DENVER-Golf’s man of steel won the United States Open championship today. Refusing to concede defeat when he trailed by seven strokes going into the final round, Arnold Palmer scored an incredible closing 65 for the greatest winning finish anyone has made in the game’s top tournament. While thousands cheered him at the Cherry Hills Country Club, the 30-year-old Ligonier (Pa.) professional brought his 72-hole total to 280. He won by two strokes.

In a dramatic fourth round, Palmer played the first nine holes in 30. That equaled the Open record set by Jimmy McHale, a Philadelphia amateur, in 1947. It also turned Palmer from an also-ran into a challenger. Palmer started the round with four straight birdie 3’s. A tremendous bid by 20-year-old Jack Nicklaus, the National Amateur titleholder from Columbus, Ohio, fell just short. Nicklaus finished with a par 71 for 282 and runner-up laurels. No amateur since Johnny Goodman in 1933 has carried off this title. But the score by Nicklaus, an Ohio State University junior, is the lowest ever by an amateur, including Bob Jones, in this championship.

Nicklaus was caught in the midst of tremendous interest because his playing partner on the last two rounds was Ben Hogan. The 47-year-old Texan made his bid when Mike Souchak, the leader by two strokes entering the final round, started to falter. Hogan reached the brink of a fifth championship, a feat never achieved in this tournament. But the seventy- first and seventy-second holes smashed his fondest hopes. Hogan was 4 under par until then. But he slipped to a 6 on the 17th hole when he had to take off his right shoe and sock and hit out of water near the green. And he scored 7 on the 18th for a round of 73 when he hooked a shot into the lake.

Playing back of Nicklaus and Hogan, Palmer learned what was happening ahead and adhered to pars on the last four holes for the victory. It brought him a first prize of $14,400. Palmer is a determined fellow on a golf course. He is the son of a professional and grew up in a golfing atmosphere. After winning the Masters in April, he said his goal this year would be to win here, the British Open and the Professional Golfers Association championship.

Palmer was confident as he drove the first green and started his string of birdies. He had thirteen birdies in earlier rounds of 72, 71 and 72 and bagged seven more in the final eighteen holes. “I never lost my desire to win here. But you must have the breaks, too,” Palmer said after he had won.

The only other closing rush to the title that approached Palmer’s was a 66 by Gene Sarazen as he triumphed in 1932 at Fresh Meadow. Palmer, who attended Wake Forest College, won the National Amateur in 1954 and subsequently joined the pro ranks, a life-long ambition. This was his eighth appearance in the Open championship. He tied for fifth in his best previous performance last year at Winged Foot.