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EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT: Fleck, Hogan, and Golf's Greatest Upset at the '55 U.S. Open

Photo: Thomas Dunne Books / St. Martin’s Press

Neil Sagebiel's new book, The Longest Shot

At the 1955 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club, Ben Hogan was poised to win the tournament for a record fifth time. Jack Fleck, a little-known municipal-course pro from Davenport, Iowa, spoiled the coronation with a dramatic Saturday finish to tie Hogan and a  69 in the Sunday playoff to Hogan's 72. (In those days, the pros played 18 holes on Thursday and Friday and 36 on Saturday.) Neil Sagebiel tells the dramatic story of that Open in his new book, The Longest Shot (buy it now), which is excerpted here.

The Hawk sent his tee shot on the last hole far down the right side of the fairway, leaving himself no more than a pitch up the slope to the 18th green. As a photographer and five others crouched a short distance behind him, Hogan struck his approach shot with a three-quarters swing and short follow-through. The ball cleared the fronting bunker and landed softly to the left of the front-right pin position, drawing back a shade and stopping 15 feet from the cup. It was a safe and well-judged play, exactly what one would expect from a four-time national champion. With an uphill putt that broke slightly from left to right, birdie was a possibility and par was a virtual lock. Hogan took his putting stance. Then, as was his putting ritual and a common routine of the era, he placed his blade directly in front of the ball for a brief moment before returning the putter head to its original position behind the ball. The putt rolled straight for the hole before losing steam and trailing off to the right. There was one last flash from the fierce competitor as he mock-swung his putter in frustration as if to say, “Get it there, Ben!” From about the same spot where his rival Snead had stroked his final putt a half hour earlier, Hogan tapped in for his par and a final-round 70, the first time he matched par on the Lake Course. Of those who had finished, it was the lowest score of the afternoon. He had saved his best for last and was all but assured of winning the title.

Roars, cheers, and applause engulfed Hogan as he removed his white linen cap and strode to the side of the green. He nodded his head in acknowledgment of the gallery’s appreciative outburst. After handing his putter to Zitelli, Ben raised his arms to quiet the boisterous crowd while Bob Harris putted out for his 77. A nearby official also waved his arms to restore a semblance of order to the triumphant scene. Harris finished, and a second wave of cheers cascaded down from the crowded slopes.

“He walked off of the 72nd green,” Herbert Warren Wind wrote in Sports Illustrated, “the apparent victor to one of the greatest and most honestly earned acclamations in the history of a game which will go a long time indeed before it knows another champion of his stature.”

It was a few minutes after 5:00 p.m. NBC had just come on the air for its hour-long live telecast from San Francisco. Millions who had tuned in on their black-and-white television sets saw commentator Gene Sarazen intercept Ben Hogan before he exited the stage.

After congratulating him on winning a record fifth U.S. Open, Sarazen asked, “Ben, would you do everybody a favor and put up five fingers?”

Hogan complied before fully comprehending the request.

“It’s not over yet, Gene,” he said, even though Sarazen and thousands surrounding the finishing hole disagreed.

Hogan then handed his golf ball to USGA executive director Joe Dey, a historic souvenir for the game’s national museum at USGA headquarters.

“This is for Golf House,” Hogan said before disappearing into a sea of people and lumbering up the steep slope to the three-story clubhouse adorned with half-circle strips of red, white, and blue bunting.

• • •

“It’s final,” Tompkins said as Fleck came off the 13th green. “Hogan 287.”

The marshal also reported that Snead had finished at 292, 5 shots back. He was excited about Fleck’s prospects, telling the Iowan all he needed to do was make one more birdie to tie Hogan.

Fleck’s silent playing partner could not resist a comment. “He’ll need a few pars, too,” Littler offered.

With Hogan finished and Fleck 1 off the lead with 5 holes to play, word raced throughout the grounds that there was one man on the course who had a chance to deny the Texan his fifth U.S. Open. Fleck? The name did not register with many of the assembled masses. While Hogan talked to reporters and sipped a Scotch and water in the locker room, curious golf fans streamed onto Olympic’s back 9 to get a look at the Iowa club pro. Watch him fold like the Sunday newspaper was more like it. No one, it seemed, thought Fleck could catch Hogan, especially on Olympic’s take-no-prisoners finishing stretch. Many accomplished players had failed under similar circumstances. It was the norm when the U.S. Open was on the line. The Chronicle’s Goethals went so far as to list odds, giving Fleck no better than an 8,000 to 1 chance of tying Hogan and forcing a playoff.

