64th Open - Muirfield 1929
Hagen emphasises American domination
Walter Hagen won his fourth Open, and first in Scotland, when he successfully defended the title at Muirfield in 1929. The colourful American had drawn alongside Willie Park Snr and Young and Old Tom Morris on the Championship’s roll of honour and it was the last of his 11 Major titles, which also included two US Opens and five PGA Championships. It was a commanding performance as Hagen won by six strokes from Johnny Farrell, the 1928 US Open Champion, and by seven from Leo Diegel, the 1928 PGA Champion – an unprecedented one-two-three for the reigning Major winners.
With the American Ryder Cup team travelling over for the first official match in Britain two weeks later, there was a strong US showing on the leaderboard at Muirfield. Percy Alliss, Peter’s father, and Abe Mitchell, who shared fourth place, were the only non-Americans in the top-ten. However, it did not prove an omen for the match itself and Hagen’s Americans were defeated at Moortown.
In the 17 years since its previous Open, Muirfield had been extensively re-modelled into the course we know today by Harry Colt. Yet Hagen became the first player to score a 67 in the Championship in the second round. He had seven 3s and only two 5s. After an opening 67, he was now two behind Diegel but a 75 in the third round put him four ahead of the field. It was a difficult day for scoring and another 75 left Hagen on 292 and miles ahead of the rest.
Renowned for his love of life, and hugely popular on both sides of the Atlantic, Hagen could play serious golf when the moment demanded. He and the great amateur Bobby Jones had won the last four Opens. Notably, however, Hagen did not win a Major in which Jones played.