Today in Hogan History: Ben Captures the 1946 Western Open
By: Mark Baron – On May 26, 1946, Ben Hogan shot a final round 70 to win the 1946 Western Open with a tournament record score of 17-under par 271. Ben earned $2,000 for his victory, raising his tour leading season total to $20,060.50. This was Hogan’s sixth victory for the year.
In the first round, Ben shot a 68 to trail the leader, Jim Ferrer by four strokes. Tied for second, three strokes back were Ky Laffoon and Melvin (Chick) Harbert. Tied for fourth, along with Ben were Clayton Heafner, Jimmy Hines and Bob Hamilton. Byron Nelson, Jimmy Demaret and Sam Snead shot 69’s. Sam Snead amazingly disqualified himself as he played with 16 clubs, not knowing the USGA rules were in effect, allowing only 14.
In the second round, Ben shot a 66 to tie Ferrer for the lead, who shot a 70. Two shots back were Vic Ghezzi and Melvin (Chick) Harbert and Stewart (Skip) Alexander. Byron Nelson was three strokes back with a 137.
As often happened during Hogan’s era, the final two rounds were played on the same day. In the morning round, Ben shot a 67 to take a three-stroke lead as Ferrer shot a 74. In that round, Ben made three straight birdies.
In the final round Ben shot a 70 to break the 17-year old tournament record, set by Tommy Armour by two strokes. He opened the round with a birdie on the first hole by sinking a 60-foot putt. He birdied the third hole by hitting his approach to within 20 inches. He birdied the 500-yard par 5 tenth hole where he was on the fringe in two. He birdied the 12th hole and 16th holes, but bookended between those two birdies, on the 14th hole he inexplicitly and uncharacteristically hit his first two drives out of bounds and ended up with a triple bogie on the 460-yard par four.
The Western Open considered a “Major” at this time, was a tournament every golfer wanted to win because it had one of the highest payoffs in its day and the prestige associated with it. Quoted by Byron Nelson “We looked at the Western Open and the North and South as majors in our day because the companies, the sponsors, offered bonuses for winning them, just like they did for the U. S. Open and the PGA”. Everything written in the newspapers articles led you to believe that this tournament was every bit as important as the Masters, PGA and US Open. World War II placed the Open Championship on hiatus and the tournament would not come back into prominence until 1953 when Hogan played and won the Championship at Carnoustie.
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