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A record day of hole in ones

PRIOR to last weekend, Phil Mickleson had an unenviable record in the US PGA Open Championship. He had finished runner-up on five occasions. Unfortunately for him he has now stretched that record to six.

The winner, Justin Rose from England, became only the second British winner since Tommy Armour in 1927. Indeed, when Tony Jacklin won in 1973 he was the first European to claim the title since Armour.

The US Open was first staged in October 1895. It was on a nine-hole course in Newport, Rhode Island when the competitors played four rounds in one day. Englishman Horace Rawlins collected the $150 first prize. Indeed the tournament date was moved because it originally clashed with the America’s Cup Yacht Race, which was deemed much more important.

In 1898 it became a 72-hole tournament with 36 holes played each day. It grew to a three-day event in 1926 with 36 holes on the final day. It only adopted its present format in 1965. It is now accepted as one of golf’s Majors with The Masters at Augusta, The British Open and the US PGA.

In the early years of the tournament, it was almost always won by a British player, Armour was the 21st. In those years most American players were amateur and the only professionals were those from the United Kingdom who went to the States to earn their living as club professionals. That all changed with the arrival of Robert Trent Jones, the American amateur who won four titles in the 1920s and ’30s. From then on, European wins became very scarce.

After Jacklin the next was Graeme McDowell  in 2010 followed by Rory McIlroy in 2011. Unfortunately for McIlroy, he entered the record books again the following year and he is the last reigning champion to fail to make the cut the following year.

Apart from that glitch on his record, he figures in the record books for a number of reasons. In a tournament where very low winning scores are rare, he reached 17 under par at one stage during his win and his winning 16 under score of 268 is the all-time low scoring record for the Open. He is one of only six players to lead the tournament from start to finish and is the last person to do so.

Surprisingly, for a competition which has been held on 113 occasions, there have only been 42 ‘hole in ones’. That should average at one of those feats every two years and eight months. There was only one in the 1920s, two in the ’30s – in other words, they were rare. That frequency changed in the 1980s with 11.

Amazingly four of those were achieved in the same tournament, the 1989 Open in Oak Hill Country Club, Rochester, New York. The four players were Doug Weaver, Mark Wiebe, Jerry Pate and Nick Price. To make matters stranger than fiction, they all aced the same 6th hole, a 159 yard par 3. Even stranger still, they all did it on the same day.

That feat was achieved on June 16, 1989, 24 years ago this week.

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