U.S. Opens at Merion: Trevino, Hogan among winners

Lee Trevino wears a marshal's hat as he plays in the rough with a hatchet and rubber snake during a practice round before the U.S. Open starts at the Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa. on June 16, 1971.

Lee Trevino wears a marshal's hat as he plays in the rough with a hatchet and rubber snake during a practice round before the U.S. Open starts at the Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa. on June 16, 1971.

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A look at the four previous U.S. Opens held at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa.:

1934: Olin Dutra, 293

Runner-up: Gene Sarazen (1 shot back)

Earnings: $1,000

Recap: In a prelude to a more famous recovery at Merion, Olin Dutra developed a serious stomach ailment in the days leading to the U.S. Open. He couldn't leave his hotel room, lost 15 pounds and couldn't practice for more than week. He managed to play, but rounds of 76-74 left him eight shots behind going into the 36-hole final day. He had a 71 in the third round to pull within three shots of Gene Sarazen, and then picked up two birdies on the back nine to overcome Sarazen, 36-hole leader Bobby Cruickshank and Wiffy Cox to win by one shot. It was the second major for Dutra, who won the 1932 PGA Championship. Among those who missed the cut were Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson, both playing the U.S. Open for the first time.

Quote: "Dutra's golf is of the sort that shows up best under adverse conditions on a tough, exacting course." — Bobby Jones.

• • • 

1950: Ben Hogan, 287

Runner-up: Lloyd Mangrum (lost playoff)

Earnings: $4,000.

Recap: Some feared Ben Hogan might never walk again, much less play golf, when he was involved in a horrific car accident with a bus in west Texas in 1949. He was unable to defend his U.S. Open title that year, but returned to golf in the spring of 1950 and tied for fourth in the Masters. For the U.S. Open, he had to soak his legs for an hour each night, and the question was whether his legs could handle the 36-hole final. Hogan was two shots behind Dutch Harrison after 36 holes, and two shots behind Lloyd Mangrum going into the final 18 holes. Needing a par on the 18th hole to force a playoff, he hit a 1-iron onto the green for his par to join Mangrum and George Fazio. The photo of his swing is among the most iconic in golf. Hogan shot 69 in the playoff to beat Mangrum by four shots and Fazio by six. It was tight to the finish until Mangrum was docked two shots on the 16th for picking up his ball on the green to blow away a bug. Players could not mark their golf balls in USGA events except if it was in another player's line. The win was a sign that the great Hogan was back, though he significantly reduced his schedule going forward because of his battered legs. No matter. He still won five more majors, including two U.S. Opens.

Quote: "Merion meant the most because it proved I could still win." — Hogan.

• • • 

1971: Lee Trevino, 280

Runner-up: Jack Nicklaus (lost playoff)

Earnings: $30,000.

Recap: Jim Simons remains the last amateur to have the 54-hole lead in a major championship, though this U.S. Open was always about Lee Trevino and Jack Nicklaus. Trevino was four shots out of the lead, and two shots behind Nicklaus, when he closed with a 69 in the final round. Trevino missed a 6-foot par putt for the win on the 18th hole — Nicklaus earlier missed his birdie putt from 15 feet — and they tied at even-par 280 to force an 18-hole playoff on Monday. Trevino was gregarious as ever, pulling a rubber snake from his bag on the first tee to laughter from the gallery. Trevino made bogey on the opening hole, but it was Nicklaus who struggled after that, twice leaving bunker shots in the sand. Trevino built a two-shot lead early, and never relinquished it in a round of 68 to win by three shots. Nicklaus was runner-up in the Masters and U.S. Open that year, and he won the PGA Championship held in February. Trevino went on to win the Canadian Open and British Open, making him the first player to capture golf's three oldest championship in the same year. Tiger Woods did it in 2000.

Quote: "I love Merion, and I don't even know her last name." — Trevino.

• • • 

1981: David Graham, 273

Runners-up: George Burns, Bill Rogers (3 shots back)

Earnings: $55,000

Recap: Jim Thorpe became the first black golfer to lead a major championship with a 66 in the opening round. After that it became the George Burns show — until Sunday. Burns shot in the 60s all three days to build a three-shot over David Graham, who two years earlier won the PGA Championship at Oakland Hills with a closing 65. This final round was even better. Graham was so close to perfect that by most accounts, he hit every green except for one — and that was on the fringe. Graham closed with a 67 for a three-shot win over Burns and Bill Rogers, becoming the first Australian to win the U.S. Open.

Quote: "To this day, I can't say I ever played better with so much at stake. I honestly wish I had an explanation. I'd have done it more often." — Graham.

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