The first sign of trouble for Hobday came several hours
earlier as the leaders completed the rain-delayed third round. Hobday stood on
the tee of the 175-yard, par-3 17th hole with a three-stroke lead and proceeded
to shank his tee shot 80 yards right into the woods, leading to a double-bogey
5. That he managed to birdie the par-4 18th for a 4-under 66 and a two-shot
lead through 54 holes proved significant.
Hobday spent the next six hours thinking about that shank,
and his lead, before starting the final round with fellow competitors Marsh,
who was five shots back, and Albus. The pressure was about to mount, and the
chain-smoking Hobday would be going through his cigarettes like Takeru Kobayashi
devours hot dogs.
“I was under terrible pressure,” Hobday said later. “My
swing deserted me, and the worse I swung, the worse I putted. I must have gone
through at least two packs of cigarettes. Once, I know I had two going at the
For most of the week, Hobday seemed to be in control of his
game and emotions.
Heavy rains early in the week had softened course conditions,
allowing players to bludgeon the scoreboard with red figures, including Hobday,
who had won twice on the European Tour and owned two Senior Tour victories
since joining the circuit when he turned 50 in 1990. Hobday posted rounds of
66-67-66 for a 14-under total of 199, the lowest 54-hole total in championship
history at that time.
Albus, also 54, nearly matched Hobday the first three rounds
with scores of 66-69-66 (201). Marsh, who would win the U.S. Senior Open three
years later at Olympia Fields (Ill.) Country Club, was right there after a pair
68s and a third-round 69.
Hobday opened the door by starting the final round with
three bogeys. Albus started birdie-bogey-bogey. The margin between the two
fluctuated between two and three strokes until Hobday bogeyed No. 15. Two holes
later, Hobday recorded another bogey and suddenly he shared the lead with Marsh,
a Senior Tour rookie at 50, and a winner of 56 worldwide events, at 10 under
par. Marsh had birdied the par-5 16th hole, reaching the green in two with a
4-wood approach and two-putting for his 4.
“When Simon made birdie at 13 from the boondocks, I thought
it was over,” said Marsh. “Then things started happening to him … and it was a
little bit of a shock to suddenly be there.”
Fortunately, most of the field was struggling with the
Pinehurst No. 2 layout on Sunday.
Bob Murphy and Tom Weiskopf, who would win the Senior Open
the following year at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., shared the
low round of the day with 3-under 67s. Weiskopf finished three strokes behind
Hobday in a tie for fourth (277), while Murphy shared seventh at 5-under 279.
When the final trio of Albus, Hobday and Marsh reached the
18th hole, the latter two were deadlocked, with Albus a stroke back. Faced with
a 6-iron approach, Hobday played conservatively, hitting to within 40 feet of
“I was just thinking fairway, middle of the green, two
putts,” said Hobday, knowing that a par would likely be good enough to force an
18-hole Monday playoff.
Marsh, meanwhile, watched his 5-iron approach roll off the putting
surface into a valley to the right of the green. He admittedly chunked his
recovery short of the hole by 9 feet. His par putt stopped on the lip.
Hobday rolled his 40-foot par putt to within 2 feet and when
Albus failed to convert his birdie putt, the South African didn’t “choke”,
tapping in his short par attempt for the victory.
“It was hot in my hands,” Hobday said later.
Hobday fell to his knees and kissed the precious Pinehurst
With Hobday’s win, South Africans had claimed two USGA
titles in a one-month span.
In June, Ernie Els had survived a three-hole playoff with
Loren Roberts and Colin Montgomerie at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club to win the
first of his two U.S. Open titles.
“Ahead of time, I didn’t think a 75 had a prayer to win,”
said Hobday, who posted a 10-under total of 274. “I figured 71 at the worst.”
It might not have been the desired score, but Hobday was
relieved it didn’t cost him the title.
With the stress of the championship behind him, Hobday was
asked what his plans were for the evening after receiving the Francis Ouimet
“I’ll just go with the flow,” he said, “and there’ll be
plenty flowing, too. You can bet on it.”
David Shefter is a
senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.