Reaching the 14th tee, Fleck decided he would not play for second, not after coming so far.

“I played boldly,” he later told reporters. “There was no other way.”

On the same hole where Hogan launched his decisive 4-wood shot from the rough to secure a crucial par, Fleck, adrenaline pumping through his system, smashed one of his longest drives of the day. He bombed it so far that he could not bring himself to hit a 7-iron, even though he was within range. He instead swung a 6-iron and pulled the shot, his tendency when he eased off a club. The ball landed in the thick collar and hopped into the left-hand bunker. He blasted out nicely but missed the 8-foot par putt, tapping in for bogey. He was now 2 strokes behind with 4 holes to play and noticed that many in the gallery were motionless as he walked off the 14th green. Picking up fifty or so spectators per hole since the 10th, the crowd following Fleck’s twosome had grown to about four hundred. Now they stood their ground, not rushing into position to watch him play the 15th.

“I thought to myself, ‘They think I’m through,’ ” he recalled.

It was a reasonable conclusion. Fleck needed two birdies and two pars on a finishing stretch that had punished every player in the field. There was no evidence or precedent to suggest that he could exploit Olympic’s final gauntlet when so many others had failed to escape with pars.

• • •

Up at the clubhouse, reporters congregated in the men’s locker room as Hogan waited for the championship to conclude. The Hawk took the scribes through a club-by-club recap of his afternoon round. The National Open crown appeared to be a mere formality, but he wasn’t one to take such things for granted. He refused to enter the pressroom until it was official.

“What’s this guy Fleck doing?” he asked.

Hogan was informed that the Iowa pro needed two birdies on the last four holes to tie—and, as Littler was inclined to say, a couple of pars, too.

An early finisher, Rosburg was sitting in the club house having a beer with friends. He was set to leave when Hogan finished but changed his mind since Fleck had a chance. At the time, Fleck was a mystery man to Rossie. “I had met him, but I didn’t really know him,” he said.

Arnold Palmer knew Fleck, having played with him several times prior to the Open. “All of us gave him credit for being a really good player,” Palmer later said. Like other players, though, he hadn’t seen enough of Fleck to consider him a serious Open contender.

The pin was set on the back of the 15th green, so Fleck selected a 6-iron instead of the usual 7-iron for his tee shot on the par 3. He needed the extra distance to maneuver his ball to the rear portion of the green and have a go at what would be his fifth birdie of the round. The putting surface was flanked on three sides by bunkers. Missing long would put him in a bunker. This time his 6-iron shot, a full swing rather than the easy one he attempted at 14, was on the mark. His ball touched down on the narrow green and skidded to a stop 8 feet from the flag. With the long 16th and 17th ahead—where the field would only manage 36 birdies in four rounds—it was, for all practical purposes, a must-make situation. He sank it. The gallery erupted. Now hundreds of spectators were running ahead to find a spot behind the ropes as Fleck walked to the 16th tee. He was 1 shot behind with 3 holes to play.

• • •

Seated on the bench in front of his locker, a spent Hogan told those within earshot that he was all but through with tournament golf. The preparation was too hard on the fierce old competitor. “This one doggone near killed me.” Asked about his leg, he said only his left knee bothered him. At the end of the row of lockers, an attendant shouted an update: Jack Fleck is on 16 and needs one birdie to tie.

“Good for him,” Hogan replied with a thin smile.

• • •

The back 9’s only par 5, the 16th was unreachable in 2 shots. A sweeping curve to the left, Olympic’s beast of a par 5 had surrendered few birdies and was no cinch par. With adrenaline and the doc’s sugar cubes flowing through his bloodstream, Fleck swung his Tommy Armour driver with added force. His rocketing golf ball flew slightly left and appeared as if it might catch the thick rough at the corner of the dogleg. “Oh, no,” he cried, but the ball remained airborne until it reached the distant fairway.

He then ripped a solid 3-wood up the fairway, leaving himself a short iron shot to the green. Fleck was astonished by how far he had struck his two woods, making it difficult to comprehend his remaining yardage. He settled on a 9-iron and arched his third shot high and left of the flag, landing on the collar of the green 25 feet from the hole. That was fortunate—he could putt the ball from the apron. Had his golf ball hopped into the wiry rough edging the green, he would have needed to finesse a chip shot from the long grass and sink a par-saving putt. As the gallery held its collective breath, Fleck nearly holed the 25-foot birdie putt and tapped in for his par. He was still 1 behind.

