47th U.S. Open | June 12-15, 1947
St. Louis Country Club, Ladue, Mo.
|x-Lewis Worsham, United States||70||-||70||-||71||-||71||—||282|
|Sam Snead, United States||72||-||70||-||70||-||70||—||282|
|Bobby Locke, South Africa||68||-||74||-||70||-||73||—||285|
|Ed Oliver, United States||73||-||70||-||71||-||71||—||285|
|Bud Ward, United States (a)||69||-||72||-||73||-||73||—||287|
|x-won playoff; a-amateur|
There was something about Lewis Worsham — and the drama surrounding him — that was ideally suited for the days of tournament golf hitting early live television.
This U.S. Open was the first national open to be televised regionally. And what an ending to an 18-hole playoff between Worsham and Sam Snead to show to a mass audience.
Snead led by two strokes with three holes to play, but he lost the advantage entirely when Worsham rolled in a 28-foot putt for birdie at the 16th hole followed by Snead’s untimely bogey from over the green at No. 17.
So both golfers stood on the finishing green tied looking for a final birdie. Worsham faced a 40-foot chip shot; Snead had a 15-foot putt.
What happened next became one of the most legendary acts of gamesmanship in U.S. Open history.
Worsham hit a fantastic chip from the back of the green. Afterward, Snead hit a poor putt — and knew it because he walked up and lined up his second putt immediately, ready to strike it.
That is when Worsham interrupted to call over referee Isaac Granger for an official measurement. Whoever was farther from the hole, by rule, would putt first.
Snead grumbled at Worsham’s request, then walked over to the side of the green hot under the collar.
The official measurements: Worsham was 29 inches away; Snead 301/2.
As poor as Snead’s first putt was, the second one never had a chance. He stabbed at it, and it lost steam immediately, grazing the right edge before stopping an inch past.
It was obvious Snead had become rattled. And after Worsham’s putt hit in the back of the cup and dropped in, the Virginia native won his first and only major title.
“I would rather have blown it yesterday,” Snead told reporters after the playoff, “than this way.”
Final hole meltdowns became a recurring theme for Snead at U.S. Opens. In 1939, he led by two shots playing the finishing hole, only to triple bogey and lose.
Worsham went on to have a fantastic 1953 season, becoming the PGA Tour’s top money winner. And at the first nationally televised tournament (ABC) — the Tam O’Shanter World Championship of Golf — he won it by holing out from 104 yards in the fairway for an eagle-2.
As a side note to this U.S. Open, amateur James McHale established a new nine-hole mark with a 30. The record stood until 1995.