This is the week of the British Open, known as the “Open.” It is being held at Carnoustie. [The nick name for the course is Carnasty; it is called one of the toughest courses to hold the Open.] This is the 7th time the Open has been held at Carnoustie. It is the course where Ben Hogan won his only Open, back in 1953. He won this Open the same summer he won the Masters and the U.S. Open. That year is called Hogan’s Great Slam. It was his greatest year and also his final great year as a golfer.
As some of you know, I have written about Hogan in my novel, The Caddie Who Knew Ben Hogan. My novel takes place before 1949 when at the top of his golf career Hogan and his wife, Valerie, were in a terrible automobile accident. It nearly killed them both and the doctors did not believe Hogan would even walk again, let alone play golf.
Going to England was not easy in ’53, but Hogan went, according to James Dodson, who wrote Ben Hogan: An American Life, because Bobby Jones and Gene Sarazen said he would never be considered a great player unless he played in the Open. Ben Hogan wanted to be remembered as the greatest player who ever played the game.
Hogan and his wife arrived 10 days before the tournament took place to play and practice at Carnoustie. He had to learn how to play a “links” course, as well as, how to play with a smaller British golf ball.
Hogan was two strokes off the lead going into the third round, having shot 73 and 71, par is 71. The final two rounds at that time were on Friday but many people thought Hogan, because of his damaged leg, wouldn’t be able to walk 36 holes on Friday. Ben was also battling a 101-degree fever from a Scottish cold.
That Friday, 40-year-old Ben Hogan went out and shot 70 in the third round. In the afternoon round, he shot 68, a new course record. His 282 was then the best score ever in the Open Championship.
When Hogan returned to the States, he was given a ticker-tape parade down lower Broadway in New York City. It was only the second ticker-tape parade given to a golfer [the first was Bobby Jones.] There has been none since.
Dodson writes in his book, “Ben Hogan embodied a lot of American self-determination. He was probably the most mentally complex athlete who’s ever lived. Of all the great players, he was the least physically gifted, and he was by far the hardest working. I think Carnoustie was the ultimate, final test for Hogan. And it was the final hurdle to immortality. Coming on the heels of 1950, his miraculous comeback from death, I think it really confirmed that this was maybe the most successful underdog ever.”
This weekend all eyes will be on Tiger, but remember that in many ways if it wasn’t for Hogan, Tiger would not have such a place in the sun. Still, given Scotland, it might also be wind, rain, and cold weather. Ben Hogan weather.