The Hawk scowled when a reporter asked on which hole he won the championship. It wasn’t quite over. “You don’t win tournaments on just one hole,” Hogan said. “There’s 72 holes.”

Fleck arrived at the 71st hole, the hardest one of the bunch. After a par in the first round, he had made two bogeys on the 17th. Now he needed at least a par. He also needed a birdie, but that seemed too much to ask on a stingy par 4 that would give up only five birdies for the entire championship. In addition to its upward slant, the 17th fairway tilted from left to right in the landing area. Guarded right and left by bunkers, the green was large by Lake Course standards. The air was cool, and a course that had never dried out on the overcast day was getting damper in the late afternoon. It made the 17th play even longer. Fleck cracked another big drive that flew down the left center of the fairway. Although he was in ideal position, he would need to wring every last yard out of his Ben Hogan 3-wood to reach the green in two shots on the converted par 5. He slammed into his Spalding Dot with the spoon and followed the flight of the golf ball as it screamed up the slope toward the green.

Perched on a platform on the hillside behind and to the left of the 17th green, announcer Harry von Zell and U.S. Open champion Lawson Little were calling the action for a national radio audience. The two men watched Fleck’s second shot touch down on the putting surface and roll to a stop 20 feet wide of the hole. Few players had reached the 17th in two swings. About an hour earlier, Hogan had performed the feat for the first time in nine tries. An excited Little blurted that Fleck’s long second shot “was the greatest 3-wood on the 71st hole in an Open championship when it was needed!”

The hole was cut toward the left-center section of the green. Fleck, whose ball was long and right of the flag, had a downhill putt that would break sharply from right to left. It was a speed putt with 3 or 4 feet of break, depending on how hard he hit it. He judged it well. The ball started out far to the right as it worked its way toward the hole. As the putt lost momentum, it took a final dive left toward the cup. Those in the greenside gallery with the best vantage point watched in anticipation, expecting it to drop. The ball hit the hole and rimmed out, a near birdie on a nearly impossible birdie hole. The crowd exhaled a mixture of groans and cheers. Fleck tapped in for his par. To tie Hogan, he would have to birdie the final hole.

• • •

It was 9:00 p.m. in the East—6:00 p.m. at Olympic—and NBC’s allotted hour of TV coverage of the National Open was over. As the network switched to other programming, millions of viewers across the country assumed Ben Hogan was the winner and new record holder, the only man to win five U.S. Opens.

“Actually, they kind of gave the trophy to Hogan before they went off the air,” Rosburg later said.

Hogan handed out souvenirs in the locker room: practice balls, two books of food and drink tickets, and his white flat cap. Another messenger arrived and announced that Fleck parred 17 and needed a birdie at the last to tie. Hogan stood up, removed his trousers, and headed to the shower. Small talk faded into silence.

Tom Gallery was uneasy. The NBC television sports director approached announcer Lindsey Nelson after Nelson climbed down from the TV platform on the slope behind the 18th green.

“Do you think this fellow Fleck can get that last birdie?” Gallery asked.

“I don’t think so, Tom,” Nelson replied. “There’s too much pressure on him.”

The sportscaster would soon board a plane to New York City to accept an award on The Ed Sullivan Show. The network had declined its option to televise a playoff.

• • •

As he approached the 18th tee, Jack Fleck paused to marvel at the incredible view. He saw as many as ten thousand golf fans, two thick walls of spectators lining the short par 4 from the tee to the green, with six thousand of them jammed on the hillside overlooking the putting surface. The large clubhouse sat atop the slope in the distance, and a few shafts of golden sunlight broke through the clouds above. For a brief moment, Fleck took it all in, and it looked heavenly to him. With the chance to tie Hogan and force an 18-hole playoff — and with the eyes of thousands of spectators fixed on him—Fleck wasn’t nervous. He was keyed up, but he wasn’t scared. It didn’t square with conventional wisdom about pressure situations in major golf championships, especially when faced by an unheralded player.

Herb Graffis noticed an uncommon composure. “I’ve seen Fleck in minor tournaments and on practice tees looking far more concerned than he seemed to be with his dream either just about to come true or turn into a terrible nightmare.”

Meanwhile, Littler left Fleck alone, intent on not being any kind of distraction to the Iowa golfer as the tension escalated. “He didn’t get into the act in any way,” Fleck later said. “He just played.”

