The big news of the second round was not Francis Ouimet, Harry Vardon, or any of the American players. Instead, over 6,000 folks surrounded one big, burly, long-hitting giant named Ted Ray who broke the Country Club's then scoring record of 71 with a 70 in U.S. Open conditions.
At the conclusion of the first two rounds, three Europeans -- Wilfried Reid, Harry Vardon, and Ted Ray -- stood atop the leaderboard with respective scores of 147, 147, and 149. Following the Europeans were the elite American players John McDermott and Walter Hagen with scores of 153 and 151. Francis Ouimet stood in a tie for 7th with his 151.
Ouimet's Third Round
Francis awoke to pouring rain that next morning and noticed the flooded 17th green across from his house. While this cool October day may have been hazardous to his competition, Francis had grown up learning to play the Country Club under these very conditions.
3,000 anxious fans watched Francis crush a 240 yard drive down the middle to start his third round. Francis remained within himself throughout the day shooting an impressive 74 under difficult wet and rainy conditions. The stage was now set; Francis Ouimet, Ted Ray, and Harry Vardon sat atop the leaderboard with identical scores of 225.
As the pressure of the final round continued to mount, the weather only continued to worsen. Only one American player remained in contention, that being the amateur caddy who grew up playing golf at the course he was now flirting at with golf history. Standing on the fifth tee locked into the moment, Francis was greeted by a young boy who was the first to give word that Harry Vardon and Ted Ray both shot 79 in the final round, giving Francis a clear number he knew he had to shoot.
In making the turn onto the back nine at Brookline, 10,000 eager fans stood alongside Francis. With six holes to play, Francis stood a daunting two strokes off the pace set by Vardon and Ray needing two birdies to tie.
Francis birdied thirteen, made five on the par five fourteenth, and pared the fifteenth. Next came the easy sixteenth, a short, 125-yard par three, on the that Francis knew he must birdie to catch the Europeans. Yet as we often see, adrenaline got the best of him as he air-mailed a shot 40 feet over the flagstick eventually leaving him an eight-footer that he knocked in for birdie.
The 17th at Brookline Country Club
Next up was the Country Club's famous seventeenth hole (remember Justin Leonard's amazing Ryder Cup putt?) where Francis pulled out his "jigger" iron and calmly stuck his approach shot to 20 feet. Francis made his stroke and watched the ball track towards the hole, picking up speed yet still holding the line. We all remember that clutch birdie that you bang into the back of the hole with the ball popping up slightly; when Francis' did that a crowd of 10,000 hardy Bostonians roared as gloves and hats rained from the sky. Francis went on to make a clutch par on the challenging 18th hole setting the stage for a three way playoff.
**Many of the facts derived in this multi-part series stem from Mark Frost’s “Greatest Game Ever Played“
**Mike Belkin is a Co-Founder of Nextgengolf. Contact Mike on Twitter @MikeBelkin11