Go ahead, hand it to Huston, but don't forget about San Antonio.
Let the record show that there were Texas-sized differences
between last week's Hawaiian Open, at which John Huston finished
28 under par to break the PGA Tour's four-round scoring record,
and the 1955 Texas Open, at which Mike Souchak (left) shot one
of the two 27-under scores in Tour history (Ben Hogan had the
other, in 1945) in conditions many competitors remember as the
worst they've ever seen.
In Hawaii, there was poi. In Texas, there was mud. So much of it
that the players hit their tee shots off mats all week. Where
there wasn't mud, the ground was frozen. "The weather that week
was pretty tough--horrible, in fact," says Arnold Palmer, who
finished sixth. "It snowed, and it was very muddy. You were two
inches taller when you finished than when you started with that
great Texas caliche on your golf shoes."
San Antonio had been sunny on Thursday and Friday, but toward
the end of Saturday's third round a two-club blue norther came
rolling in, changing everything. "It caught me on the 14th hole,
and the temperature dropped 15, 20 degrees," Souchak says. "It
got damn cold by the time we finished." Still, he birdied two of
the last five holes for a 64. That night it snowed, a light
dusting that greeted the players when they awoke for the final
round. "I've seen more rain and I've seen more wind," says 1959
PGA champion Bob Rosburg, "but the combination, there wasn't
much worse than that."
Rosburg, who was paired with Souchak on Sunday along with
Canadian pro Jerry Kesselring, had to stop frequently to pry the
mud off his cleats, using a knife he'd lifted from the breakfast
table. Players heated their hands over fires that were built on
the tees. It was so cold that 10 players called it quits.
Rosburg was almost one of them. He was four over as he trudged
up the fairway of the par-5 9th, and he was cold. "Souch, I'm
not playing very well," Rosburg said. "I'm going to quit."
February 23, 1998
Souchak was alarmed. Rosburg had won on Tour and was a calming
influence, and his departure would leave Souchak with only
Kesselring, who was lost in the middle of a 77. "Don't you dare
quit, Rossi," Souchak said. "I'm about to win my first
tournament, and I'm scared half to death. Don't leave me.
Everybody else is playing poorly too."
Rosburg eagled the 9th and decided to play on. Souchak, of
course, won easily, and he set one of the most enduring records
in the game. A former lineman and kicker at Duke, he shot
60-68-64-65 for a 257. "We all knew it was an amazing score,"
says Peter Allis.
Hogan was also bumped down a notch by Huston. The Hawk shot 27
under at the Portland Invitational. Souchak's 27 under has
always received greater play, though, because it was really two
records in one. Since it was shot on a par-71 course (Hogan's
and Huston's were on par-72s), Souchak's stroke total was lower.
So the Holy Grail of golf records remains the 257, shot on
6,400-yard Brackenridge Park, a muni that now has an expressway
running through the back nine.
A number of things about Souchak's '55 Texas Open win suggest
some special forces at work. Souchak was born on May 10, 1927,
was 27 when he broke the record, shot 27 on the back nine on
Thursday, had 27 under-par holes in the tournament (25 birdies,
two eagles and two bogeys) and had 27 putts in the first and the
final rounds. When Souchak woke up on Sunday morning, about to
make history, it was not only "colder than Willie-be-damned," as
Souchak says, it was 27 degrees.