“DID YOU KNOW”
George Fazio teed off first in the final round of the 1950 US Open and well might have won!
At 8 a.m. Saturday June 10, 1950, two local golf professionals, George Fazio and Al Besselink, were the first two players teeing off for the double round finish of the US Open at Merion Golf Club’s East Course.
At that time there were no gallery ropes, so the USGA would spread out the leaders. Crowd control of the 10,000 spectators each day was up to volunteer marshals. Before the tournament began Ben Hogan had said that his biggest problem might be getting under the gallery ropes. Hogan had circulation problems in his legs from the near fatal automobile accident just one year earlier in February 1949. Large veins had been tied off to mange blood clots. This caused cramping.
For the 36-hole finish on Saturday, players were paired in twos at six minute intervals. Fazio (145) and Besselink (143) may have been put in the first pairing by the officials, because they were not slow and knew the golf course. Actually it was Merchantville, New Jersey’s Besselink who struck the first tee shot of the day with Norristown, Pennsylvania’s Fazio next.
Halfway leader Dutch Harrison (139) was at 9:00 with Julius Boros (140). Johnny Bulla (140) and Lloyd Mangrum (142) were off at 8:30. Ben Hogan (141) and Cary Middlecoff (142) had a 9:30 time. Jim Ferrier (140) and Henry Ransom (143) had a 9:54 tee time. It had taken a score of 149 to make the cut (low 50). Most of the players with the higher scores had later times, but some were arly. Only five strokes back at 144, Denny Shute, once the professional only a few miles away at Llanerch CC and a winner of three majors, was last off at 10:30.
In the tournament’s third round that morning Fazio kept himself in the conversation with a 32 on the second nine to post a 72 for 217, while Mangrum with a 69 took the lead at 211. With a 73 Harrison (212) was still there, in second place. Hogan (72), Middlecoff (71) and Johnny Palmer (70) were tied for third at 213.
Back on the course at 12:30, Fazio played the last nine holes in 33 strokes for an even par 70. His 72-hole 287 total on the scoreboard looked great, but probably not a winner. Then the US Open pressure began to take its toll. Middlecoff and Palmer, each were in the process of taking 79 strokes to finish. Harrison with a 76, came in one worse than Fazio’s 287. Mangrum was out in 41 and staggered in with pars on the exceedingly difficult final three holes for a 76. That managed to get him into a tie with Fazio.
Out on the course one hour after Mangrum, Hogan made 10 pars and a bogey on the first eleven holes. His legs were giving out. On the last nine holes either Middlecoff or Hogan’s caddy removed his ball from the hole. On the 12th tee Hogan’s drive found the rough. He limped over and leaned on Harry Radix, who was there as a spectator. He said “Harry I don’t think I can finish.” (Before there was a Vardon Trophy for the low scoring average on the PGA Tour it was the Radix Cup. The Radix Cup, donated by Radix, a Chicago jeweler, was awarded for that achievement from 1934 to 1936.) Hogan’s second shot was long and would have ended up over the green out-of-bounds in Ardmore Avenue if not for the throng of spectators at the back of the green. From there he made a bogey. It has been reported that after the short 13th hole, which was near the clubhouse, Hogan considered quitting but his caddy was on the way to the 14th tee so he kept walking. He three putted 15 for a bogey. He made a par on 16 when his second shot hit a lady spectator near the green and ended in a good lie just off the green. On the par-three 17th, his tee shot found a back bunker and he made another bogey. Hogan was now in a tie with Fazio and Mangrum. On the last hole he was on the green after a drive and a 1-iron. From 40 feet he putted four feet past the hole. Without much though a dead tired man made the next one coming back. With his 74 there was now a three way tie at 287; Fazio, Mangrum and Hogan.
In 72 holes, if one more putt had been holed by Fazio or one more missed by Hogan and Mangrum, Fazio would have won the US Open. In the last round, he had made a great 4-iron shot from the rough on the 16th hole to four feet, only to miss the putt. Fazio would have been a long-shot and a dark-horse, but no more than some others. Fazio had won once before, the 1946 Canadian Open.
In an 18-hole playoff on Sunday which began at 2 p.m. because of Pennsylvania’s “Blue Laws” (The law is still on the books in Pennsylvania, but not enforced). Hogan won with a 69 against a 73 by Mangrum and a 75 by Fazio. First prize was $4,000 and worth much more in endorsements.