Virtual U.S. Open Round 4: Ben blows away the field

FT. WORTH, TX - MAY 19: A view of a statue of Ben Hogan during the first round of the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial Country Club on May 19, 2011 in Ft. Worth, Texas. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
FT. WORTH, TX - MAY 19: A view of a statue of Ben Hogan during the first round of the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial Country Club on May 19, 2011 in Ft. Worth, Texas. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images) /

Hogan’s closing 29 turns a close finish into a runaway

Beginning the back nine of Sunday’s final round of the Virtual U.S. Open, seven of the greatest players in golf history were lined up within three shots of one another.

Then the player the Scots called the Wee Ice Mon for his steely unflappability under pressure went into full chill mode. In a flash of back nine birdies, Ben Hogan closed with a stunning 29 and ran away with the tournament.

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That 29 helped Hogan to a final round of 64 and let  him finish at 19-under 269, six shots ahead of the field. The amazing part of that number is the way the tournament changed over its final two hours.

What by the numbers looks like Hogan’s runaway win was anything but as the field hit the 10th tee at Winged Foot. At that point, Hogan was coming off a front nine 35. He was one of three players – the others being Walter Hagen and Alex Smith — deadlocked at 13-under. One stroke behind them was Tiger Woods, followed by Bobby Jones one additional stroke behind, and Jack Nicklaus and Gene Sarazen another stroke behind Jones.

That’s seven players with a combined 21 U.S. Open titles within three shots of the lead with just nine holes to play. Any of them could have won.

Then Hogan made Winged Foot’s back nine his personal playground. His 6-iron within five feet of the cup set up a birdie at 10, one only matched by Smith and Hagen. Hogan also birdied the 396-yard par four 11th, moving to minus 15 in company with Smith. At the par five 12th, Hogan crashed the green in two and recorded a third straight birdie to take the lead by himself at -15.

In just those three holes, Hogan had gained six shots on Woods, three on Jones, two on Hagen, two on Nicklaus and one on Smith.

And he was only getting started. At the 214 yard par 3 13th, Hogan’s 3-iron stopped 10 feet from the cup and he drained that putt for a fourth consecutive birdie. Among those in the hunt at the turn, he was the only one to beat par. At 14, a 450-yard par four, Hogan’s drive sliced the fairway, his approach left a 15-foot putt and he made that as well for a fifth consecutive birdie.

From a three-way deadlock little more than an hour earlier, Hogan had opened up a three-stroke lead on Smith, even though Smith played the same stretch in two-under par. Hagen was four behind, Jones five out and Nicklaus another stroke behind Jones. Woods, who had bogeyed the 11th and doubled the 12th, was finished.

Hogan made a routine par at 15, then at Winged Foot’s short par five 16th he again reached in two shots, and this time knocked down an eight-foot eagle putt, dropping him to seven-under for the back nine’s first seven holes, five better than Jones and Smith, languishing back in second place.

Comfortable pars at the final two holes were more than enough to bring him home six strokes in front of Jones and Smith. Hagen finished two strokes further back at minus-11, with Woods and Nicklaus at minus-10.

The back nine 29 represented a stunning turnaround for Hogan, who shot one-under 35 on the front side. It was Walter Hagen who made the big front nine move, shooting 33 to move into that three-way tie for the lead with Hogan and Woods.

Woods had chances to take control of the tournament, with birdies at the first, second, sixth and ninth. But bogeys at three and four undermined Woods’ momentum, and the double bogey at 12 left him hopelessly behind the streaking Hogan.

One player who fell quickly out of contention was surprise third round leader Tommy Bolt. The 1958 U.S. Open champion, who began play with a one-stroke lead over Hogan and Sarazen, double bogeyed the second hole, shot 39 on the front, and was out of contention by that point. Bolt wound up with  a 77 for a four round total of seven-under 281, good for a tie for eighth place with Sarazen and George Sargent.

Nicklaus, two strokes off Bolt’s pace through three rounds, wandered through his least productive round of the week. After a pair of routine pars, he found sand at the par three third hole and took a bogey, finishing the front nine at even par 36. That left him two behind Woods, Hogan and Hagen.

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It remained a contending position … until Hogan went ballistic and Nicklaus went nowhere. During the champion’s run of five straight birdies, Nicklaus manufactured just one birdie, finding himself six behind. A double bogey at 17 left him at even par 72 for the day and a disappointing tie for fifth with Woods.

