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ProFiles: Winged Foot Major Champions


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By Jeff Smith via TheSandTrap.com
Winged Foot Golf Club has played host to 6 major championships including this year's U.S. Open. Lets take a peek at each winner's performance.

pf_title.gif2006 is the fifth time that Winged Foot has hosted a U.S. Open. It has proved to be a stern test of golf and a perfect stop for the U.S. Open. It's doglegs, narrow fairways, deep bunkers, and challenging greens have tested professionals and amateurs alike for many years.



This week we're looking at previous major winners at Winged Foot. In keeping with the nature of the U.S. Open a little blood has been spilled in the process of crowning a champion in past U.S. Opens at Winged Foot Golf Club.

bobby_jones.jpgBobby Jones
Jones won the first major played at Winged Foot, eight years after it was completed. The 1929 U.S. Open was his first major championship victory. From 1923 to 1930 he won 13 majors as they were counted in those days, an impressive feat.



Jones sunk a 12-foot putt on 72nd hole to force a playoff with Al Espinosa. He won the playoff by 23 shots (72-69-141). In his victory Jones hinted at things to come. Interestingly enough, Jones had a tough time breaking 300 for four rounds. He scored 69-75-71-79-294, 6-over par.



Billy Casper
Hall of Fame inductee Billy Casper won the 1959 U.S. Open, his first major championship. Winged Foot club professional Claude Harmon, winner of the 1948 Masters (the last club professional to have won a major), took third place behind Casper.



Casper harnessed the future of equipment by using a mallet-headed putter for the win. He one-putted 31 of 72 holes for a one stroke victory.



Casper finished his career with 3 majors, 48 regular tour events, and 8 Ryder Cup appearances.



Hale Irwin
7-over par was the score at what has become known as "The Massacre at Winged Foot." The USGA bared it's teeth at one of the Open's most difficult venues and the course won. In the ten previous U.S. Opens the highest winning score was 2-over par but not in 1974.



"We all came in sort of like deer in the headlights," Irwin said after the event. "We felt, 'What do we do now?'"



The shortest rough that year was 6 inches but it was 16 inches deep in some areas. Its pretty tough to advance the ball in those conditions. It makes you want to hit the fairway.



John Mahaffey later claimed he was practicing for the 1974 Open by putting on a plane of glass at his hotel.



Irwin hasn't done too bad for himself. He won twenty times on the PGA Tour including three major championships, all U.S. Opens. He's added 44 Champions Tour titles since joining in 1995, a record number of wins.



As a side note, Jay Haas played the 1974 U.S. Open at Winged Foot as an amateur and made the cut. He finished the weekend at 27-over par.



fuzzy_zoeller_open.jpgFuzzy Zoeller
Zoeller has the distinction of being one of many to defeat Greg Norman down the stretch in an important event. Both players finished five strokes ahead of Curtis Strange and became the first players to finish below par after 72 holes. Norman was unable to keep up with Zoeller who shot a 67 to his 75.



Zoeller finished his career with two majors to his credit and a total of ten PGA Tour victories. He owns two Champions Tour titles.



Davis Love III
The only PGA Championship hosted at Winged Foot to date was in 1997. Davis Love III finished five shots clear of the field after posting three rounds of 66. It was an impressive finish and tribute to his father, a teaching pro who was killed in a 1988 plane crash. A rainbow framed Love III's final hole. Love III later said:



People ask what's the best thing about winning the PGA Championship, and it's that it carried my dad's memory on. Maybe winning the U.S. Open under a rainbow that year wouldn't have meant as much, but the connection with the PGA, my dad was a PGA member, and not that many PGA members' sons have gone on to win the PGA Championship.




Conclusion
Winged Foot has hosted some special events over the years, not the least of which are the ones we've mentioned here. Two U.S. Amateurs (1940, 2004), a Walker Cup (1949), two USGA Women's Opens (1957, 1972), and one USGA Senior have been played at Winged Foot.



Winged Foot will continue to be one of the most challenging and historically rich golf courses in the world. Tillinghast left us a gem.



Photo Credits: © a href="http://"www.standrews.org.uk/news/press/pr2003/press19.html" title="St. Andrews .org">St. Andrews .org, © Winged Foot.

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