Sarazen's double eagle put Masters on the map

By Martin DavisMarch 31, 2012, 2:00 pm

It was called the “shot heard ‘round the world.”

No, not the one at Concord’s Old North Bridge in 1775 that ignited the American Revolutionary War and launched a new country – this one happened in Augusta, Ga., in 1935, some 160 years later.

But to a golfer, this shot was almost as significant, as it vaulted the Masters Tournament into the big time.

This shot wasn’t taken with a musket, but by Gene Sarazen (pictured above receiving the winner's check from the 1935 Masters) with his 4-wood – it was called a spoon then – from 235 yards on the 15th hole in the fourth round. It flew straight as any shot in Lexington and Concord and found the cup for the rarest one of all – a double eagle – a 2 on a par-5 hole!

By the time Sarazen reached the 1935 Masters, the second one played, he was already an established star.

Born Eugenio Saracini in Harrison, N.Y., in 1902, he later changed his name to Gene Sarazen because he felt it sounded like a golfer’s name, as opposed to his birth name that he thought better suited to an opera singer. Dropping out of school in the sixth grade, Sarazen caddied at the nearby Apawamis Club where he reportedly saw Harold Hilton – the winner of four British Amateurs and two British Opens – win the 1911 U.S. Amateur.

As a 20-year old he won the U.S. Open at Skokie in 1922, shooting a 68 in the final round, the first player to shoot under 70 to win. He added the PGA Championship at Oakmont later that year. With great bravado he challenged golf’s supreme showman, Walter Hagen, to a 72-hole event for the “world championship,” and won. Repeating his victory in the PGA the next year, Sarazen won numerous tournaments in the ensuing years – his total eventually reaching 39 PGA Tour victories. In 1932, on the strength of his new-fangled invention, the sand wedge, he won the British Open at Sandwich, then the U.S. Open at Fresh Meadow, for a historic double in the world’s two major Open Championships. In 1933 he added a third PGA at Blue Mound in Wisconsin.

The 1935 Masters featured an incredibly strong field of 64. All four of the reigning U.S. national champions were entered – Olin Dutra, Open; Lawson Little, Amateur; Paul Runyon, PGA; and Charlie Yates, Intercollegiate (NCAA). There were also nine former National Open champs, including the sainted Bobby Jones, and two former British Open victors. It was quite a formidable field, fitting for what would ultimately become America’s most cherished golf tournament.

The fourth round started with Craig Wood leading at 209, on the strength of a 4-under 68 the previous day. Olin Dutra was second at 210, Henry Picard third on 211 and Gene Sarazen fourth with 212.

Dutra, with a 42 on the front, shot himself out of the tournament, despite a stellar 32 on the back, ultimately finishing third. Picard, paired with Wood, shot a 38 on the front en route to a 75 and fourth place.

Ultimately, only Sarazen stood to challenge Wood.

With a 39 on the front, Wood missed a 20-inch putt on the 10th for bogey. He then went on one of the great rallies of the tournament, making three birdies in a row – the 13th, 14th and 15th – before bogeying the 16th and, with a final flourish, birdied the 18th, to finish with a 73 and a 282 total.

Sarazen, paired with his pal and rival Walter Hagen, was playing an hour behind Wood. Even par on the ninth tee before making a bad bogey-5 for a 1-over-par 37 on the front, Sarazen was only one behind Wood at that point. On the 14th tee, Sarazen, two behind Wood now, hooked his drive into the rough leaving some 200 yards to the mounded, undulating uphill green. Hearing a distant roar from the area of the 18th green, word quickly reached the duo that Wood had birdied the final hole to extend his lead to three. Now Sarazen needed three birdies over the last five holes to simply tie Wood. Tough? Yes. Doable? Maybe.

O.B. Keeler, reporting in The American Golfer, related the needling byplay between the two friends:

Hagen: “Well Gene, that looks like it’s all over.”

Sarazen: “Oh, I don’t know. They might go in from anywhere.”

It is almost a cliché to say truer words may never have been spoken.

Sarazen proceeded to hit his first great 4-wood of the day as he ripped the ball out of the left rough, reaching the green, but ultimately leaving a putt of some 100 feet. Two putting for a par – the second one of some 6 feet – he came to the fateful 15th hole and his date with golf immortality.

