Huge Crowds Watch Hogan Take The Open Title In Style
Carnoustie was the setting for the 1953 Open Championship. This was the first time American Ben Hogan, victorious in the 1953 US Open and Masters, had played in Great Britain. Arriving two weeks early to prepare and playing with the smaller British ball for the first time, all attention was focused on what he could produce. A strong overseas field provided the remainder of the challenge, including Lloyd Mangrum, Peter Thomson, Tony Cerda, Roberto de Vicenzo, amateur player Frank Stranahan and defending Champion Bobby Locke.
Frank Stranahan of the US had the best first round, scoring 70 to take the lead. Scotsman Eric Brown raised local hopes with a round of 71 for second place. Locke shot an excellent 72 and joined Dai Rees, Thomson and de Vicenzo in joint 3rd position. Despite problems with his putting, Hogan was satisfied with his score of 73. Cerda had a disappointing start, scoring 75.
Hogan experienced further putting problems in the second round, but managed to better his first round score by two strokes and scored 71 for a respectable two-round total of 144. Rees had a brilliant birdie-eagle finish to score 70, giving him a share of the lead with Eric Brown. Much to the delight of the home crowd, he had scored another round of 71. De Vicenzo shot 71 for third position with Hogan, Stranahan and Thomson only a shot behind.
At the end of the third round, Rees was disappointed with his score of 73. Cerda, however, set a new course record of 69. Thomson was playing steadily, adding a score of 71 to his previous two rounds of 72 and joined Cerda and Rees in joint third position on a total of 215. Hogan had an excellent round and was four under by the 16th. Disaster struck at the 17th, where he found a bunker but his excellent recovery allowed him to rescue a six. A birdie at the last hole provided some compensation and his total of 70 was enough to tie the lead with de Vicenzo, who had played a steady round of 71. Crowds, hoping to see some famous Hogan golfing magic, followed his match in their thousands, at times impeding other players.
It was Stranahan who set an early target of 286, his fourth round of 69 expertly completed by an eagle at the 18th. Of the leaders, Rees was out before de Vicenzo, who was followed by Hogan, with Cerda out last. De Vicenzo was unlucky at the 9th where he dropped a shot after knocking his ball out of bounds. He could not seem to recover from this, his putting being especially affected. Cerda put early pressure on Hogan with a birdie at the 3rd. Hogan immediately responded with an excellent chip-in from the perilous edge of a bunker for a birdie at the 5th, maintaining a one stroke lead. To the crowd’s delight he followed this with a birdie at the 6th.
News reached Hogan that de Vicenzo was one over at the turn and that Rees was in the clubhouse on 71, to tie with Stranahan on 286. Hogan only had to hold on to what he had gained and pay attention to what Cerda would produce. Thomson was playing well but was looking unlikely to better the 286 target set. At this point Hogan began to play some excellent and memorable iron shots. At the 13th he opened up the gap by two shots; meanwhile de Vicenzo finished one over, on a total of 287. Cerda went one over at the 12th when his ball hit a spectator. Hogan kept his nerve and finished safely, with a par at the 17th and a birdie at the 18th to set a new course record of 68. His total of 282 was four shots ahead of the rest of the field. He had taken The Open title in style; his victory made even more special as this was to be his first and only Open appearance.