59th Open - Royal Liverpool 1924
Hagen catches Whitcombe at the 18th hole
Walter Hagen won a second Open title, to go with his two US Opens, at Hoylake in 1924. Two years earlier at Sandwich he had posted a score that no one could beat. This time the American was the one chasing.
Hagen and Ernest Whitcombe were sharing the lead after 54 holes. Whitcombe, the eldest of the three golfing brothers from Burnham in Somerset, went out in 43 but then played the back nine in 35 for a 78 to finish on 302.
Playing about an hour behind Whitcombe, Hagen was the only man left who could catch him. He took 41 over the front nine, including 6s at the first, third and eighth 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.
Hagen lived dangerously on the route home. He sliced his second shot at the 12th and went into a bunker at the short 13th but on both occasions he recovered with a pitch and a putt. He reached the 18th green needing to hole a six-foot putt to win. Without hesitation, he hit it into the hole to finish with a 77 and total of 301, one better than Whitcombe. It was the Englishman’s best ever result in The Open.
MacDonald Smith was third for the second year running, two shots further back, alongside Frank Ball. Cyril Tolley, the former Amateur Champion, had led with an opening 73 but fell back with an 82 in the second round.
Asked if he knew his putt at the last was for the victory, and if so why he took it so casually, Hagen replied: “Sure, I knew. But no man ever beat me in a play-off.” Not true, but worth believing anyway.