Biggest Events in Sports The United States Open Part 3

About the United States Open, history and information about the major sporting event and one of the biggest golf tournaments.



1931 "The king will not be here." That was the cry, in July, 1931, of the golfers who prepared to tee off in what was to be one of the most competitive tournaments in U.S. Open history. What they meant was that Bobby Jones, a perennial Open power since 1922, was going to skip this tournament.

The way now seemed clear for such as PGA and British Open champ Tommy Armour and former U.S. Open king Gene Sarazen to assert their dominance. Inverness in Toledo, O., where the tournament would be held, was not a long course, and it seemed tailor-made for such long drivers as Armour, Sarazen, Walter Hagen, and MacDonald Smith.

In the most dramatic play-off in Open history, they saw two less-illustrious golfers battle the course and each other for five days before a champion was crowned.

George Von Elm, a businessman-golfer, and Billy Burke, a Ryder Cup hero, waged a furious battle in temperatures that often reached 97 deg. Von Elm jumped from 20th place to take the lead on the second round while Burke, playing steady golf, stayed close on his heels, and they tied for the lead on the final day, forcing a play-off.

It took two play-offs, a total of 72 holes, to break the deadlock. Von Elm struggled through the first play-off, staying alive with a 17th-hole, 12-ft. birdie putt, but Burke's steadiness won the tournament.

1950 U.S. Open golfers are not often prone to sentimentality, but there were many among the 165 contestants for this 50th Open tournament who felt a touch of emotion that June day as they watched Ben Hogan limp painfully over the Merion Golf Course in Ardmore, Pa.

It was a miracle that Ben was even able to play. The greatest golfer of his era, he had been involved in a serious automobile accident in 1949. The doctors had said he would never play golf again, but Hogan had worked himself back into shape and by 1950 was on the tour. It was still painful for him to swing a golf club and he was weak, so most experts felt that the Open would be too tiring for him.

Ben got into contention early. He sank some very long putts, but he was limping badly. Lloyd Mangrum and George Fazio had left their compassion for Ben back in the clubhouse, and they closed in on him as he weakened on the last holes. After 72 holes, all three were tied.

The play-off prospects for Hogan now looked dismal. He had played two grueling rounds of golf the day before. Could he keep it up? Ben found a hidden strength for this play-off. Putting like a demon, he took an early lead of one stroke after nine holes and gradually built it up, taking the title by four strokes to become the most popular winner in U.S. Open history.

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