ARDMORE, Pa. – Merion Golf Club’s rich history became palpable during Tuesday morning’s practice rounds.
After hitting a tee shot left of the plaque in the 18th fairway that commemorates Ben Hogan’s famed 1-iron shot in his 1950 U.S. Open victory, Garcia was waved over to the other side of the fairway by his playing partners.
“You must come see this,” Fernandez-Costano told Garcia. “You won’t believe it.”
When Garcia heard what it was, he began to sprint.
Standing aside the fairway as Garcia approached, Matt Adams of the PGA Tour Network cradled a historical treasure, the same 1-iron Hogan used to hit the famous shot that set up his playoff victory at Merion all those years ago. The USGA brought the club to the course Tuesday as part of a celebration of the U.S. Open’s return to Merion. Adams got special permission to use the club to pose over the plaque for a photo making the same follow-through Hogan was captured making in Hy Peskin’s iconic photograph. He did so just before Garcia and Co. arrived.
With USGA officials along, Adams was required to wear white gloves as he pulled Hogan’s prized club out of a black case. He was also asked to make sure nobody else touched it. Garcia desperately wanted to hold it. He wanted to put his grip on it, set it down at address and absorb its magic in a few waggles.
Adams let him do the next best thing.
Adams set up with the club hovering over the grass and let Garcia stand over his left shoulder and look down at the club.
“It’s a testament to Sergio that he wanted to see it that way,” Adams said. “When good players look at a club, they want to see that top line. So, he stood over my shoulder, looking down at it at address, just the way Hogan would have on that Saturday in 1950.”
Garcia was surprised by the club’s dimensions.
“It was amazing to see the iron itself,” Garcia said. “It looks so tiny. Even though irons haven't changed that much, it's still looks really, really tiny. Not a lot of loft on it.
“It was my first time playing the 18th hole, so it was very exciting to be able to see where he hit it from to that kind of green and what he was able to achieve.”
That 1-iron took a remarkable journey back to Merion this week.
The club was stolen from Hogan after his U.S. Open victory and went missing for 30 years. The 1-iron mystifyingly resurfaced in a bag of old irons sold in 1983 to golf club dealer Bobby Farino, who suspected he had come into a treasure and took the club to the Ben Hogan company. Hogan positively identified the club he used to win the U.S. Open at Merion.
Olazabal marveled getting to see the artifact outside the USGA museum.
“It was fantastic,” he said.
Adams marveled at the small, worn spot Hogan had made with so many precise shots in the same spot. Adams said the spot isn’t in the center of the club face, but closer to the heel. He loved seeing how Hogan had ground down the inner hosel of the club to prevent shanks because he did make contact so close to the heel.
“Looking at that, I felt like Ben Hogan was talking to us, seeing what he did to the club for technical reasons,” Adams said. “It’s amazing.”
Adams said the flange of the club was quite narrow and the numeral 1 practically worn off.
“It was my dream to take that club back to the exact spot Hogan hit it,” Adams said.
Standing over the plaque, in that Hogan pose with a 1-iron over his head, Adams got emotional.
“It sent chills through me,” Adams said. “I can hardly describe it.”
History is always palpable at Merion, but especially so in the 18th fairway Tuesday.