The tee shot at 18 was a poke down into a small valley that set up a pitch or short-iron shot up the slope to a small, tilted green protected in front and on both sides by four traps. Stray tee shots found serious trouble, either heavy rough on the left or, to the right, thick trees and trampled rough where the spectators had trod. As was the case throughout the tight Olympic layout, the tee shot set up the hole and was usually an accurate predictor of success or failure. More interested in control than distance on the 337-yard closing hole, Fleck had hit his 3-wood every day and reached for it once again. He teed his ball, waggled the spoon, and let it fly. Countless pairs of eyes strained to follow the flight of the ball as it rose into the sun-streaked sky.

• • •

Sitting alone in the clubhouse, Valerie Hogan waited for her husband. She was ready to start home for Fort Worth. The U.S. Open had strained his body and her nerves to the absolute limit. Moments earlier the building’s public address system had announced a long distance telephone call for Mrs. Ben Hogan. Perhaps it was someone calling to offer congratulations for Ben’s historic victory. She would never know, refusing to take the call. She sat motionless, eyes shut for long stretches, keeping vigil while her husband got dressed in the players’ locker room below.

Hogan slipped on his pants and tasseled leather shoes. He managed a grin as he scanned the locker room. Another messenger burst in. Fleck was in the rough on 18! Everyone turned toward Hogan, who reached into his locker for his silk necktie and began knotting it. A nervous reporter broke the uncomfortable silence, asking if he used his Hogan manufactured clubs in the tournament. “Of course I did!” he snapped. “Are you kidding?”

• • •

Fleck’s tee shot landed on the fairway but trickled into the first cut of rough, a mere 6 inches off the left edge of the fairway. The crowd groaned. What might have seemed to the large gallery like an unfortunate break would instead work to the Iowa pro’s advantage. The hole was cut on the front right of the narrow green, with a large bunker wrapping around the right and front sides of the putting surface. There was little room for error in going directly at the flag, Fleck’s only option since he had to make a birdie. With his ball sitting up nicely in the 2-inch rough, the lie and the angle were ideal for attacking a tight right- hand pin position. The distance—about 125 yards—dictated a club choice of an 8-iron or 9-iron. In fact, neither club was under consideration, for Fleck had a different shot in mind, an easy, towering 7-iron.

“That was my plan,” he later said. “Hit it real high so it comes down dead.”

By “dead,” he meant virtually no spin, the ball dropping straight out of the sky and landing on the green with a soft thud like a small stone. He reasoned that a full 8- or 9-iron shot would create a lot of backspin and be hard to control. The ball could fly the proper distance but spin way back, perhaps off the front of the green that sloped rather severely from back to front. Fleck’s low-spin 7-iron was a shot born from hours of practice with Ted Kroll and others. He would make a big shoulder turn, creating a wide arc and keeping his hands quiet, not flipping them at the ball as one might on a full short-iron shot or wedge. As much as anything, it was a feel shot played with imagination and instinct.

There is scarce film footage of the 1955 U.S. Open. Only a handful of shots would survive through the years, and Fleck’s dramatic approach from the edge of the short rough on the 72nd hole was one of them. “But fate and a cool unheralded professional by the name of Jack Fleck arrive on the scene,” intoned the narrator as the camera showed Fleck from the vantage point of the 18th green. Schroder stood 10 yards away in the fairway as Fleck took his stance. He waggled twice and swung. The backswing was short, the follow-through high and full. The ball climbed high in the air as it flew toward the small target 125 yards up the slope.

• • •

Hogan sat in front of his locker with his head down and arms resting on his knees. He hoped Fleck took a 2 or a 4 at the last. An 18-hole playoff was the last thing he wanted. He lit a cigarette and exchanged forced banter with players as they arrived, waited, and departed. Burke reported that he had driven in the rough all day. Bolt came in and gave Hogan the business, as he was prone to do. Tommy was the rare person who could good naturedly swear at Ben and produce a smile and a chuckle.

“I said, you little SOB,” Bolt recalled a few months before his death in 2008. “We always cussed one another out and were jabbering all over the place.”

On his way out of the locker room, Cary Middlecoff approached the legend with typical deference and extended his right hand, offering congratulations. Fred Hawkins was also there, waiting those interminable final minutes.

