PITTSBURGH -- Jack Nicklaus was so focused on winning his first professional golf tournament, especially one as important as the U.S. Open, that he wasn't aware of everything going on around him.
Facing Arnold Palmer in an 18-hole playoff at Oakmont Country Club in 1962, the then-22-year-old prodigy from Columbus, Ohio, had no idea that the crowd was so against him that his dad had to be restrained by none other than Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes from going after antagonists in the gallery.
What's more, as a tour rookie going against the iconic King, Nicklaus even said he had no idea at the time that Palmer was effectively playing in his own backyard, about a half-hour away from his hometown of Latrobe, Pa.
All he was concerned about was winning a golf tournament, something he had yet to do as a professional.
And he did, beginning a wondrous and dominating chapter of golf history that may never be equaled again.
"I was a 22-year-old kid with blinders on," Nicklaus said. "I didn't know Arnold lived in that area. Why would I know anything about that? I was trying to win the tournament. I felt after finishing second at Cherry Hills (in the '60 U.S. Open) and fourth at Oakland Hills (in '61) my turn was next. I didn't realize there was a guy named Arnold Palmer who would play well. I was naive enough to believe that.
"People ask me about it being Arnold's backyard and all that and I never even heard it. All I was trying to do was win."
Nicklaus' playoff victory against Palmer remains one of the benchmark moments in golf because it served as the game's changing of the guard. It would be the first of the Golden Bear's 18 major victories -- a record that remains unchallenged -- but it would also spark one of the greatest rivalries in sports history. More than anything, it served as the day golf's mantle passed from a King to a Bear.
And it happened at Oakmont.
That's why the United States Golf Association is producing a one-hour documentary called "The 1962 U.S. Open: Jack's First Major," that will air June 17 on NBC before the final round of the '12 U.S. Open at Olympic Club in San Francisco.
"I look back, I go, 'Wow, look what happened.' It is pretty amazing to me," Nicklaus said the other day over the phone, recalling the tournament that goes down as maybe the greatest U.S. Open championship in history. "That was my first win and Arnie treated me great. He couldn't have been nicer. He's always been that way with me."
The documentary is being produced in collaboration between the USGA Museum and Ross Greenburg, a 51-time Sports Emmy Award winner.
"We didn't have to search very long for a compelling subject," said Robert Williams, director of the USGA Museum. "Jack and Arnold was easy. It was Jack's first victory and he did it in a major championship, but Jack is used to shattering barriers."
When Palmer first learned about the documentary, he joked to Nicklaus, "Why are they doing a film about me losing the U.S. Open?"
Palmer was golf's biggest star and Western Pennsylvania's favorite son when the U.S. Open came to Oakmont in '62. At 32, he already had won the Masters for a third time two months earlier and won the U.S. Open two years earlier at Cherry Hills in Denver. He also won the '61 British Open and would repeat as champion one month after his playoff loss to Nicklaus.
But, after both players finished tied after 72 holes, Palmer lost the playoff when he shot 74 and Nicklaus shot 71.
"The thing I thought would help me at Oakmont was my putting and the fact I knew the greens pretty well and had played there a lot in my life," Palmer said recently from his office in Orlando, Fla. "I thought I would be able to handle it and, as it turns out, my game was OK and my putting wasn't."
Conversely, Nicklaus three-putted just once in five rounds, and that on the first hole of the final round when a helicopter flew overheard, conjuring memories of a similar instance two years earlier when he three-putted while paired with Ben Hogan in the U.S. Open at Cherry Hills.
There was something else Nicklaus hasn't forgotten: A devilish 5-foot birdie putt that was "a downhill, left-to-right slider" at No. 17 in the final Oakmont round. Nicklaus decided to take the break out of the putt and rammed the ball in the back of the cup that helped force a playoff.
Fifty years later, the Golden Bear remembers it as the shot of the tournament, the one that produced his first major victory. That was the first of many things Nicklaus did that others couldn't do. And why that day at Oakmont is being captured for a documentary.