As it did for most of the week, Winged Foot challenged the field. The average score Sunday was 72.58, more than a half stroke above par.

Here is Hogan’s final round card:

Winged Foot       4 4 3   4 5 4   3 4 5   3 4 5   3 4 4   5 4 4 – 72

Hogan                   4 4 3   4 5 4   3 3 5   2 3 4   2 3 4   3 4 4 — 64

Here are the 72-hole scores for the full field:

Ben Hogan                          68-66-71-64-269

Alex Smith                          72-66-69-68-275

Bobby Jones                      72-69-69-65-275

Walter Hagen                    69-70-68-70-277

Jack Nicklaus                      70-68-68-72-278

Tiger Woods                       68-70-68-72-278

Jim Barnes                          69-70-71-70-280

Gene Sarazen                    69-67-69-76-281

Tommy Bolt                        67-70-67-77-281

George Sargent                 76-68-69-68-281

Julius Boros                        75-70-68-69-282

Arnold Palmer                   70-72-66-74-282

Billy Burke                           74-68-69-72-283

Corey Pavin                        72-74-69-68-283

Hale Irwin                            70-71-69-73-283

Fred McLeod                      65-76-70-72-284

Lew Worsham                   71-76-72-65-284

David Graham                   70-74-68-72-284

Olin Dutra                            73-74-67-71-285

Ken Venturi                         72-75-71-68-285

Johnny Miller                      68-75-72-70-285

Chick Evans                         75-71-72-68-286

Dick Mayer                          71-75-70-70-286

Hubert Green                     75-68-68-76-287

Scott Simpson                   78-68-71-70-287

Willie Macfarlane              69-70-73-75-287

Gary Player                         70-66-75-74-287

Tony Manero                      71-74-72-71-288

Alec Ross                             76-71-69-72-288

Tommy Armour                  73-75-68-72-288

Tom Watson                       76-71-70-71-288

Willie Smith                        73-74-71-71-288

Billy Casper                         73-75-72-69-289

Lloyd Mangrum                 75-74-68-72-289

Johnny Farrell                     67-74-71-77-289

Graeme McDowell            71-70-74-74-289

Gene Littler                         71-71-74-73-289

Brooks Koepka                   72-71-71-76-290

Lee Trevino                          67-74-71-78-290

Byron Nelson                      66-74-73-77-290

James Foulis                       73-70-74-73-290

Willie Anderson                 72-75-70-73-290

Cyril Walker                        69-75-75-71-290

Laurie Auchterlonie        77-72-70-71-290

Jerry Pate                            77-69-72-73-290

Ernie Els                               70-77-69-74-291

Curtis Strange                    69-74-75-73-291

Dustin Johnson                 74-70-76-71-291

Raymond Floyd                 74-72-74-71-291

Johnny Goodman            74-74-74-70-292

Ralph Guldahl                    75-77-67-73-292

Cary Middlecoff                73-79-71-69-292

Larry Nelson                       78-77-70-70-293

Fuzzy Zoeller                      75-73-74-71-293

Tom Kite                              72-76-72-74-294

Andy North                         71-72-79-72-294

Angel Cabrera                    72-77-73-73-295

Payne Stewart                  71-76-71-78-295

Ed Furgol                             75-70-72-78-295

Jim Furyk                             76-78-72-69-295

Martin Kaymer                  79-68-73-76-296

Lee Janzen                          74-75-70-77-296

Michael Campbell            67-76-77-77-297

Retief Goosen                   76-74-77-70-297

Gary Woodland                 74-73-73-79-299

Horace Rawlins                 75-73-77-74-299

Steve Jones                        76-74-73-76-299

Lawson Little                      73-75-75-77-300

Geoff Oglivy                       75-77-71-77-300

Webb Simpson                 79-77-70-74-300

Justin Rose                         80-76-73-71-300

Lucas Glover                      73-85-76-68-302

Rory McIlroy                      71-76-79-76-302

Lou Graham                       76-72-77-78-303

Sam Parks Jr.                      78-73-79-76-306

Tony Jacklin                        78-80-78-73-309

Jack Fleck                            76-79-77-79-311

Jordan Spieth                    71-87-81-73-312