Hogan Conquers a Brutal Oakland Hills


Ben Hogan called it 'the toughest 18 holes I've ever seen.' Then he proceeded to go out and whip it.
Hogan was talking about Oakland Hills near Detroit in 1951, known as 'Oakland Hells,' or more simply, 'The Thing.' He roundly criticized it for handicapping 'long hitters by taking away the premium they've been working all their life.' The course was set up extremely difficult for this U.S. Open.
Hogan was the defending champion, having won a playoff for the 1950 championship against George Fazio and Lloyd Mangrum. Bantam Ben had been at the course for a full week practicing to get to know the nuances. It would be a very trying tournament, with par very definitely a good score and over-par scores very definitely the norm.
Hogan had a fat 76 the first round, trailing leader Sam Snead, who had a 1-over-par 71. And Hogan still trailed at the halfway point after shooting 73 the second round. That was in the days of the traditional 36-hole Saturday finale. Hogan teed at 8:30 a.m. in the third round Saturday and after nine holes he had shot 32 and stood just two off the lead.
But Hogan couldn't sustain it and by the end of the third round finished at 1-over 71. Heading in the fourth round, he was 10-over 220. However, that was just two off the lead, which was jointly held by Johnny Bulla and Dave Douglas.
The final round was one of the highest scoring in Open history. Hogan bogeyed the second hole to drop to 11-over, but birdied at the seventh. He finished the turn in 1? hours still two shots off the pace, and new leader Bobby Locke was just completing his third round when Hogan teed off at the 10th in the afternoon. Hogan bashed a 2-iron to the shadow of the cup, and the crowd's roar unnerved Locke on No. 1. He bogeyed, Hogan birdied, and the two were suddenly tied.
Ben would birdie the 13th, stumble with a bogey the 14th, and birdie the 15th to soar to the top of the leader board. And at the 18th, Hogan watched in silence as his 15-footer tumbled slowly, ever so slowly, until it dropped into the cup for another bird.
Hogan had shot a 67, the only sub-par round of the tournament to that point, and then he had to wait two hours to know his final fate.
Locke would fizzle out. Clayton Heafner birdied No. 15 to get within two, but he couldn't get closer.
'Yes,' said Hogan, 'I would say this is my greatest round.' He had done it, won the 1951 U.S. Open at Oakland Hells - er, Hills.
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