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Friendly Rivals
JAMES DODSON
April 02, 2012
By 1953, Byron Nelson was settling into retirement, but the competition to win majors between Ben Hogan and Sam Snead was heated as the Hawk kicked off one of the greatest seasons ever
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April 02, 2012

Friendly Rivals

By 1953, Byron Nelson was settling into retirement, but the competition to win majors between Ben Hogan and Sam Snead was heated as the Hawk kicked off one of the greatest seasons ever

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Up on the green, in a light drizzle, Hogan rolled home yet another putt for a birdie that gave him a 68 and a total of 282, which obliterated Carnoustie's tournament record by eight strokes. Hogan acknowledged the crowd's roar by removing his checked wool cap and giving a small wave and a weary smile, slightly bowing to all four sides of the gallery. Future CBS commentator Ben Wright, who briefly went AWOL from a nearby military base that day just to catch a glimpse of Hogan, recalled, "I had never seen a grayer and more exhausted-looking figure. He looked utterly and completely drained, a man on the verge of collapse. Still, the way the crowd quietly and respectfully parted as he approached—well, it reminded me of passing royalty."

Back at Tay House, the staff lined up to bid the Hogans farewell. Only then did Ben discover the good luck totems in his golf bag, a moment that visibly moved the Wee Ice Man. The women kissed him on the cheek. The men shook his hand. On the way to an airfield where U.S. Air Force brass had arranged for a flight to London to meet the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth, Valerie took her husband's hand and broke down.

That afternoon, at the train station in Edinburgh, Derr bumped into Bernard Darwin, the famous naturalist's grandson and himself the dean of British golf writers. Darwin had just filed his final official story for the London Times. "You know, John," Darwin was moved to say, "I don't think we'll ever see the likes of Hogan again. I distinctly got the feeling he could have done whatever was required of him in order to win. He could have shot 65 if he had needed it."

"That's what makes him Ben Hogan," Derr replied.

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