The way my win over Ben Hogan at the 1955 U.S. Open has gone down in history, you'd think I had no chance. How could an unknown like me beat the great Hogan in an 18-hole playoff at the Olympic Club? I was so overmatched, according to what I've read in golf magazines and newspapers, that when I hit a bad shot in the playoff and Hogan had to wait, I said, " Mr. Hogan, I'm sorry, I'll try and improve my golf and speed up play."
It's a lie. Never happened.
Now, I understand that people like legends. Writers in barrooms especially like legends! But isn't the truth interesting, too? I was an excellent driver of the ball and a good irons player—good enough that Hogan made a set of clubs for me. He thought Jack Fleck could help bring credibility to his club-design business. In fact he and I were the only ones playing Hogan clubs during the '55 Open. (Years later he joked that giving me those clubs "might have been a mistake.")
I was accurate enough to keep the ball in the fairway, and I putted great that week, at least by my standards. Straight drives and good putts—isn't that how you win the Open? I also kept my concentration all week. I felt a calm that was like self-hypnosis. I slept 9� hours the night before the playoff, then went out and denied Hogan his fifth U.S. Open title.
Still, people believe a lie that is unfair to both of us. After all, Hogan was a great competitor. He wouldn't want it said that he lost to a guy who couldn't play, and I can tell you that he didn't feel that way. He hated losing, but he knew I had beaten him fair and square. At the end of our playoff he shook my hand, looked me in the eye and said, simply, "Congratulations."
I had no reason to apologize.