Looking Back at Ben Hogan's Magical 1953 Run of Three Consecutive Majors

Kathy BissellCorrespondent IJuly 14, 2015

Jordan Spieth practices a shot he hopes he won't need for the British Open at the famous 17th, Road Hole
Jordan Spieth practices a shot he hopes he won't need for the British Open at the famous 17th, Road HoleIan Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

With all the talk of Jordan Spieth's chance for the Grand Slam, many have forgotten the 1953 record set by Ben Hogan when he won the Masters, the U.S. Open and the British Open. Hogan's three majors of 1953 are still the closest anyone has gotten to the modern day Grand Slam, and that was seven years before it was called the Grand Slam.

Hogan, at the time, was four-and-a-half seasons beyond his horrific auto accident of 1949. When he was injured, many predicted that he would be lucky to walk again, much less play golf. But those people did not know the depth of Hogan's determination.

When 1953 began, Hogan had already won 57 official tour events, including five after his accident. That year at the Masters, Hogan opened with 70-69. In the third round, he shot a 66 with two three-putt greens, according to Ben Hogan, The Man Behind the Mystique.

Entering the final round on Sunday, he was one shot ahead of Porky Oliver, who was also his competitive partner.

Oliver shot two-under-par 70, which tied the previous tournament record. Hogan beat him by five strokes, setting a mark of 274 that was eventually broken by Jack Nicklaus and then Tiger Woods, and most recently by Jordan Spieth.  

The 1953 U.S. Open was held at one of the most difficult to score upon courses in the world: Oakmont. The only player exempt from qualifying that year was Julius Boros, who had won the tournament in 1952. Even the legendary Ben Hogan had to qualify.

In the first round of the U.S. Open, Hogan carded a 67 with four birdies on the front and one on the back. He was not in any bunkers. He followed it with a 72, and in that year, 72 was par at the U.S. Open. He was five-under for the tournament and ahead by two strokes.

In those days, the last two rounds were held on Saturday. Not only did Hogan have the challenge of the golf course, but he also had the challenge of walking two 18-hole rounds in one day on legs that had been mangled in an auto accident just four years prior.

In the first 18 holes of the 36-hole day, Hogan shot 73 and was one stroke clear of Sam Snead. Toward the end of the final 18 holes, he drove the green at the 17th and was able to come away with a birdie.

He also birdied the 18th by sinking a 10-foot putt, for a 71. His total score was 283, six strokes ahead of Sam Snead. (Ben Hogan, The Man Behind the Mystique.)

Hogan's 283 was not a record score; however, he already had the U.S. Open record at 281. It was broken by Jack Nicklaus in 1980 and is shared by Lee Janzen, Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk.

Like the 1953 U.S. Open, the British Open that year was not played at an easy course. It was at Carnoustie, or Carnasty, as many have come to call it.

The late John Derr, who died a month and a week ago, was an eyewitness to Hogan's final major victory. Derr and Hogan broadcast daily radio reports from the tournament.

Before the final round, Derr told Hogan he would not talk to him during the round, but that if Hogan needed anything from Derr, all he had to do was ask.

At the 15th, Hogan asked him what the scores of his competitors were. Derr ducked into what he called an R&A tent and found out that Frank Stranahan, Peter Thomson and Dai Rees were in at 286. Antonio Cerda was four behind and still on the course.

After making birdie on the 16th, Hogan reportedly told Derr to go get ready for the radio show because the tournament was over. Bold of him, but he was right.

Hogan's victory was a record for the British Open at Carnoustie. He shot 282 for the tournament, eight shots better than anyone at that historic course. Hogan finished four ahead of his nearest competitors—Strahanan, Rees, Cerda and Thomson—who were tied at 286.  

Now, for the first time since Tiger Woods in 2002, one golfer, Jordan Spieth, has a chance to match Hogan's historic feat. Only six golfers have won the first two tournaments in the Grand Slam in the same year: Tiger Woods, 2002; Jack Nicklaus, 1972; Arnold Palmer, 1960; Ben Hogan, 1951 and 1953; Craig Wood, 1941.

While history says Spieth's chances of winning the British Open this week are slim, so far those who underestimated Spieth this year have been surprised.

Can Spieth hold up to the pressure and succeed as Hogan did? Will he be able to command his golf ball to victory? We are about to find out.      

Kathy Bissell is a Golf Writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand or from official interview materials from the PGA Tour, USGA, R&A or PGA of America.


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