Jack Fleck, upset Hogan in '55 U.S. Open, dies at 92

By Al TaysMarch 21, 2014, 8:21 pm

Jack Fleck, a former municipal course pro from Iowa who stunned Ben Hogan in a playoff for the 1955 U.S. Open title, died Friday in Fort Smith, Ark.

The news, first reported on Twitter by PGA.com, was confirmed by the PGA Tour.

Fleck, 92, was the oldest living U.S. Open champion.

Fleck had been a full-time PGA Tour player for only about six months when he entered the 1955 U.S. Open at The Olympic Club in San Francisco. After an opening 76 he was nine strokes behind first-round leader Tommy Bolt, but made up the deficit – still the largest in Open history – to tie Hogan at 287, 7 over par on Olympic’s Lake Course.

Hogan was already in the clubhouse, and NBC proclaimed him the champion before it went off the air. Gene Sarazen congratulated Hogan on what would have been a record fifth U.S. Open win.

Fleck, however, had other ideas. He was two shots behind after bogeying the 14th hole. He birdied the 15th, then, after two pars, sank an 8-foot putt for a 67 and a tie with Hogan.

Photos: Fleck through the years

Video: Fleck recalls Open win

In the 18-hole playoff the next day, Fleck played the front nine in 2 under to Hogan’s level par. A birdie at No. 10 increased the lead to three shots, but Fleck gave it right back with a bogey at 11. Another bogey at 17 sent Fleck to the 18th tee with a one-shot lead.

Hogan hooked his final drive into deep rough, took three more strokes to get back to the fairway and ended up making double bogey. Fleck made a routine par to close out one of the biggest upsets in sports history.

An interesting sidelight to the Fleck/Hogan Open legend is that Hogan was Fleck’s idol. Fleck was playing a custom-made set of Ben Hogan clubs, and Hogan himself had personally delivered a couple of wedges. In pictures of the two taken after the playoff, Hogan is looking at Fleck holding the trophy and has a smile every bit as big as Fleck’s.

“I remember his reaction very much,” Fleck told The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J., in a 2013 interview. “I thought he would be disappointed with the fact he didn’t play to his highest level. But he was very nice and very appreciative even though he lost the playoff.”

Although the win will always be considered a major upset, Fleck proved it wasn’t a fluke by going on to win two more PGA Tour events – the 1960 Phoenix Open Invitational (in a playoff over Bill Collins) and the 1961 Bakersfield Open (in a playoff over Bob Rosburg). He was in two other playoffs as well, losing to George Bayer in the 1960 St. Petersburg Open Invitational and to Arnold Palmer in the  1960 Insurance City Open.

Fleck also made a run at another Open championship – finishing in a six-way tie for third, three shots behind winner Arnold Palmer, in the 1960 Open at Cherry Hills.

Fleck left the PGA Tour in 1963 and worked as a club pro in Wisconsin, Illinois and California. In 1977, at age 55 he qualified for the U.S. Open but missed the cut at Southern Hills.

In 1979, a year before the Champions Tour – then known as the Senior PGA Tour, was founded, Fleck won the PGA Seniors’ Championship in a playoff. in 1995 he teamed with Bolt to win the Demaret Division of the Liberty Mutual Legands of Golf.

“Jack started about the same time I started on the Tour,” Arnold Palmer said. “He was a good player, kind of a quiet, easy-going guy who played his game and never talked too much about it. He was a nice man to have on the Tour. I was sorry to learn of his passing."

Fleck turned pro in 1939, working as an assistant pro at the Des Moines Country Club. His golf career was interrupted by World War II, in which he served as a U.S. Navy quartermaster. He participated in the D-Day invasion, serving on a ship that provided fire in support of the landing of troops on Normany's Utah Beach.

Services are Tuesday at the First United Methodist Church in Fort Smith.

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The Social: G.O.A.T., after G.O.A.T., after G.O.A.T.

By Jason CrookJanuary 23, 2018, 6:00 pm

Tom Brady compares himself to Tiger Woods, who coincidentally is returning to the PGA Tour this week, Jordan Spieth hangs out with some decent company and kids these days ruffle some feathers with their friendships.

All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

Well, it’s finally Farmers Insurance Open week and Woods has been spotted practicing for his official return to the PGA Tour on Thursday.

Some thought this day might never come after a 2017 filled with mostly downs for the 14-time major champ.

But as he has taught the golf world time and time again, you just can't count Tiger out.

So even as Jon Rahm attempts to overtake Dustin Johnson for No. 1 in the world this week at Torrey Pines, all eyes will be on one of the greatest we've ever seen do it, even if that guy is ranked No. 647 in the world.

Speaking of greatness …

There’s not many who can just offhandedly compare themselves to Tiger, but if anyone gets a pass, it’s Tom Brady.

The 40-year-old New England Patriots quarterback led his team back to the Super Bowl for the second straight year despite playing the AFC title game with a cut on his throwing hand.

When asked about it after the Patriots come-from-behind victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady answered, “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that. It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament.”

So there you have it. A 40-year-old Brady is winning AFC Championships with his C game. Good luck, Eagles; you’re going to need it.

Also, if for some reason you wanted an update on Justin Thomas' life, it's still awesome:

Yeah, that's last year's PGA Tour Player of the Year hanging with Cy Young winner Cory Kluber in a suite at the Patriots game and teasing us with a possible #SB2K18 cameo.

Curtis Strange likes his competitive golf straight up, hold the friendliness.

This, according to Curtis Strange.

