If we cannot get out and play golf, at least we can still talk about it and reminisce, even if we are not at the 19th hole.
I was looking through my collection of DVDs and came across the Greatest Game Ever Played, which prompted me to reflect on my own list of favourites in terms of great comebacks, great come-from-behind wins and great victories that seemed to come from nowhere.
Francis Ouimet: In terms of the latter category, Ouimet’s victory in the US Open at Brookline in 1913 must rank among the greatest of these.
A story about an unknown amateur, who wins one of the only two professional Majors on the calendar looks like a film script and not a true-life story, but it was indeed the latter and resulted in one of the greatest games and a film of the same name.
Ouimet’s “from nowhere” win by five strokes, in an 18-hole playoff against Harry Vardon and Ted Ray (two of the game’s “rock stars” at that time) was astounding. His victory has been credited as the moment at which the game of golf came into the mainstream of sport in the US.
Jack Nicklaus: The Bear is back … and who will forget his victory in the Masters in 1986, when a final round of 66 rolled back the years for the Golden Bear and helped to take his career total to 18 Majors.
In winning at Augusta, it was a case of all the “6s”, because Nicklaus was 46, and shot 66 to win a record 6th Masters title after a gap of 6 years since his 17th victory at a Major in 1980, in which year Nicklaus won both the US Open and the USPGA Championship.
Tiger Woods: 2019 was the year Tiger went on the prowl again and put 10 winless years at golf’s highest table — the Majors — behind him. With this extraordinary comeback triumph at Augusta National in the Masters, he edged only three wins behind Nicklaus on the all-time Major’s list and in the process put a number of other demons to bed.
Tony Jacklin: Britain had waited for 18 years to see a home-grown player lift the Claret Jug at the Open Championship and in 1969 Jacklin did it in style against the world’s best at Royal Lytham & St Annes.
His seven-stroke victory at the US Open at Hazeltine the next year would prove that his Open victory was no fluke.
Ben Hogan: Crippling injuries in a car crash in February 1949 would have put paid to the careers of less determined athletes. Even Hogan’s doctor said he would never walk again.
However, they were shrugged off by the “wee ice mon”, to use a moniker of Scottish origin for Hogan, as he returned to the Tour in 1950.
Though he was troubled by his injuries for the rest of his career, in 1953 Hogan won the Open, US Open and Masters for what is now known as the Triple Crown. He was unable to compete in the USPGA Championship in 1953, because the dates overlapped with the Open Championship.
Billy Casper vs Arnold Palmer: Palmer the game’s greatest charger (he would be joined by Greg Norman in this category some years later) with a seven-shot lead going into the final nine holes of the US Open in 1966 at the Olympic Club, with both this title and the elusive career Grand Slam in both his hands.
“Game over”, previous history would have suggested, but not in the mind of Billy Casper (a US Open winner in 1959), whose dogged pursuit over the back nine, helped by uncharacteristic lapses from golf’s most iconic player, forced a tie over 72 holes. In the 18-hole playoff the following day, Casper triumphed by four shots to win the second of his three Major titles.
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