Golf’s worst missed putt
Leo Diegel is not a name which leaps readily from golf’s record books, but he was a supremely talented player who had captured the USPGA Championship twice before he arrived in St Andrews for the 1933 Open. He would have won many more titles but for an extremely nervous temperament. Seven times he finished in the top four in Open Championships on either side of the Atlantic and once commented: “They keep trying to give me a championship, but I won’t take it.”
The mighty players from America’s Ryder Cup team were still smarting from a one point defeat at Southport when they arrived in force for the Open, but with one round to play the lead was shared by Henry Cotton, Abe Mitchell, Syd Easterbrook and Diegel, closely chased by Craig Wood after a fine 68 and Gene Sarazen. But the final round was a disaster for the home players. Easterbrook was best with a 77. Cotton and Mitchell both had 79.
From the middle of the pack American Densmore Shute returned his fourth round of 73 and found he was sharing the clubhouse lead with fellow Ryder Cup player Craig Wood. It looked certain that they would be joined by a third member of the team when Diegel played a fine second shot to the last hole and needed two putts for a tie. He left the first putt virtually stone dead and crouched over the ball in his familiar style with elbows splayed wide, forearms parallel with the ground.
Renowned golf correspondent Bernard Darwin reported that he missed “by the widest possible margin.” He had, in fact, missed the ball completely. An air shot with the putter. In the subsequent play-off Shute clinched the championship by five shots over 36 holes. Wood had the doubtful consolation that a powerful drive in the fourth round travelled 440 yards into a bunker at the fifth. It was tremendous power golf, but it cost him a shot and possibly the title.