Hogan slipped into his sport coat and pulled his clubs from his locker. A head cover fell to the floor, and he jokingly asked if anyone wanted it. A blast of cheers from the direction of the 18th green drowned out the nervous chatter in the locker room. The guy holed out from the rough, reacted the tightly wound Bolt. A reliable update from a courier followed seconds later: Fleck had a 7-foot putt to tie.

• • •

Fleck’s ball cleared the fronting bunker and floated lazily to earth, landing softly between the flagstick and the right-hand edge of the green. He had taken dead aim and struck the ball a shade right of his target— a makeable birdie distance.

“Never have I seen a finer shot under such tremendous mental pressure,” wrote a British correspondent.

Only 7 feet of grainy Poa annua stood between Fleck and a head-to-head duel with his idol. With Schroder leading the way, he walked up the slope between the fronting bunkers and onto the final green. Littler and his caddie followed. Fleck’s demeanor betrayed nothing that indicated the moment had arrived, the biggest opportunity of his professional life, a pressure situation on golf’s foremost stage that few face, much less overcome. His dream and future were riding on a 7-foot putt to tie Ben Hogan, although those thoughts never entered his mind. He simply knew he had a chance to win— if he could sink that putt. More than a half century later, Fleck insisted he felt no added pressure.

“I wasn’t nervous,” he said. “How or why? Ask the Lord.”

In fact, it was a monumental putt for two men: Fleck and the weary champion in the players’ locker room who could do nothing but wait and listen.

Littler putted out for his 78 to clear the way for the Iowa club pro, a disappointing finish to a week that had begun with so much promise. All eyes were on Fleck as he crouched behind the ball off the edge of the green to get a line on his birdie putt. He would not take long. Graffis later reported that Fleck took only twenty-four seconds to line up and stroke the putt. There wasn’t much to see. The slightly downhill putt would break perhaps an inch from right to left. Littler was crouching on the back of the green like a baseball catcher. His caddie was kneeling at the front of the green, the closest person to Fleck as he prepared to putt. Schroder was sitting in a reclined posture at the side of the green as if enjoying an evening picnic. Packing the hillside and slopes that surrounded the green area, the thousands of spectators were deathly still and quiet as Fleck took his stance. Bill Callan, the scorecard runner, was there. Recalling the scene de cades later, the incredible silence of the moment stood out in Callan’s mind. An adventurous few stood motionless on low-hanging limbs of large trees.

Fleck took two practice strokes. Then he placed the Bulls Eye blade in front and behind the ball, glanced twice at the hole, and stroked the putt. It came off the putter dead on line and at a perfect pace. His head was still down as the ball dropped into the left-center portion of the cup.

• • •

Topics of conversation and patience were wearing thin in the locker room. A man asked another question about Hogan’s golf club company. Hogan said his company could make 460 sets of golf clubs in a month’s time. When asked if he scrapped $100,000 worth of clubs, Hogan nodded. He again took a seat in front of his locker. “Nobody stirred,” noted the Chronicle’s Goethals, who was there with Sports Illustrated’s Wind, the Times’s Werden, Stan Wood of the Los Angeles Daily Mirror-News, and several other reporters. The silence didn’t last long. A thunderous roar penetrated the clubhouse walls. “The kid’s sunk it!” exclaimed a reporter. Hogan’s head dropped and he cursed under his breath.

The news soon reached Mrs. Hogan in the club house. It was not a surprise. She had heard the roar and knew what it meant. There was no visible reaction. She remained silent and frozen as she stared out the club house window at the evening sky. It was a crushing blow. Hogan later said he had been watching the scoreboards all day and was sure he had won by at least 2 shots when he finished. He hadn’t accounted for Jack Fleck. No one had.

Playing in the last pairing on the course, Doug Ford was on the 17th hole when he heard an incredible roar up ahead. Someone must have holed out, Ford remarked to playing partner Chick Harbert. No, Harbert replied, somebody must have made a putt to tie.

• • •

The sound that arose when Fleck’s ball fell into the cup was like a small, rumbling earthquake.

“It was just deafening,” recalled Wood, one of the reporters with Hogan in the locker room. “The building practically shook.”

Excitement rippled from the 18th green: Spectators jumped to their feet and cheered wildly, punched the air with their fists, waved their arms, and applauded with abandon. A most unexpected result had elicited pandemonium.

