Snead won 81 times in his long and illustrious career. But not one was a U.S. Open. He missed what was probably his best chance in 1939, at the open at Spring Mill Country Club in Philadelphia.
Snead, then a man of 27, led after the first round, dropped back in the second and third, but by the 17th hole Sunday looked for all the world like he would be the winner. Two pars and he would be in with a 282, two shots better than Byron Nelson, Craig Wood and Denny Shute. One, it should be noted, was a par-5. Surely this would be the year.
Snead wasnt careful and bogeyed the 17th, leaving an eight-foot par putt short. Still, all he had to do was par 18 and the victory was safely his. All he had to do was hit three mediocre shots and two putts, and he was the victor.
On the par-5 18th, though, the world caved in on him. He snap-hooked his drive, then topped his second into a bunker short of the green.
He was getting a little upset, but he still had three shots to get the ball into the hole for victory. His third shot, however, he left in the bunker. Now he had only two shots to win it, still three to go into the Monday playoff, but the noose was definitely getting tighter.
Snead hit his fourth shot out of the trap, but watched in horror as it disappeared into another bunker across the green. Now his hopes of winning outright were almost totally gone, his chances of getting into a Monday playoff seriously in doubt.
His fifth shot didnt come close to the pin, though he did get it out of the sand. As he lined up his putt, 30 feet away, he thought how silly he was to fritter away the chance to win. His only hope now was to get in a Monday playoff and defeat Nelson and Wood.
Alas, the 30-footer, as expected, didnt hit the bullseye. Snead was out of it totally, missing the three-foot comebacker for emphasis.
The 36-hole playoff was all Nelson, who eagled the par-4 fourth with a hole-out from the fairway with a 1-iron. It was the sixth time during the week he had hit a flagstick with an approach shot.
Snead? He never would win a U.S. Open.
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