This Day in Hogan History: Ben Hogan wins 1950 U.S. Open in a playoff
By: Mark Baron – On June 11, 1950 Ben Hogan shot a 69 in a three way playoff against Lloyd Mangrum and George Fazio to win his fourth major and third US Open (We, of course, count the 1942 US Open, aka the Hale America Open as his first) at the Merion Cricket Club in Ardmore, Pennsylvania by four strokes over Mangrum and six strokes over Fazio and earned $4,000.00
Leading up to the tournament the biggest news stories about the tournament were centered on the two heavy favorites, Hogan and Sam Snead and the weather. People were wondering if Ben’s legs could hold up at the rugged Merion Cricket Club playing at 6,694 yards that had broken the hearts of many champions. The tournament finished up with a double round of 36 holes on Saturday. Ben had not played 36 holes in one day since his accident 16 months before and there was some question he can endure it. “We’ll have to see” commented Hogan. Snead’s putter had failed him in the tournaments leading up to the US Open and he had a new one handy in case he decided to use it. The weather prior to the start of the tournament had been extremely hot, leaving the undulating greens as hard as concrete and slick as glass. The night before the tournament a 300-pound roller packed the greens to make them lightning fast. Five hundred tons of fresh white sand were trucked in and dumped in to the course’s 120 traps. One trap was so big golfers dubbed it “Merion’s Beach” and a prankster’s sign said “no sun bathing allowed.”
In the first round Lee Mackey, Jr, a little known driving range operator from Birmingham shot a record breaking 64 to take the first round lead. The previous US Open low score was 65 and the course record at Merion was a 66. Ben opened up with a one over par 72.
In the second round E. J. “Dutch” Harrison shot a 67 to go with his opening round of 72 to take a one shot lead at 139 over Johnny Bulla, a long-hitting pro from Verona, Pennsylvania who shot a four under par 66 to go with his opening round of 74, Jim Ferrier, who shot a 71 – 69 and Julius Boros who shot 68 – 72 at 140. Ben shot a one under par 69 to finish in a tie for fifth place with a 141. He was three under par going into 16 but three putted for a bogey and bogied the next hole to ruin what might have been a good enough score to put him in front. Sam Snead virtually blew himself out of the championship with a five over par 75 that gave him a halfway total of 148.
In the third round, the morning round on the final day Saturday, Lloyd Mangrum shot a two under par 69 to take a one shot lead over Harrison and two strokes over Ben who shot a one over par 72.
In the fourth round held Saturday afternoon Ben shot a three over par 74 to finish in a three way tie with Lloyd Mangrum and George Fazio. Ben needing only par for the last nine holes to win the title, after shoot a 37 on the outward nine, tired at the finish and went three over for that stretch. On the 12th hole, it was reported that Ben wrenched his knee in swinging off the tee. Hogan refused to admit any injury, saying, “Boys, let’s forget it. I imagine people are getting tired reading about my injuries.” Nevertheless his caddy from that point picked up his ball out of the hole and his partner, Cary Middlecoff, marked Ben’s ball on the greens. He three-putted the 12th for a one over par five, bogied the 15th by missing a short two and a half foot putt and bogied the 230-yard 17th hole when he trapped his tee shot, chipped to six feet and two putted. He played the 18th heroically, slashing a second shot, one iron, to 40 feet from the pin, going boldly for the winning putt and then having a tough six-foot side hill comeback that he made.
In the 18-hole playoff held on Sunday, Ben defeated Mangrum by four and Fazio by six to win his third US Open. Mangrum forgot about the rules of the game and committed one of the biggest gaffes in US Open history by lifting his ball to blow an insect from its surface on the 16th green. Officials promptly handed him a two-shot penalty, settling the outcome of the tournament for all intents and purposes right there. That placed Hogan three strokes in front with only two holes to play and he removed any further doubt that might have existed by sinking a 50-foot putt for a birdie two on the 230-yard seventeenth hole. Ben bogied only one hole during the playoff, the eighth hole where he drove into a trap. He made birdies on the seventh and seventeenth.
This was considered one of the greatest comebacks in sports history. Sixteen months prior to this event, Ben was involved in a near fatal head-on collision with a Greyhound bus. Ben stretched across the front seat to protect his wife, saving her from injury and saving his life as the steering column was rammed into the back of his seat. His pelvis, ankle, rib and collarbone were fractured, his internal organs were damaged, and he sustained a loss of vision in his left eye. After Ben’s car accident he kept falling in and out of consciousness not knowing how seriously he was hurt, said to his wife “would you check on my clubs?” The news wires first reported that Hogan was dead. When he was in the hospital recuperating they said he would never walk again. When he started walking, they said he would never play golf again. When he started golfing, they said he would never play competitive golf again. When he started back on the tour they said he would never win again. But as we know they were all wrong. They might have known better than to count out Mr. Hogan.