The two-time U.S. Open champ took to Twitter during the CareerBuilder Challenge to vent his frustration regarding the constant chit-chat and friendliness between Rahm and Andrew Landry:

This, of course, makes sense in theory. But good luck watching golf – or really any sport – from here on out. Sure there will be a few old school guys who buck the trend here and there, but for the most part, it’s really hard to share a private jet/dinners/vacations/(insert awesome thing here) with someone, and then completely turn off the friendship coming down the stretch of a big tournament.

Damn millennials. They ruin everything.

By now you've all seen that poor Philadelphia Eagles fan who lost his battle with a subway station pillar (from multiple angles), so instead here is a video of a man attempting to stand on an egg. Bet you can't guess how that goes.

Tony's gonna stand on an egg

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Seriously if you haven't seen the video of that Eagles fan, here's your last chance in this column. You'll be glad you did.

Jordan Spieth, Michael Phelps and Bryce Harper walk on to a golf course … there’s no punchline, that actually happened last week in Las Vegas.

Was the whole thing just a big advertisement for Spieth’s new Under Armour shoe? You bet.

But that doesn’t make the optics of three of the biggest superstar athletes on the planet teeing it up for a round any less awesome.

Off to the next. #Spieth2 #TEAMUA

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The trio has three major wins, five All Star Game appearances and 28 Olympic medals between them, and there they were over the weekend just fake laughing for the camera and driving around individual golf carts with their own personalized logos on them.

Just guys being dudes. Nothing better than that.

Matt Kuchar. Still good at golf. Still overly polite. This according to European Tour pro Eddie Pepperell who had the privilege of hitting on the range next to Kuuuuuch in Abu Dhabi last week.

That image is burned into your brain forever now, thanks Eddie. From now on when you think of Kuchar you're going to think of those Sketches ads and "oopsies."

Which, I suppose is better than a, "Did you get that?"

Blayne Barber's caddie, Cory Gilmer, collapsed and hit his head while at a restaurant at the Sony Open and has been mostly unconscious in the neurological intensive care unit ever since.

The outpouring of love and support from the golf community has been overwhelming on social media, and a GoFundMe page has been set up to help with the mounting medical costs for Gilmer and his family.

Check out the link below for more info or to donate to a worthy cause:

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Top-ranked amateur wins LAAC, earns Masters invite

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 5:38 pm

Joaquin Niemann walked Augusta National Golf Club as a patron last year. He’ll be a competitor in 2018.

Niemann, the top-ranked amateur in the world, shot 8-under 63 Tuesday at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Santiago, Chile, to win the Latin America Amateur Championship.

And with the title, both redemption and an invitation to the Masters Tournament.

Full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship

Niemann finished runner-up in last year’s LAAC to fellow Chilean Toto Gana. He followed Gana around Augusta grounds, watching as his best friend played two rounds before missing the cut.

Niemann, who was going to turn professional had he not won this week, started the final round one back of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz. Niemann was sluggish from the start on Tuesday, but then drove the 313-yard, par-4 eighth and made the eagle putt. That sparked a run of five birdies over his next six holes.

Niemann was bogey-free in the final round and finished five shots clear of Ortiz, at 11 under.

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Judges Panel, Host Announced for Wilson Golf's "Driver vs. Driver 2," Premiering This Fall on Golf Channel

By Golf Channel Public RelationsJanuary 23, 2018, 4:15 pm

‘Driver vs. Driver 2 Presented by Wilson Currently in Production; Sports Broadcaster Melanie Collins Returns to Host

Morning Drive: Driver vs. Driver 2 Judges Announced

Golf Channel and Wilson Golf announced today the panel of judges and host for the second season of Driver vs. Driver, the innovative television series that follows aspiring golf equipment designers as they compete for the opportunity to have their driver idea or concept transformed into the next great golf driver from Wilson. The show is currently in production and will premiere this fall.

Joining judge Tim Clarke, President of Wilson Golf, are two newcomers to the series: 9-time National Hockey League (NHL) All-Star and current NHL on NBC hockey analyst Jeremy Roenick – an avid golfer with a single digit handicap and a self-described golf equipment junkie; and PGA Professional, golf coach, equipment reviewer and social media influencer Rick Shiels.

“Golf is a big passion of mine, and personally I enjoy learning about new equipment and concepts,” said Roenick. “To be able to see this side of the business in how equipment is developed first-hand is fascinating. Being a part of the process in reviewing driver concepts and narrowing them down to an ultimate winning driver that will be sold across the country is a tremendous honor.” 

“Jeremy, as an avid golfer, and Rick, as a coach, equipment reviewer and golf professional, bring incredible, real world insights and different perspectives to the show and this process,” said Clarke. “I’m excited to work alongside these two judges to push the boundaries of innovation and bring a next-generation driver to golfers around the world.”

Sports broadcaster Melanie Collins returns as the host of Driver vs. Driver 2. Currently a sideline reporter for CBS Sports’ college football and basketball coverage, Collins hosted the inaugural season in 2016 and formerly co-hosted Golf Channel’s competition series, Big Break.

Production for Driver vs. Driver 2 began in the fall of 2017 and will continue through the summer, including this week at the PGA Merchandise Show. The series is being produced by Golf Channel, whose portfolio of original productions include interview series Feherty hosted by Emmy-nominated sports personality David Feherty, high-quality instruction shows School of Golf, Golf Channel Academy and Playing Lessons and a slate of award-winning films.

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Tiger Tracker: Farmers Insurance Open

By Tiger TrackerJanuary 23, 2018, 4:00 pm

Tiger Woods is competing in a full-field event for the first time in nearly a year. We're tracking him at this week's Farmers Insurance Open. (Note: Tweets read, in order, left to right)