This Day in Hogan History:
On January 29th, 1946 Ben Hogan defeated Herman Keiser by two strokes in an 18-hole playoff at the Phoenix Open played at the Phoenix Country Club, earning $1,500.00. Ben could have won the tournament in regulation, but he missed a four foot putt on the final hole that sent the tournament into a playoff.
In the first round Ben shot a 66 to finish in a three way tie for the lead along with Walter Burkemo and Ellsworth Vines. Vines was a pro tennis player that turned pro golfer. Both Byron Nelson and Sam Snead withdrew before the tournament started.
The third and fourth rounds were contested on the same day. Ben shot a 68 to take a two stroke lead over Herman Keiser who also shot a 68. In the second round of the day, the fourth round of the tournament, Hogan shot a 71 to Keiser’s 69 for the tie at the end of the day.
In the 18 hole playoff the next day they both parred the first two holes then birdied the par 3, 130 yard second hole. The game developed into a duel between Hogan’s long, straight drives and Keiser’s putting ability.
Keiser drove into a grove of trees on the 305-yard fifth hole, but was on the green in two and sank a short putt for birdie. Hogan, also on in two strokes but farther away from the cup took two putts for a par to fall one stroke back.
Hogan’s drive on the sixth hole went off the fairway, the only time he had driving trouble around the course, but still managed to par the hole as did Keiser.
Keiser held a one stroke lead at the end of the outward nine, but his puttered started to falter which led to two bogeys on the inward nine while Hogan had two birdies.
On the 10th hole Keiser approach shot was off to the left of the green, he chipped up to within six feet but missed his first putt and took a bogey five. Hogan parred the hole to even up the match.
On the 12th hole Keiser was in trouble again when he drove into the trees to the right of the fairway. His recovery was good and he two-putted out for a par four to match Hogan’s par.
On the 175-yard par three 13th hole Keiser drove into a sand trap but managed to get up and down for a par. Ben struggled with his putter the entire round until he sank a 10-footer for par, the first one longer than two feet he had managed to sink all day.
On the 14th both were on the green in two, Hogan landing closer to the cup. Keiser three-putted from 20 feet for his second bogey of the day which put Hogan one stroke up.
On the 15th Hogan calmly sank a 10-footer for a birdie two to make the victory almost certain as Keiser took a par three.
On the 18th hole, a 504 yard par five, Hogan landed in the same sand trap from which he landed into the day before. His chip shot ended up about four feet from the cup, almost in the same position as the day before, when he missed the putt that would have gave him the victory. But this time he sank it for a birdie four, the same as Keiser. Ben shot a three-under par 68 to defeat Keiser who shot a one-under 70.
The victory gave Hogan the lead in 1946 earnings at $4,675.00 to Byron Nelson in second with $4,250.00
Slow play was an issue in 1946 as it is today. In an interview after the tournament, Fred Corcoran, the PGA Tour Manager warned that golfers will lose interest if they don’t speed up play. Corcoran was quoted: “Walter Hagen, Bobby Jones and Gene Sarazen could play 18 holes in three hours, but a lot of fellows these days are taking four and a half hours to play one round. Spectators like to watch the man who doesn’t take too much time. And the money the gallery pays helps pay the expenses.” Corcoran added that “Byron Nelson was one who believed play should be speeded up by penalizing the slow men.”
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