Havers birdies the last to beat Hagen
There was controversy even before competitive play started in the 1923 Open, the first to be played at Troon. During practice rounds it was found that the iron clubs of Gene Sarazen and many players from the United States had holes punched deep into the faces, creating massive backspin and giving great control even on the bone-hard greens. The clubs were declared illegal and there was much late-night work with files brought in from the Glasgow shipyards before the clubs once again conformed to the rules.
The qualifying round was played in gale force conditions. Many balls were swept off greens and into bunkers and Aubrey Boomer had the unfortunate experience of blasting his ball from sand only to watch it curl back over his head in the wind and drop into his jacket pocket. Sarazen failed to qualify, but defending champion Walter Hagen, who had won the title the year before at Royal St George’s, chased home player Arthur Havers, from Coombe Hill, throughout the four rounds. With a tall, slim build, Havers was not best equipped for the windy conditions, but he kept the ball in play with his powerful four-knuckle left-hand grip and opened with three rounds of 73.
Almost inevitably Hagen piled on the pressure in the final round and when Havers bunkered his second shot to the 18th green it looked as if the door was open. But Havers was made of sterner stuff and he holed out from the bunker for a 76 to set a target of 295. Moments later Hagen found the same bunker, but could not match the brilliance of Havers’ recovery, although he came very close. Havers toured the United States as Open champion and had two notable victories in match play, beating Bobby Jones by 2 and 1 and Sarazen by 5 and 4.