On June 16, 1951 Ben Hogan shot a final round 67 to win the US Open, his seventh major and fourth US Open (We, of course, count the 1942 US Open, aka the Hale America Open as his first) at Oakland Hills Country Club in Birmingham Michigan by two strokes over Clayton Heafner.
This Day in Hogan History – BEN WINS THE 1951 US OPEN
This was his second consecutive U.S. Open title and his third title in his last three attempts (he missed the 1949 US Open due to his automobile accident).
Prior to the tournament starting Hogan was quoted: “Sam Snead should win this tournament by a mile. Sam has the long driving game adapted to this course and he ought to take it. But don’t think I intend to tell him how.”
In the first round, it looked like Hogan’s prophecy would come true as Snead took a one-shot lead, shooting a one over par 71. In second place were Clayton Heafner and Albert Besselink.
An all-time record crowd for the opening day of 9,500, most following Snead and Hogan, watched as Hogan shot a six over par 76.
In the second round, Snead faltered badly shooting a 78, leaving him five strokes off the pace as South African, Bobby Locke shot a 71 for a two-round total of 144, good enough for a one-shot lead over Dave Douglas.
Hogan shot a 73 to finish with 149, tied for 17th place with Snead, Amateur Sam Urestta, Amateur Charles Kocsis, Johnny Bolt, Sam Bernardi, Lloyd Mangrum, Cary Middlecoff and Smiley Quick.
At that time the golfers would play the final two rounds on Saturday. In the morning round, Ben shot three under par in the outward nine, to look as if someone was going to finally break par, but only to shoot a four over par on the inward nine for a one-over over par round of 71.
In the afternoon round, Ben shot even par on the outward nine and three under on the inward nine for a 67 for a total score of 287.
Ben was the first person to shoot a sub-par round in the tournament, but he did not have the distinction of being the only person, Clayton Heafner shot a 69 in the final round to finish in second two strokes back of Hogan.
Each round Ben played progressive lower scores going 76 – 73 – 71 – 67. Hogan’s last birdie came on the 72nd hole in front of television cameras and the largest gallery that could assemble around one green.
Snead wound up with a 72 – 74, finishing at 294, seven strokes behind Hogan.
The South Course at Oakland Hills was nicknamed “The Monster” and had the reputation of being the toughest course in the world. After the tournament, reporters jammed into the locker room to question Ben.
He knew he was the winner even though more than three-quarters of the field was still playing, after all, he was the first man to break par, and he did it by three shots.
He was quoted as saying:
“It’s the toughest course I’ve ever played and the best round of my life.” At the trophy presentation, Hogan stated the famous line: “I’m glad I brought this course—this monster—to its knees.”
As Hogan walked to the clubhouse he passed the wife of Robert Trent Jones, the golf course architect who redesigned Oakland Hills for this US Open.
She said to Ben, “Oh, Ben, what a marvelous round!” Ben turned to her with and gave her the “Hawk” stare that intimidated many a golfer and said, “If your husband had to play the courses he built, you’d both be on the bread line.”
After the tournament, Ben commented on why people want to watch golf: “The golf fan really has my respect.
They go out there and get sunburned or rained on, they push each other around, they stand until their backs ache, and I just can’t understand how they do it.
There were probably twenty thousand people out there in the last round, and fifteen thousand of them didn’t see anything.
There is this couple from Orange, New Jersey, that’s followed me for, well, I don’t know for how long. They always seem to turn up where I’m playing, and I can always spot them in the crowd.
There’s a man from Tyler who’s been watching me play for more than 10 years. And there’s a fellow from Memphis—I don’t even know his name—he’s always in my gallery.
I like to watch college football.
You can see everything in reasonable comfort, and it only takes about three hours. But golf . . . I don’t know.”
It was during this tournament that the Hershey Country Club announced that Hogan, its head golf professional for 10 years at $10,000 a year, would not be given a contract. Hersey said it “no longer wishes to continue the services of a playing professional.”
It was during this tournament that 37-year old Joe Louis knocked out Lee Savold in a heavyweight boxing bout giving him the opportunity to for a rematch with Champion Ezzard Charles.