50th U.S. Open | June 8-11, 1950
Merion Golf Club, Ardmore, Pa.
|Joe Kirkwood Jr.||71||-||74||-||74||-||70||—||289|
The story of the 1950 U.S. Open began in the early morning of Feb. 2, 1949, near Van Horn, Texas.
After losing to Jimmy Demaret in a playoff at the Phoenix Open, 1948 U.S. Open champion Ben Hogan and his wife, Valerie, headed home to Fort Worth, Texas. The two-day drive included an overnight stop in the west Texas town of Van Horn. At about 8 a.m. Feb. 2 the Hogans left their motel and pulled onto U.S. Highway 80, an icy two-lane road shrouded by fog.
The driver of a Greyhound bus making the Pecos-to-El Paso run was coming the other direction and decided to attempt a blind pass around a truck. The bus struck the driver’s side of Hogan’s 1949 Cadillac head-on. In the split second before the crash, Hogan dived to his right to protect his wife.
Valerie emerged from the accident with what were described as “minor injuries.” Hogan’s body, however, suffered extensive damage, including a fractured pelvis, a broken collarbone, a broken ankle, a gash near his left eye and a severely bruised left leg.
Recovery from surgery and complications from blood clots kept Hogan in the hospital until April 1. Fourteen months later, after extensive rehabilitation and a limited playing schedule in early 1950, Hogan arrived at the Merion Golf Club for the U.S. Open.
The Associated Press listed Sam Snead and Jimmy Demaret as the favorites.
“Ben Hogan? Nobody quite knows what little poker face’s chances are — not even Ben himself,” the AP said. “He hasn’t played 36 holes in one day since he came out of that car accident over a year ago, and he isn’t certain his scarred legs will stand up to Saturday’s climatic test.”
Rounds three and four were contested on the same day back then, and Hogan built a three-stroke lead with six holes to play in the the fourth round. The grind of 36 holes in one day proved too much, however, and he faded down the stretch and needed a hard-earned par — featuring a famous 1-iron approach shot — on the final hole to advance to a playoff against Mangrum and Fazio.
Hogan easily won the 18-hole playoff the next day, shooting a 69 and beating Mangrum by four and Fazio by six.
His triumph became known as the “Miracle at Merion.”