by Craig Small
When, oh, when will I learn not to make predictions?
Match 5: Walter Hagen vs. Nick Faldo
Hagen birdied the first hole and I thought that Faldo was in for a long day. Faldo, however, stubbornly drained a 19-footer to square things up after 2. Hagen missed a 6-footer on 4 and Faldo was 1-up. After a 14-foot birdie putt dropped in for Faldo on 7 he was 2-up and I had the feeling something special was happening. He dropped the 8th but Faldo’s brilliant play continued on 10 when he rolled in a 20-foot chip from the rough to go back 2-up. A 7-foot birdie on 14 put him 3-up and that was that. Hagen never cut into the lead and after 16 it was over.
Winner: Faldo 3 and 2
Match 6: Gary Player vs. Tom Watson
Watson started off very hot with the putter with an 11-foot birdie on 1 and a 23-footer on 3 to go 2-up. It stayed there until 9 when Player cut the lead to 1 with a 14-foot birdie of his own. Player followed that with a birdie on 10 and a stunning 26-footer on 11. Suddenly everything had changed. The see-saw match continued with Watson taking the 12th and 13th with 9-foot birdie putts but he missed an easy 4-footer on 14 and a 7-footer on 15 to give the lead back to Player. It stayed Player 1-up for the rest of the way but when Player hit his 2nd on 18 into a greenside bunker, Watson had his opening. Hit a gap wedge to within 4 feet and I was getting ready for an extra hole. Inexplicably, Watson missed his 2nd 4-footer of the match and the match was over. Player breathed a sigh of relief and prepared for the 2nd round.
Winner: Player 1-Up
Match 7: Arnold Palmer vs. Gene Sarazen
Palmer actually played pretty well but pretty well won’t cut it in this tournament. Sarazen took the lead on the first hole and never looked back. Throughout the match he made putts of 17, 11, 10, 11, and 15 to maintain his stranglehold. It was over after 14.
Winner: Sarazen 5 and 4
Match 8: Bobby Jones vs. Byron Nelson
Two of the great gentlemen of the game squared off in a classic. It was all-square through 4 when Nelson grabbed the lead with a 6-foot birdie putt on 5. Jones came right back to birdie 6 and they were all-square again. Nelson missed an easy one on seven and Jones went 1-up. Nelson missed a 6-footer on 10 and another on 11 and just like that Jones went to 3-up. Nelson almost holed his 7-iron tee shot on 12 and tapped in the 2-footer to move within 2 but Jones took 14 and was 3-up with 4 to go. Nelson decided it was time to get to work. He birdied 15 and took advantage of a Jones bogey on 16 and he was right back in it. Both players played brilliantly on the 17th and Jones went to 18 1-up. A wayward tee shot left Jones in a fairway bunker and Nelson had the break he needed. Nelson took his par while Jones missed a 19-foot par putt and after 18 the two legends of the game were all tied up and made their way back to the 18th tee for a playoff hole. Jones and Nelson both hit beautiful tee shots followed by safe 4-irons and amazingly both had 44-footers for birdie. As I mentally prepared to head back to the tee for a 2nd playoff hole something incredible happened. Nelson stood over his 44-footer and I rolled the dice. SNAKE EYES! Nelson hit the putt and the crowd roared as 44 feet later it fell into the center of the cup. Ever the gentleman, Nelson calmed the spectators to give Jones a change to focus on his putt. Knowing that this wasn’t the time to play it safe Jones putted aggressively and rolled his putt 6 feet past the hole. As the crowd cheered he turned to Nelson and congratulated him on his victory.
Winner: Nelson 1-Up after 1 playoff hole.
Wow! On to round 2 to be played at Empire Country Club. Here are the match-ups:
- Tiger Woods vs. Bobby Locke
- Ben Hogan vs. Nick Faldo
- Sam Snead vs. Gene Sarazen
- Gary Player vs. Byron Nelson
See you next week!