Hitting a fine drive of some 265 yards to the right side of the 15th fairway, Sarazen had a full 4-wood of some 230 yards off a close, wet lie in cold, heavy air to a green fronted by water.

Jones, perhaps realizing the moment, decided to come down from the clubhouse to see if Sarazen could catch Wood, thinking he needed three birdies coming in to force a playoff. He reached Sarazen and Hagen just as a young Byron Nelson, playing the adjacent 17th hole, pushed his drive near where Sarazen’s ball had come to rest.

So, all four of those ultimately on golf’s Mount Olympus – the hallowed Jones, the flamboyant Hagen and the soon-to-be great Nelson, watched as Sarazen’s arrow-like 4-wood hit a foot before the green, “…bounded once - twice - and settled to a smooth roll, while the ripple of sound from the big gallery went sweeping into a crescendo – and then the tornado broke,” according to Keeler.

Eugenio Saracini, now the golfer Gene Sarazen, had made all three birdies with one swing of his now magical 4-wood.

In an almost anti-climatic 36-hole playoff the next day, Sarazen defeated Wood by five strokes, 144 to 149.

No less an authority than Grantland Rice, America’s first great sports writer and a founding member of Augusta National, called it “ … the most thrilling single golf shot ever played.”

Even now, with the passage of 75 Masters Tournaments, one can clearly say without equivocation or hyperbole that Rice’s simple assessment of Sarazen’s shot is as appropriate today as it was in 1935.

It may have been Jones’ reputation for sterling play and sportsmanship that leant credibility and panache to this new tournament, but it was Sarazen who indelibly put the Masters on the map for all time with his “shot heard ‘round the world.”

 Martin Davis is Golf Channel’s historian and the author or editor of some 25 books on golf.

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Stunner: Inbee Park steps aside for Int. Crown

By Randall MellJuly 17, 2018, 4:00 pm

There was a big surprise this week when the LPGA announced the finalized lineups for the UL International Crown.

Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park won’t be teeing it up for the host South Koreans Oct. 4-7 in Incheon.

She has withdrawn, saying she wanted another Korean to be able to experience the thrill of representing her country.

It’s a stunner given the importance the LPGA has placed on taking the UL International Crown to South Korea and its golf-crazy allegiance to the women’s game in the Crown’s first staging outside the United States.

Two-time major champion In Gee Chun will replace Park.

"It was my pleasure and honor to participate in the first UL International Crown in 2014 and at the 2016 Olympics, and I cannot describe in one word how amazing the atmosphere was to compete as a representative of my country,” Park said. “There are so many gifted and talented players in Korea, and I thought it would be great if one of the other players was given the chance to experience the 2018 UL International Crown.”

Chun, another immensely popular player in South Korea, was the third alternate, so to speak, with the world rankings used to field teams. Hye Jin Choi and Jin Young Ko were higher ranked than Chun but passed because of commitments made to competing in a Korean LPGA major that week. The other South Koreans who previously qualified are So Yeon Ryu, Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim.

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Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

“I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

“It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

“All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”

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Koepka still has chip on his chiseled shoulder

By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 3:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brooks Koepka prepared more for this Open than last year's.

He picked up his clubs three times.

That’s three more than last summer, when the only shots he hit between the summer Opens was during a commercial shoot for Michelob Ultra at TPC Sawgrass. He still tied for sixth at The Open a month later.

This time, Koepka kept his commitment to play the Travelers, then hit balls three times between the final round in Hartford and this past Sunday, when he first arrived here at Carnoustie.

Not that he was concerned, of course.

Koepka’s been playing golf for nearly 20 years. He wasn’t about to forget to how to swing a club after a few weeks off.

“It was pretty much the same thing,” he said Tuesday, during his pre-tournament news conference. “I shared it with one of my best friends, my family, and it was pretty much the same routine. It was fun. We enjoyed it. But I’m excited to get back inside the ropes and start playing again. I think you need to enjoy it any time you win and really embrace it and think about what you’ve done.”

At Shinnecock Hills, Koepka became the first player in nearly 30 years to repeat as U.S. Open champion – a major title that helped him shed his undeserved reputation as just another 20-something talent who relies solely on his awesome power. In fact, he takes immense pride in his improved short game and putting inside 8 feet.

