1953: Ben Hogan wins The Open at Carnoustie in his only ever appearance

Ben
Pictured is Ben Hogan holding the Claret Jug awarded to the “Champion Golfer of the Year” during the presentation ceremony for winning the Open Golf Tournament at Carnoustie Championship Golf Course on July 10, 1953

This Day in Hogan History: 1953 CHAMPION GOLFER OF THE YEAR

By: Mark Baron – On July 10, 1953, Ben won the Open Championship played at the Carnoustie Championship Course, to become the “Champion Golfer of the Year”. Hogan shot a 70 and a 68 in the two final rounds played that day, winning by four strokes over American Amateur Frank Stranahan, Antonio Cerdá from Argentina, Dai Rees from Wales and Peter Thomson from Australia.

In the Morning Round

Ben shot a 70 to tie for the lead with Roberto de Vicenzo who had a 69. In second place were Dai Rees and Peter Thomson, one stroke back.

Hogan was even par through the fourth hole, but bogied the fifth. He hit a beautiful 250-yard drive in the middle of the fairway, but pulled his six iron, the ball rolling over the green into deep rough, 30 feet from the green and 70 feet from the pin. His chip came out poorly and left himself 25 feet for par. He rolled it past the hole by three feet, but calmly sank the putt for a bogie five.

Hogan’s strategy in playing the 567 yard par five, sixth hole – placing his tee shot between fairway bunkers and the out of bounds marker, taking the direct route to the pin – paid off again as it had in the previous two rounds. He hit his best tee shot thus far for the day, a drive of at least 260 yards. His four wood second shot landed 20 feet in front of the green and 80 feet from the hole. He chipped to within 15 feet and dropped the putt for a birdie four.

On the 389 yard seventh hole Ben sank one of his best putts of the week, a 25-footer to take a birdie.

On the eighth, a 162 yard par three, Hogan hit a great tee shot, 35 feet short of the pin, but missed the putt by a couple of inches to take a par.

His tee shot on the ninth hole was just to the left of the fairway. Hogan took over a minute to decide upon his club selection. He finally hit and the ball landed on the green. He putted to within two feet and his par putt almost spun out of the hole, before dropping in. Ben stood on his toes as the ball trickled around the cup.

Hogan made par on the tenth hole, a 446-yard par four hitting driver and a three iron for his second shot landing him 40 feet from the hole.

Teeing off on the eleventh hole, Hogan hit his biggest drive of the week, at least 300 yards. He hit his pitch shot to within 20 feet, but missed the birdie putt.

After his drive on the twelfth, Hogan hit a five iron to 40 feet and barely missed his birdie putt as it rolled four feet past. His par putt stayed on the lip and he had to settle for another bogie.

Hogan bounced back with a birdie on the thirteenth making an 11-foot putt on the par three 167-yard hole.

He made another birdie on the 473 yard par five 14th hole after hitting another 300+ yard drive, hitting his second shot to just off the green. His approach landed six feet from the hole and he sank the putt.

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On the 15th hole he got a par four after a solid 250-yeard drive. His second was 40 feet short and on the approach putt he missed another birdie when the ball inexplicably jumped over the hole.   He groaned aloud and the gallery groaned along with him.

Hogan double bogied the 17th hole, that started with a layup drive of 220 yards. His next shot landed in a deep sand bunker. He blasted out to within 35 feet of the pin. His first putt was five feet short and his next putt hung on the lip of the cup taking a six.

He came back with a birdie on 18 after a 230 yard drive. He used a two iron and landed 25 feet from the cup. His eagle putt missed by an inch, but settled for a birdie.

In the Afternoon Round

Over 15,000 spectators watch Ben shoot a final round 68 at Carnoustie, beating the course record by one shot that was set in the morning round earlier that day by American Amateur, Frank Stranahan, to win the Open Championship by four strokes over the second place finishers Stranahan, Antonio Cerdá from Argentina, Dai Rees from Wales and Peter Thomson from Australia.

In his second round of the day Ben played mechanically without showing emotion, chain smoking cigarettes, hitting every fairway and 17 greens in regulation with no bogeys and birdies at the fifth, sixth, 13th and 18th holes.

On the par four fifth hole Ben hit a shot that is considered one of the greatest in Major Championship history. He landed his second shot in a deep grass bunker beside the green, 30 yards from the hole. His chip shot boldly struck the back of the cup, bounced a foot in the air and fell into the hole for a birdie three.

On the par five 567-yard sixth hole, Hogan hit a huge 300 yard drive in the 25 yard wide slot between the fairway bunkers and the out of bounds markers. He hit his second shot 80 yards short of the green, chipped to within three feet and sank the putt for a birdie. The sixth hole at Carnoustie has bunkers in the middle of the fairway starting at about 180 yards from the tee, forming two paths to the green. The fairway to the right of bunkers is the safe route, the left route is only 20 yards wide between the bunkers and out of bounds lining the entire left side, but the angle for the next shot is much better from which to attack the green. Ben was the only golfer who bravely landed his tee shot between the fairway bunkers and the out of bound markers every round to make birdies.   After the tournament the hole was officially named “Hogan’s Alley” in his honor.

Hogan played the 406 yard par four, tenth hole in the morning round with a driver, three-iron, and made his par. But during the afternoon round after a good drive, Ben reached for the three-iron again, but his caddie, Cecil Timms said, “The winds changed up there. It’s a 2-iron.”   This was a critical moment in the tournament as he was tied for the lead at this point, Hogan glared at him, thought it over, and took out the 2-iron, and said: “If this shot goes through the green, I’ll wrap this two iron around your neck.” Timms later said that it appeared Hogan took the hardest swing he’d taken at any shot during the whole championship, trying to hit the ball through the green, just to prove him wrong. But the ball stopped on the green about 10 feet past the flag, and he easily two-putted for his par.

