Strange But True: Open Oddities

In 1934 the U.S. Open golf tournament was held at Merion Course near Philadelphia. The eleventh hole, 370 yards long and par 4, was tricky. A creek cut across the fairway and then flowed alongside the green. In the fourth round of the tournament, Bobby Cruickshank, an excitable little Scotsman, was in contention for the lead. Then his drive on the eleventh hole landed in a divot.

He wanted to get over the creek, but he topped the ball. It was flying straight toward the water. Cruickshank was in agony. If the ball went into the creek, his chance to win the tournament would be over.

But the ball hit a rock in the creek and bounced up onto the green! Cruickshank was so happy that he threw his club into the air. A second later the club came crashing down on his head.

Cruickshank was not seriously injured and managed to par the eleventh hole. But he was shaken enough to lose his edge. He finished the tournament tied for third place.

Cruickshank’s partner on that round was “Wiffy” Cox. On the very next hole, Wiffy got his share of bad luck. One of the spectators had taken off his coat and dropped it at the edge of the fairway. Cox got off a good drive, but the ball rolled right onto the coat. The spectator became flustered. He immediately snatched up his coat. Unfortunately, he also rolled the ball into the rough.

In 1950, during the same tournament at the same course, Lloyd Mangrum was in a tense playoff against Ben Hogan and George Fazio. On the sixteenth hole he was a single stroke behind Hogan, and his approach shot had landed about 18 feet from the cup.

As Mangrum walked up to the ball to play it, an insect landed on it. Mangrum watched the insect for a moment. Then he put down his putter to mark the ball’s position. He picked up the ball, blew the insect away and put the ball down at the same spot. He holed out.

That move cost him any chance he might have had to overtake Hogan because he was penalized two strokes for lifting the ball while it was in play.

From The Giant Book of Strange But True Sports Stories by Howard Liss. Illustrations by Joe Mathieu.

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  1. Regarding Mangrum’s incident with the insect, I know there are rules that allow golfers to pick up their balls and put them down again, but I’m not a golfer so I don’t know if the rules have changed since then or what.

    • …there’s every chance this isn’t the answer but if so remember rightly someone once tried to explain to me that the stipulations & penalties in a round of golf depended on whether or not it was ‘match play” or something to that effect…so my guess is that within strict competition play the penalty would work that way…but in a friendly round it might be different…I recall someone showing me a thing like an oversized (flat) drawing pin that was for temporarily marking the lie of a ball if it was in the line of your opponent’s putt?

      …but I too am not a golfer so it’s somewhat opaque to me

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