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Dear Mr. Hogan,
Rick Reilly
June 24, 1996
Inspired by a four-time U.S. Open champ, Steve Jones held on for an unlikely victory at Oakland Hills
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June 24, 1996

Dear Mr. Hogan,

Inspired by a four-time U.S. Open champ, Steve Jones held on for an unlikely victory at Oakland Hills

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I am writing to see how you are and tell you everybody misses you and how strange things have gotten in golf these days, and to ask if you could make some calls or glare at somebody, and maybe some things might straighten out.

Take last week's U.S. Open. They held it at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloom-field Hills, Mich., where you won in 1951 with a 67 on Sunday, and remember afterward you said, "I'm glad I brought this monster to its knees." Nothing much exciting happened in between then and last week except they last saw Jimmy Hoffa right near the gates of the club in 1975 and maybe that day somebody said, "I'm glad I brought this mobster to his knees." But that's not why I am writing to you.

I am writing to you about this Steve Jones, a nice guy who is about as square as a pan of corn bread. He won the Open by shooting two-under 278 (74-66-69-69), one shot better than Tom Lehman and Davis Love III. What has happened to golf when the Open champ grips the club completely wrong? Seriously, he grips it like Marilyn Monroe used to grip a microphone, which is by putting the index finger of his left hand on top of his right hand, which is the opposite of what it says in all the books you ever wrote. He calls it his "reverse overlap Vardon Jones grip" and laughs about it. He grips it this way because he blew out his left hand in a dirt-bike accident in 1991 and couldn't play golf for almost three years, and the doctors weren't sure he was ever going to play again. In fact he wasn't too sure either, and maybe that's why he kind of gave up a few years ago and started selling some waterless car-wash gizmo.

Now, using this ugly grip, he's the Open champ, which is one helluva long way back from lying unconscious under a dirt bike, though it's nothing like the bus accident you went through, sir.

And that's not all. This Jones was battling this Lehman fella down the stretch, and it's real warp and woof, with Jones mostly one shot ahead of Lehman, and about the 16th hole, Jones is just as nervous as a priest with a Sunday tee time, and guess who talks him off the ledge? Lehman!

Yes, sir. Lehman lays a little Joshua 1:9 on him. They're walking down the fairway, supposedly trying to beat each other's brains in, and Lehman says to Jones: "God wants us to be strong and courageous," real nice-like. "That's God's law." And Jones looks at him and says, "Right. Amen." This calms Jones down enough that he is able to beat Lehman and Love by that one shot.

Now, my question is, You never said anything like that to Snead or Demaret or Nelson, did you? I mean, I can't see you saying anything at all. Remember when you won in '51, and Clayton Heafner, who was second by two shots, shook your hand afterward and said, "Congratulations, Ben," and you replied, "Thank you. How did you do?"

I mean, the only Scripture I could see you giving a guy during the middle of the last round of the Open would be something like "Turn thy other cheek so I might smite that also." Something out of the Book of Persimmon. Am I right?

Anyway, I think this Jones would listen to you because he really respects you and, in fact, you actually won this thing for him, which is pretty good for a man who is, what, 83 now?

What happened was, Jones had to go through Open qualifying like thousands of other hacks—and had to survive a playoff to get in, at that—and somebody sent him a new book about you called, well, Hogan, and he said it pretty much changed his life. Jones said reading it showed him how little he practiced compared with you. So he went out and practiced till his blisters blistered, the way you used to. He also said the book showed him that he needed to focus completely on each shot the way you used to. He even said, "I don't think I would've won the Open without reading that book."

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