On the 167-yard thirteenth hole, he hit his tee shot to 12 feet and calmly sank the putt for birdie.

He finished with flair on the 503-yard par five eighteenth hole reaching the green in two shots and two putting from 35 feet for a closing birdie.

After the tournament Ben, being such a gentleman, refused to go to the podium to accept the Claret Jug for winning the tournament without wearing a jacket wanting to show the deserved respect for the tournament’s sense of decorum, the committee members and the spectators. At the time, it was misunderstood by those waiting that Ben was being rude, but the problem was that his jacket was outside of the golf course’s boundaries. Finally Hogan borrowed a jacket from Harry Andrew from the “Sunday Express”, so the jacket you see him wearing belonged to another man.

During the presentation Ben was quoted: “This is one of the toughest courses I have ever played. Every shot is either blind or semi-blind. These are the best galleries I have ever seen. There is bound to be some running, but on the whole I think the crowds have minded the stewards wonderfully. I really mean it – these are fine galleries. I cannot say now whether I will return to Britain in the fall to play in the Ryder Cup. Just now I feel tired. I cannot say whether I will be over here next year to defend my title in the British Open. That also depends on how I feel. I have a cold and I have been playing golf almost every day since March. During this entire tournament I have been so exhausted after each round that I have had to go to bed. I feel good, but so very tired.”

The Scottish people in Carnoustie showed Ben more adoration in the two weeks’ time he spent there than he was used to receiving in America, even though most of Ben’s comments about Scotland and the courses were not very complimentary when he arrived.   He was quoted about the condition of the course: “Those greens are like putting on putty,” he said of the slow-running surfaces. “I think I’ll get them a lawn mower sent from Texas so they can cut them real close.” When told they’d been cut twice that day, Hogan shot back: “It would have helped if they had put the blades in the mower.”

But Ben warmed up to the Scottish hospitality. Valerie said she never saw her husband laugh as much as he did that week nor did she ever see him look happier or more at ease signing autographs or walking amongst the crowds. When he was served a silver dollar sized steak the night before the final day of the tournament Valerie told him that the staff at the guesthouse pooled their ration coupons to get it. He could not believe how incredibly generous they were to make that kind of sacrifice for him.   As he was leaving to go back to the States the entire staff at the guesthouse lined up outside to wish him and Valerie farewell. They showed him that throughout the week they had filled his golf bag with good luck charms. There was not a dry eye as he went down the line offering his appreciation to every single person and bidding them goodbye.

After the tournament, Ben took a two week vacation traveling around Europe with his wife Valerie and was invited to play golf by the King of Belgium. Ben declined the invitation saying that he never plays golf on his vacation.

This was Hogan’s 10th and final major victory (We, of course, count the 1942 US Open, aka the Hale America Open). Only Jack Nicklaus (18), Tiger Woods (14) and Walter Hagen (11) have more, but their careers were not interrupted by world wars and head on collisions with a bus.

With this victory, Ben became the second person to win all four professional majors in his career (Gene Sarazen was the first, since matched by Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods).

He was the first person to win three professional majors in one calendar year, matched only by Tiger Woods in 2000.

He belongs to a list of five golfers who won multiple professional majors in multiple years Ben Hogan (3), Gene Sarazen (2), Arnold Palmer (2), Jack Nicklaus (4) and Tiger Woods (4).

He belongs to a list of 18 golfers who won two or more majors in a calendar year, Ben Hogan, 1948, 1951, 1953; Arnold Palmer, 1960, 1962; Robert T. Jones, 1926, 1927, 1930; Craig Wood, 1941; Gary Player, 1974; Gene Sarazen, 1922, 1932; Jack Nicklaus, 1963, 1966, 1972, 1975, 1980; Lee Trevino, 1971; Mark O’Meara, 1998; Nick Faldo, 1990; Nick Price, 1994; Padraig Harrington, 2008; Sam Snead, 1949; Tiger Woods, 1977, 2000, 2002, 2005, 2006; Tom Watson, 1982; Walter Hagen, 1924; Rory McIlroy 2014; Jordan Spieth 2015.

Ben is included in the short list of nine people who won the Open Championship on their first attempt: Willie Park Sr. – Prestwick (1860 – the first time the championship was held), Tom Kidd – St Andrews (1873), Mungo Park – Musselburgh (1874), Jock Hutchison – St Andrews (1921), Denny Shute – St Andrews (1933), Ben Hogan – Carnoustie (1953), Tony Lema – St Andrews (1964), Tom Watson – Carnoustie (1975) and Ben Curtis – Royal St George’s (2003).

He is on the short list of four champions who shot progressively lower scores in each round at this tournament: Jack White, 1904, Royal St George’s: 80, 75, 72, 69; James Braid, 1906, Muirfield: 77, 76, 74, 73; Ben Hogan, 1953, Carnoustie: 73, 71, 70, 68; and Gary Player, 1959, Muirfield: 75, 71, 70, 68.

Mark Baron

Mark Baron is a Ben Hogan expert who posts daily about the legend. Check out Mark's huge following on the Ben Hogan Facebook Page and stay tuned for special Hogan anniversaries for Mark's insight. Check out the page here: www.facebook.com/benhogangolf

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