Two facts most golfers were fairly sure of before were made clearer than ever during last week's Crosby tournament. First, Cary Middlecoff is certainly one of the game's finest "mudders." And second, as the following report by Dick Pollard brings out so well, a large part of the secret of the Crosby tournament's popularity is, simply, Bing Crosby.
—H. W. W.
Ben Hogan, the ex-caddy, and Bing Crosby, the ex-choirboy, teamed together last week to give northern Californians their most enjoyable golf exhibition in many a year. Playing to the largest single gallery in the history of Crosby's famed pro-amateur tournament (approximately 5,000), and fighting unpleasant weather conditions, Bing and Ben played superb if erratic golf and gave their happy followers a first-class show. It was Dr. Cary Middlecoff who took top individual honors; but it was the Hogan-Crosby team who took the crowds.
The fun started on the first tee at Cypress on Friday. Host Crosby showed up in a pair of brown knickers, a beige cardigan, a cockily tilted red plaid cap and, of course, the inevitable pipe. As he prepared to tee up, the announcer requested the gallery to move away from the middle of the fairway. "Tell them to stay where they are," quipped Bing, "they're safer there."
Bing, with a seven-stroke handicap to work with, played a fine game that first round and enjoyed it. Hogan, too, was playing beautifully. But fine as it was, Hogan's golf was not as startling as his humor. Accustomed to applauding Hogan's cold, professionally perfect play, the gallery was delighted to see their man revealed as a human being—and a very attractive one.
Ben really came alive on the ocean holes, incredibly scoring four straight birdies on the 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th. This was fortunate for the team. For on Cypress' frightening 16th, Bing had gone for the green and had ended up, after a generous slice, on the rocky cove 50 feet below and short of the green. His first wedge shot hit the bank sharply and rolled back to his feet. The second attempt ricocheted off a sharp rock and into a trap on top of the cliff. Bing clambered up, took one more stab at the ball and picked up.
Hogan's humor wore off a little on the second day. His borrowed putter defied him on the depressingly slow, water-logged greens at the Monterey Peninsula C.C. Fortunately Crosby, this day attired in greenish knickers and a bright yellow cardigan, refused to tense up. He continued to amuse the galleries while helping his partner by 10 big strokes. Their combined second-round 63 dropped them to third.
Playing before a gallery of one dozen persons, last year's Crosby winner, Cary Middlecoff, was one of the few players who acted all along as if he wanted to win the 54-hole, individual medal-play event. He shot an opening round of 66 at Cypress. On Saturday he drew a few more fans away from the Crosby-Hogan duo at Monterey Peninsula and came in with a fine (considering the condition of the course) 68.
Mike Souchak combined an opening-day round of 64 at Monterey with an erratically played 71 at Cypress on Saturday. Bobby Rosburg, San Francisco's temperamental professional, found his game for the first time this winter, combining a first-day 69 at Cypress with a second-day 65 at Monterey to lead the field. Souchak and Middlecoff were one stroke back.
The rains which had thoughtfully held off two days arrived on the Monterey Peninsula late Saturday afternoon. It poured all that night and continued through Sunday. When the players started off at Pebble Beach on Sunday morning there were small lakes on some greens and the fairways were swamps. A drenching, bitter wind blew in from the ocean and swept across the already treacherous Pebble course.
Bobby Rosburg was off early and quickly three-putted himself out of contention. That left Souchak and Middlecoff.
Mike was in trouble on nearly every hole but miraculously fought off bogeys all the way. A par on the 18th gave him 72 for the day. Right behind him came Cary Middlecoff, who was playing the final round at Pebble just as if it was dry and sunny.
If ever Middlecoff was going to lose a stroke, the 14th was the spot. This endless (550-yard) dog-leg is tough enough on dry days, but on Sunday it must have played 600 yards long. Dr. Cary was up close with two tremendous woods, chipped up well and canned a good putt for his birdie.
Now 4 under and a good five strokes ahead of his nearest competitor, Cary played par golf the rest of the way in. He didn't falter or play safe on the last two ocean holes. On the final hole, two straight woods, a slightly pulled nine-iron and two putts made it 33 strokes on the back nine for a 68.
Though a weary Hogan struggled in with an 81, shooting himself out of the individual, and his host Bing Crosby out of the pro-am competition, Bing was still clowning at the end. He backhanded his last putt right into the hole and exited with a buck and wing off the green.