This week the US Open has returned to Merion - the site of Ben Hogan's 1950 Open victory just 16 months after a near fatal automobile crash. It's also the site of what is probably the most iconic golf photo ever created - one that is perfectly executed and captures the moment.
The story that goes with the photo is amazing from a golf perspective. Hogan was the top player in 1948. At age 35 his game was peaking and he was player of the year, leading money winner, and a major champion. A head on collision of his car and a bus left him near death with a broken collarbone, ribs, pelvis and ankle. The question was whether he would walk again - forget playing golf.
Yet 16 months after the crash, he was leading the US Open. The final day involved walking 36 holes. Hogan had to wrap his legs with bandages just to walk 18 holes - and might not be able to walk 36 holes. He had a three stroke lead going into the final round - a lead he lost. He needed a par on the 18th hole to tie and join a playoff - and the 18th was the toughest hole on the course. Hogan made the par to make the playoff and easily won the 18 hole playoff the next day.
This image is the iconic image from that comeback - and Ben Hogan's career. I can't think of a story that matches this one - and the photo tells the story in a manner that even today brings it to life.
Hy Peskin was the photographer for Life magazine that got the image. It's an image that is perfectly conceived and executed. The article does a great job at telling the story of the photo, but to me, it's by far the best and most iconic golf image I've ever seen. The context of the image, the hole, the shot, and the player tell a story in a way that is truly special.
Thanks for the the post Eric. Ben Hogan was my hero while I was growing up. When he won at Merion in 1950 I was 12 years old and was already playing golf using clubs my Dad would bring home from work donated by his fellow workers. My Dad never played golf. I started with about 5 clubs. My favorite was a wooden shaft 5 iron.
It is a brilliant image and captures perfectly a moment in time that will never be repeated.
Hogan was the ultimate golfer - he would bury most of today's golfers - the car crash affected his eyes which cost him many tournaments because he couldn't focus properly and missed putts he would have made prior to the crash.
I read a biography of him - a great American and a great golfer...
Unlike many of the iconic sports images, this one has a great deal of context. It is uniquely composed with the crowd surrounding the player - something not done today. And it is at a unique time - the final hole of a spectacular comeback from horrible injuries.
I liked the comment in one of the articles. This kind of image can't become an iconic image today. A scene such as this has so many photographers shooting from the same place that everyone gets the same image unless they mess up the shot. The images of Payne Stewart sinking the final putt to win at Pinehurst in 1999, or Tiger Woods' chip in in the Masters were seen and photographed by dozens of photographers.
I'm a huge Ben Hogan fan and have been since childhood. His work ethic and drive were quite remarkable. And I have a Ben Hogan 1 iron in my golf bag.
>I once heard it said that if you were out on a golf course >and there was thunder and lightening the safest thing to do >was hold a 1-iron above your head, because not even God can >hit a 1-iron...
I think that was said by Lee Trevino. He was hit by lightning once but I don't think he was holding a 1 iron at the time. Maybe he should have been.
One thing I'll always remember about Trevino. He owned a golf course outside of El Paso at one time. When I lived there my wife and I took a ride to the course just to take a look. I think that was in 1980. There was nobody there except for a foursome coming off the green next to us. In the foursome was Sam Snead. Wow. Next to the green was the driving range. Sam went over and hit some irons for about 15 minutes before going on to the next hole. We watched and enjoyed the show. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me and that was way before the time of cell phone cameras.
I met Ben Hogan in a hotel elevator along with Byron Nelson when I was a kid and my dad had taken us to the 1969 U.S. Open in Houston. I had my tournament program with me and got signatures of both of these Texas golfing legends. Something I will never forget. I read Ben Hogan's Five Lessons a few years later and it helped shape my game like no other book. I still have that program with just about all the greats autographs: Palmer, Nicklaus, Trevino, Casper, Player, Weiskopf, to name a few. I treasure it.
I used to attend the Master's practice rounds. We'd get the autograph of every player - Nicklaus, Palmer, Snead, Ford, Burke, Trevino, Palmer, Player, Watson, etc. Never saw Hogan play but have seen and read a great deal.
The one player who was rude was Johnny Miller. Everyone else was very gracious.
Unfortunately - all the autographs are gone today. Lost with "cleaning out" many years ago.
Man, what a shame Eric. Sorry to hear you lost those autographs.
When I saw Hogan and Nelson that day they were not competing. I think they were there mainly because the U.S. Open was being held in Texas (only the third time) and I'm sure the USGA wanted them there as ambassadors. Nelson was also doing commentary for ABC at the time. I remember Nelson had a very warm personality, but a little shy. Hogan on the other hand had this very intense look in his eyes. While he was also very nice to tolerate two autograph hounds (me and my brother) you could tell he had a very competitive streak. I heard the same thing about Miller that you mention although I never saw him play. Many years later in 1985 when I saw the PGA Championship in Denver at Cherry Hills I got the same impression from Watson. Very disagreeable fellow, always grumbling at the gallery. If there was one single pro that I learned to admire it was Arnold Palmer. I saw him a second time at the PGA Championship when it was played in San Antonio at the old Pecan Valley course. He was so gracious, all the time. He seemed to really respect and appreciate the hordes of fans (the Army) that followed him all over the course. He was always good to us kids especially. A real classy gentleman.