, nine over par. Nelson, with 148, made the cut by only three strokes. Six over par as the third round began; Nelson dropped to seven over with a bogey at the third hole. After a par 5 on the fourth, Nelson played the next 14 holes of the third round in seven under par, to finish at 65, and then played the last 18 holes in four under.
By shooting 65 in the third round, Nelson passed all but three men who were ahead of him - Watson, Ballesteros, and Peete. At 54 holes, Ballesteros and Watson were the co-leaders, at 212, on rounds of 69 and 70 respectively. Nelson was out in 33, and although he passed Ballesteros and Peete, he was losing strokes to Watson. Watson, however lost strokes on the 10th and 12th, and Nelson, only one stroke behind by then, caught him with a birdie on the 14th. It was his fifth birdie of the round.
As Nelson was playing the 15th and Watson was playing the 14th, play was suspended because of another thunderstorm. Completion of the final round was carried over to Monday. Play resumed at 10 o'clock with Watson facing a 35-foot putt on the 14th and with Nelson playing his tee shot to the 16th. Watson two-putted for his par 4 and Nelson played his tee shot onto the left side of the 16th green, about 62 feet from the hole. Nelson holed the putt for a birdie 2, and led for the first time. When Nelson three-putted the 18h, Watson missed a five-foot putt for a par on the 17th that would have pulled him even.
Nelson played the final 32 holes in 114 strokes, 11 under par, and the last 27 of these in 99 strokes, seven under. On 16 of the last 32 holes, Nelson's approaches were within 15 feet of the hole, and on nine holes he was within 10 feet of the cup with his shots to the greens. Brad Faxon, a member of the 1983 U.S. Walker Cup Team, received a gold medal as low amateur, with a 302 total.
Arnold Palmer competed in his 31st consecutive Open, dating back to 1953. He tied the record previously set by Gene Sarazen. Palmer had played in the last four Opens held at Oakmont. Prize money reached a record $506,184, with $72,000 going to Nelson. The USGA accepted 5,039 entries.
Starts - 20
Best Finish - Winner 1983
Rds - 68
Cuts Made - 14
Top 3 - 2
Top 5 - 3
Top 10 - 3
Top 25 - 8
Avg. - 72.99
Scores In 60s - 11
Rds Under Par - 12
Earnings - $216,626.06