Golf 101
March 29, 2020

Did you know: Why Ben Hogan had to settle for a Triple Crown instead of going for the Grand Slam in 1953

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200324-hogan-swing.jpg

(Original Caption) Bantam Ben Hogan, who is trying his hand at British Open Golf for the first time, is shown as he competed July 6 in the qualifying rounds at Carnoustie. Hogan, darling of the Scottish crowds watching the tournament, had a following of 3,000. Hogan is trying to become the third player ever to win the United States and the British Open golf championships in the same year. Hogan shot a 36-73 in the first round of play and is currently in seventh place.

Photo by: Bettmann

Bettmann

The coronavirus pandemic has hit a giant pause button on fans being able to watch golf on TV, and in some cases, even kept people off courses. But while we hunker down and hope for a speedy return to normalcy, we can also use this time as an opportunity to learn more about the game we love. Here’s our latest installment of “Did you know?”

"Triple Crown" is a term usually reserved for horse racing and baseball, but Ben Hogan brought it to golf during one of the great seasons in any sport's history. And it could have been even better if not for some bizarre scheduling. Let's explain.

Many people think Tiger Woods came the closest to pulling off the modern calendar Grand Slam (Bobby Jones pulled off the ancient one as an amateur) in golf when he won four consecutive majors, beginning with the 2000 U.S. Open and ending with the 2001 Masters. But while Woods has argued it should count since he held golf's four biggest titles at the same time, it was actually Hogan who missed pulling off the feat by a narrower margin in 1953. That's because he didn't even play in the year's fourth major. Yep, true story.

And it wasn't because Hogan had anything against Birmingham Country Club. Although . . . Alabama in July? Who made this schedule? Instead, it was because Ben couldn't be there because the two events overlapped. We're not kidding. OK, seriously, who made this schedule?!

After caving into peer pressure that he should play in at least one British Open in his legendary career, Hogan traveled to Scotland where he had to first make it through a qualifier contested over the final two days of the ongoing PGA. We're not sure what's more ridiculous: that these tournaments weren't spaced apart or that BEN HOGAN, fresh off winning the Masters and U.S. Open, had to play in a qualifier. Regardless, Hogan wound up winning the claret jug, but had to settle for a Triple Crown instead of going for the calendar Grand Slam. Bummer.

On the bright side, he still got a ticker-tape parade in New York City for his accomplishment.

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200324-hogan-parade.jpg

(Original Caption) Bantam Ben Hogan, the world\'s leading golfer, four time winner of the U.S. Open and more recent winner of the British Open, waves to crowds who turned out to greet him today in tribute to his conquest of the Carnoustie Course in Scotland. In the car with Hogan are, left to right: Horton Smith, President of the Professional Golfers Association; Hogan and Grover Whalen, of the Mayor\'s reception committee and (in front seat) Isaac Grainger, Vice President, U.S. Golf Association. Hogan was given a typical New York ticker-tape welcome, complete with a City Hall reception.

Photo by: Bettmann

Bettmann

Even Tiger never got that!

And to be fair to whomever was responsible for that ridiculous scheduling snafu, it's unlikely Hogan would have played in the PGA Championship even if it had been held a different week. You see, following his devastating car accident in 1949, Hogan never played nearly a full schedule again. That included his decision to skip the PGA for the entire 1950s decade due to it being a particularly grueling week of six potential matches (he played in the event three times after it switched to stroke play in 1958), four of which were 36 holes. The poor PGA Championship. Even back then it was a distant fourth in the major rankings.

Actually, Hogan's wife, Valerie, was worried about Ben, who was also battling a fever in Scotland, completing the 36-hole final day at Carnoustie in chilly weather. And after wiping out the field by four shots, the golf legend was pretty wiped himself.

“I’m happy, but so very, very tired,” Hogan said after winning the hefty sum of £500 (Did that even cover transportation?!) for his effort.

So it would have been tough for him to muster the strength to win another major that season, especially had the PGA been played after the Open like it was for many years. But it's also tough seeing how Hogan would have lost considering he won all five official PGA Tour events he entered in 1953. Dude was dominant.

Anyway, Ben Hogan won all three majors he entered in 1953, and some guy named Walter Burkemo won the only big one Ben skipped. You're welcome, Walter.


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