On March 28, 1940 Ben Hogan shot a 66 and 67 during the final day to win the Greater Greensboro Open
By: Mark Baron
Earning $1,200.00, at the Sedgefield Country Club and Starmount Forest Country Club in Greensboro, North Carolina (two rounds were played during the final day). Hogan set a new tournament record, lowering the mark by one stroke set by Sam Snead on 1938.
It was his second individual title in his career. The first coming eight days prior at the North-South Open in Pinehurst, where he also set a tournament record. Ben would go on to win the Asheville Land of the Sky Tournament the next week for three victories in a row.
The tournament was postponed for two days after the first round because of a three inch snowfall. But the soggy, cold and windy conditions did not seem to bother Hogan, who played with the new driver given to him by Byron Nelson the previous week. His drives were long and accurate, hitting nearly every fairway and green in regulation.
In the first round Ben started the tournament with eight straight pars. On the ninth hole he reached the par five in two and sank a five foot putt for birdie. He parred 10 and 11, and on the twelfth hole, a tricky hole with the green sitting high on a hill he missed a birdie by inches when a 30-foot putt trickled just by the cup. On the 14th his third shot was within three feet of the par-five cup for a birdie. On the 382 yard 15th hole, he was on in two and sank a 10-footer. He consistently played Hoganesque golf – Drives hitting the fairways, greens in regulation and two or less putts. He finished with a three under par 68.
In the second round, Ben shot a 69 to take a three shot lead into the final day ahead of the defending champion and the US Open champion, Ralph Guldahl and Gene Sarazen. Ralph Guldahl shot a 67 and was quoted: “That’s the best round I’ve played since I won the Masters’ tournament at Augusta last spring. It really wasn’t sensational golf, though the score might look that way. All I did was keep out of trouble, and that’s the main and important thing on these courses.” Sam Snead after shooting a 70 in the first round, played a terrible second shooting a 79 which included a nine on the easy par four 16th hole.
In the two rounds on the final day, Hogan shot a 66 during the morning round at the Sedgefield Country Club course. He held a seven shot lead at the end of the third round and continued his fire-for-the-pins tactics in his afternoon round at Starmount Forest Country Club and shot a 67.
His 72 hole total of 270 was 10 strokes better than the 280 Ralph Guldahl scored in winning the previous year and one stroke better than the tournament record set by Sam Snead in 1938. Second place was Crag Wood with a 279, followed by Guldahl, Paul Runyan, Johnny Revolta and Byron Nelson all tied for third with 280.
Hogan was so consistent that it was difficult for the news reporters to describe the type of game he played. Although he had been on the tour for seven years he had only won one tournament prior to this and his reputation as a pure ball striker was just coming into being. Ralph Guldahl had to concede that he’d rarely, if ever, seen a similar exhibition of golf. Hogan’s drives consistently outdrove Guldahl and Crag Wood. His iron shots time and again landed within his playing partners’. On the few occasions where he missed the green, he nearly chipped it in. During the final two rounds he had only two bogeys to go along with nine birdies and 25 pars. He didn’t have a single five during the final 36 holes that included 26 – four’s, 9 – three’s and 1 – two, where he nearly had a hole-in-one when his 4-iron rolled three inches wide of the cup and only 18 inches beyond.
With the victory, Ben still followed Jimmy Demaret in total money won and the Vardon Trophy race. Ben had $5,238, compared to Demaret with $6,152 and Ben had 172 Vardon points compared to Demaret’s 212. Ben would eventually win both totals by year’s end.