Golf

US Open countdown: Back injury no matter as Craig Wood runs away with title

45th U.S. Open | June 5-7, 1941

Colonial Country Club, Fort Worth, Texas

Leaderboard

Craig Wood, United States 73 - 71 - 70 - 70 284
Denny Shute, United States 69 - 75 - 72 - 71 287
Johnny Bulla, United States 75 - 71 - 72 - 71 289
Ben Hogan, United States 74 - 77 - 68 - 70 289
Herman Barron, United States 75 - 71 - 74 - 71 291
Paul Runyan, United States 73 - 72 - 71 - 75 291

In the first part of his career, Wood, nicknamed the “Blond Bomber,” was the hard-luck runner-up at big tournaments, and the only man in golf history to lose in a playoff in all four major championships.

But he received a little comeuppance in 1941, winning both the Masters Tournament, then this U.S. Open under the scorching Texas heat.

Wood grew up the son of a lumberyard foreman, and often wielded an axe in the forest to chop down trees. That is how he developed extraordinary upper-body strength, and developed into a big hitter off the tee in golf.

He came into the U.S. Open beat up and questionable to play. Two weeks prior to the tournament, he tore a back muscle and could not swing a golf club for a week.

Wearing a back support — some would call it a girdle — Wood did tee it up when tournament play began. After opening with a bogey on the first hole, he contemplated withdrawing, only to be talked out of it by playing partner Tommy Armour, the 1927 U.S. Open winner. Wood ended up shooting a 73.

It got progressively better for the New York native, even when the weather turned ugly. The second round was marred by a torrential downpour that forced the golfers to often chip where they would putt.

But in the 36 holes of the final day, Wood pulled away from the leading pack. In the final round, he hit tee shots in the woods on the third, sixth and 15th holes, only to bail himself out with long par putts.

He wrapped up the championship by drilling a 30-foot birdie putt on the finishing hole to beat Denny Shute by three strokes, becoming the first of five golfers to win the Masters and U.S. Open in the same year.

Wood also won 21 times on the PGA Tour for his career.

Also in this 1941 U.S. Open, Tyrrell Garth (15) became the youngest competitor in U.S. Open history — until Tadd Fujikawa was a few months younger when he got into the 2006 U.S. Open. Garth ended up withdrawing during his second round.

Because of World War II, this would be the last U.S. Open played for five years.

todd.milles@thenewstribune.com

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