Hagen Catches Whitcombe at the 18th Hole
The 1924 Open Championship was played at Hoylake. Cyril Tolley, the 1920 Amateur Champion, took a surprising first round lead with a 73. However, a second round 82 saw him fall from contention. Ernest Whitcombe, who had opened with a 77, shot 70 to take a two stroke lead over the five time Open winner, J.H. Taylor. In third place, another shot behind was the American Walter Hagen.
Whitcombe took a 77 in the third round and Hagen closed the three stroke deficit with a 74, tying Whitcombe on 224. They were three strokes ahead of George Duncan, Frank Ball and Macdonald Smith. Duncan went out in 37 but fell away on the back nine to finish on 308. A pair of sixes at the 8th and 10th holes put an end to Ball’s challenge and he finished on 304, whilst Smith saw his bid flounder on the final four holes and he also finished on 304.
Whitcombe went out in 43 but then played the back nine in 35 to finish on 302. Playing about an hour behind Whitcombe, Hagen was the only man left who could catch him. He took 43 over the front nine, including sixes at the 1st and 3rd holes. News of Whitcombe’s total reached Hagen when he was on the 12th tee and he now knew that he had to play the final seven holes in level fours to win. He lived dangerously on the route home, when he sliced his second shot at the 12th and went into a bunker at the short 13th. However, both times he recovered with a pitch and a putt and he reached the 18th green needing a six foot putt to become Open Champion for the second time. Without hesitation, he hit it into the hole to finish with a score of 301, one better than Whitcombe.