“I can take advantage of long golf courses,” he said, “but I enjoy plotting my way around probably - more than the bombers’ golf courses - where you’ve got to think, be cautious sometimes, and fire at the center of the greens. You’ve got to be very disciplined, and that’s the kind of golf I enjoy.”

Which is why Koepka once again fancies his chances here on the type of links that helped launch his career.

Koepka was out of options domestically after he failed to reach the final stage of Q-School in 2012. So he packed his bags and headed overseas, going on a tear on the European Challenge Tour (Europe’s equivalent of the Web.com circuit) and earning four titles, including one here in Scotland. That experience was the most fun and beneficial part of his career, when he learned to win, be self-sufficient and play in different conditions.


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“There’s certain steps, and I embraced it,” Koepka said. “I think that’s where a lot of guys go wrong. You are where you are, and you have to make the best of it instead of just putting your head down and being like, 'Well, I should be on the PGA Tour.' Well, guess what? You’re not. So you’ve got to suck it up wherever you are, make the best of it, and keep plugging away and trying to win everything you can because, eventually, if you’re good enough, you will get out here.”

Koepka has proved that he’s plenty good enough, of course: He’s a combined 20 under in the majors since the beginning of 2017, the best of any player during that span. But he still searches long and hard for a chip to put on his chiseled shoulder.

In his presser after winning at Shinnecock, Koepka said that he sometimes feels disrespected and forgotten, at least compared to his more-ballyhooed peers. It didn’t necessarily bother him – he prefers to stay out of the spotlight anyway, eschewing a media tour after each of his Open titles – but it clearly tweaked him enough for him to admit it publicly.

That feeling didn’t subside after he went back to back at the Open, either. On U.S. Open Sunday, ESPN’s Instagram page didn’t showcase a victorious Koepka, but rather a video of New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. dunking a basketball.

“He’s like 6-foot-2. He’s got hops – we all know that – and he’s got hands. So what’s impressive about that?” Koepka said. “But I always try to find something where I feel like I’m the underdog and put that little chip on my shoulder. Even if you’re No. 1, you’ve got to find a way to keep going and keep that little chip on.

“I think I’ve done a good job of that. I need to continue doing that, because once you’re satisfied, you’re only going to go downhill. You try to find something to get better and better, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Now 28, Koepka has a goal of how many majors he’d like to win before his career is over, but he wasn’t about to share it.

Still, he was adamant about one thing: “Right now I’m focused on winning. That’s the only thing I’ve got in my mind. Second place just isn’t good enough. I finished second a lot, and I’m just tired of it. Once you win, it kind of propels you. You have this mindset where you just want to keep winning. It breeds confidence, but you want to have that feeling of gratification: I finally did this. How cool is this?”

So cool that Koepka can’t wait to win another one.

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Despite results, Thomas loves links golf

By Jay CoffinJuly 17, 2018, 2:48 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Despite poor results in two previous Open Championships, Justin Thomas contends that he has what it takes to be a good links player. In fact, he believes that he is a good links player.

Two years ago at Royal Troon, Thomas shot 77 in the second round to tie for 53rd place. He was on the wrong side of the draw that week that essentially eliminated anyone from contention who played late Friday afternoon.

Last year at Royal Birkdale, Thomas made a quintuple-bogey 9 on the par-4 sixth hole in the second round and missed the cut by two shots.


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I feel like I’ve played more than two Opens, but I haven’t had any success here,” Thomas said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I feel like I am a good links player, although I don’t really have the results to show.”

Although he didn’t mention it as a reason for success this week, Thomas is a much different player now than he was two years ago, having ascended to the No. 1 position in the world for a few weeks and now resting comfortably in the second spot.

He also believes a high golf IQ, and the ability to shape different shots into and with the wind are something that will help him in The Open over the next 20 years.

“I truly enjoy the creativity,” Thomas said. “It presents a lot of different strategies, how you want to play it, if you want to be aggressive, if you want to be conservative, if you want to attack some holes, wait on certain winds, whatever it might be. It definitely causes you to think.

“With it being as firm as it is, it definitely adds a whole other variable to it.”