US Open countdown: Humble Farrell edges Jones in playoff for only major title

32nd U.S. Open | June 21-24, 1928

Olympia Fields Country Club Course No. 4, Olympia Fields, Ill.



x-Johnny Farrell, United States 77 - 74 - 71 - 72 294
a- Bobby Jones, United States 73 - 71 - 73 - 77 294
Roland Hancock, United States 74 - 77 - 72 - 72 295
Walter Hagen, United States 75 - 72 - 73 - 76 296
a- George Von Elm, United States 74 - 72 - 76 - 74 296

x- won in playoff a- amateur

As much as Jones was revered, many people were delighted to see Farrell, a quiet, humble-yet-affable New York professional gain notoriety after emerging from a playoff duel with his lone major championship.

In 1927, the USGA decided to extend playoffs to 36 holes, and this one a year later was a back-and-forth affair between two supreme ball-strikers with dead-aim putting ability.

Observers remember the 8-foot birdie putt Farrell sank on the 36th hole in a driving rainstorm to win the tournament. But the approach shot he pulled off on the previous hole was just as vital.

Holding a one-shot lead over Jones, Farrell badly hooked his drive behind a thornapple tree. Instead of going around it, Farrell took a huge swing at it, lifting his golf ball far over the tree, carrying it onto the green a few feet from the hole.

Both men birdied that hole and the finishing one in a classic display of shot-making. Afterward, a generous Jones told his counterpart, “It would have been a crime to beat you today.” That is how well Farrell held his game together.

This should not have been an unforeseen outcome: Farrell, who had to drop out of high school to support his family after his father died, made his money out of the caddy shack at Fairview Country Club in New York, learning the game from the likes of Jerry Travers and others.

Having never played in an amateur tournament, Farrell turned pro as a teenager in 1916. Eleven years later, he went on a winning streak on the PGA Tour that was unmatched until Byron Nelson won 11 tournaments in a row in 1945. Farrell won eight consecutive events and was named the tour’s best golfer of the year in 1927.

A year later, he held off Jones for his biggest win in the national open. In a nine-year span from 1923-31, Farrell registered seven top-10 finishes at the U.S. Open. He also was the runner-up at the PGA Championship and British Open in 1929.