When the ball disappeared into the hole, Fleck slowly raised his arms, his putter extending from his gloved left hand and pointing skyward. He removed his flat cap as he stepped to the hole to retrieve his ball. It was long before the days of fist pumps, leaps, hugs, and other player celebrations. His reaction was subdued and in keeping with the times. If anything, Fleck, managing a slight grin, appeared to be dazed by his accomplishment. Littler strolled up and was the first to offer his hand in congratulations. Schroder hovered nearby to replace the flagstick. Three more groups had yet to finish. An excited, arm-waving official swept in and patted Fleck four times on the left shoulder before ushering him from the green to sign his scorecard.

Hogan’s 70 was the best score of the final round until Fleck walked off the 72nd green. The Iowa club pro had caught the Hawk by shooting a 3-under 67, tying the lowest score of the tournament carded by just two other men, Bolt and Rosburg. Fleck’s rally and victory from a 9-shot deficit still stands as a U.S. Open record.

There would be an 18-hole playoff on Sunday at 2:00 p.m. to decide the winner of the U.S. Open. The 18-hole playoff was the norm for breaking tournament ties on the 1950s PGA Tour. Later on, television coverage dictated shorter sudden-death playoffs, although the U.S. Open still employs an 18-hole playoff, if necessary, to determine its champion.

With grim faces surrounding him, Hogan turned to caddie Tony Zitelli and asked him to unpack his gear. Then he stood up and walked out to join his wife upstairs. “See you fellows tomorrow.” Mr. and Mrs. Hogan left the Olympic Club arm in arm. All were quiet in the locker room, except for Burke, who deemed the ending “the unluckiest thing I’ve ever heard of.” It was 6:23 p.m.

• • •

Ed Furgol, who had just finished with Shelley Mayfield, graciously stepped in to help Fleck navigate the postround bedlam. It was foreign territory for the shy Iowan. Furgol, the surprise winner the year before at Baltusrol, had recent experience with being thrust into the national spotlight. Furgol walked with Fleck to the pressroom and stood by his side while fifty-plus reporters and photographers heaped attention on the man from Davenport.

The press hardly knew him, so they asked all sorts of questions, some of them silly. No, Fleck had never been a farmer, only a golfer. He had served in the navy. He had a wife and four-year-old son at home in Davenport. Some details of his biography would be misreported and become a part of golf lore. One was that he registered for the National Open from a driving range—he would be known as a driving-range pro for years to come—even though both of the municipal courses he oversaw had 18 holes, and Duck Creek didn’t even have a driving range. Excitement about the unknown Iowa pro spawned exaggeration. One example that appeared in the next day’s wire-service report: Fleck had skipped lunch, pulling off golf’s biggest surprise in decades on an empty stomach. (He had soup and a half sandwich between rounds.) Another: Fleck had collected a little more than $2,700 on the circuit in the ’55 season, not enough to cover caddie fees. (Although he wasn’t flush with money, Fleck’s consistent midteen finishes on tour had earned him enough purse money to cover his caddie fees and other modest expenses on the road.) The questions kept coming for well over an hour. Fleck thought of Dr. and Mrs. Barton as they waited patiently for him to complete his postround odyssey.

The man of the hour finally broke free of the press corps and entered the locker room to change his shoes. He also made arrangements with Inman to drive his Buick to Portland for the Western Open. Doug Ford and Dow Finsterwald would ride along. Inman would leave on Sunday morning and use Fleck’s car for the next few tournaments. Win or lose, Fleck was going to fly home to Iowa after Sunday’s playoff with Hogan.

By 7:00 p.m., the slope surrounding the 18th green where six thousand astonished fans had cheered wildly forty-five minutes earlier was deserted. The ground was trampled, and the matted grass was strewn with nearly a solid layer of newspapers used to protect the seated masses from dew and grass stains. Many of the animated spectators who streamed out of the gates on Saturday evening would return the next day for the playoff. Elmer Border and his grounds crew would again hustle to clean up the debris and prepare the Lake Course for one more round.

Sarazen had a different kind of mess on his hands. At the Fairmont Hotel that evening, the new TV commentator was inundated with telegrams from Iowans chastising him for prematurely calling Hogan the winner. So had NBC-TV, for that matter. It was golf’s version of DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN, the famous incorrect headline on the front page of the Chicago Tribune the morning after President Harry Truman won reelection in November 1948.

Sarazen didn’t let it bother him much, saying that he was merely twenty-four hours early. Hogan would win on Sunday. It was the prevailing view, according to Sarazen’s roommate that week, PGA promotions director Fred Corcoran. The steel-willed four-time champion was the clear-cut favorite. How could anyone imagine a different result?

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