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The circumstances of the play-off and its outcome made it the most momentous round in the history of golf. Embellishment would only obscure the drama. The full impact of the historic match comes through if the story is told simply, stroke by stroke, hole by hole—the way it happened.
After tying with Harry Vardon and Ted Ray, Francis Ouimet went home and took a bath. He went to bed at 9:30 and slept until eight. He ate a light breakfast, and then walked to The Country Club and hit some practice shots out to his 10-year-old caddy, Eddie Lowery. The shots felt fine. Johnny McDermott, who had watched Francis practice, took him by the arm and said, "You are hitting the ball well. Now go out and pay no attention whatsoever to Vardon and Ray. Play your own game." Francis promised Johnny he would do his best. A few minutes before 10 he joined the Englishmen on the first tee for 18 holes of medal play.
In the tent beside the first tee, the three contestants drew straws to determine who would have the honor of hitting first. Francis drew the longest straw, and teed up. He was nervous but got off well. Vardon and Ray also hit good drives. As the players walked down the first fairway, they were followed by a gallery that swelled to 3,500 as the match progressed. Thirty hours of rain had turned the low stretches of the course into a quagmire, and a drizzle was still coming down, but this was a match that even the old and the gouty had to see for themselves.
The first hole at The Country Club was a lengthy 430-yard par 4, and under the sopping conditions only Ray had a chance of reaching in two. Ray, however, pushed his second into the mounds off to the right of the green, and had to be satisfied with a 5 when the wet grass held up his chip. Vardon took a 5, and Francis got his when he holed a three-footer. That putt was very important. The instant it dropped, Francis lost all sense of "awe and excitement."
Ouimet was down the middle with his tee-shot on the second. So was Vardon. Ray's timing was still off, and he again pushed his drive, into the rough just off the fairway. All three played orthodox pitches to the green, and all got their 4's.
A TROUBLESOME OAK
On the third, a testing two-shotter measuring 435 yards, Ouimet and Vardon were again nicely down the fairway, Francis 10 yards in front. Ray once more was off to the right. Vardon was on with his second. Francis followed him on with a well-played midiron. Ray's line to the pin was blocked by a big oak tree, and he elected to play an intentional fade into the green. The shot did not quite come off as Ted had planned it, but it kicked off the slope on the left and onto the corner of the green about 40 feet above the cup. Ray was left with a difficult downhill putt which he stroked five feet short of the hole. He missed the short putt and went one stroke down to Ouimet and Vardon who made their 4's.
To make certain he got his ball up quickly enough to clear the abrupt rise in front of the fourth tee, Ouimet used a wooden cleek with a small head and narrow face. He got the results he wanted. Vardon, as usual, was down the fairway. Ray pulled his drive off to the left, over-correcting his errors off the first three tees. None of the players were attracted to the cross-bunker cutting across the fairway 30 yards short of the long, low green. All three played tidy pitches to the green and went down in two putts for their 4's.
The fifth proved to be a very interesting hole. On this long par 4, a player drove from an elevated tee and tried to keep well away from the woods hugging the right-hand side of the fairway. On his second shot, which on wet turf was a brassie or spoon for even the good golfer, he avoided the pot bunker to the right of the green, if he could. He worried about the green slanting from right to left, when he got there. All in all, a very tough par 4—420 yards long. Ouimet, still up, continued his steady driving. Vardon was a little behind the amateur but down the middle, too. Ray was off to the left again in the high grass. His second was short of the green. Vardon cut his brassie a shade too much and was off on the right. Ouimet also elected to play a brassie. The ball streaked crazily off to the right and crashed into the overhanging branches of the trees—out-of-bounds. It was the first error the young amateur had made. Had the shot been just a little awry, Francis might have started to worry about what he had done wrong. Fortunately, it was such a totally bad shot that Francis was able to dismiss it immediately. He didn't alibi to himself that his hands had slipped on the wet shaft, nor did he change his club. While the gallery was speculating on the effect his loose shot would have on Ouimet, he dropped another ball quickly over his shoulder and played his third without the briefest hesitation. It was a ringing brassie that ended up on the edge of the green. Ouimet got down in two from there, and came out of the hole with a 5. When Vardon and Ray both needed a chip and two putts, Ouimet had gained a halve and a valuable psychological boost. His opponents had failed to capitalize on the opening, and this reinforced Ouimet's confidence in his ability to keep pace with them. Vardon and Ray were not infallible. Then, too, he felt that he had been lucky when that second shot had ended up out-of-bounds, for if he had been forced to play it out of the brush, he might have dropped several strokes to par instead of just the one.
The sixth was a shortish four uphill, the sort of hole on which a player might well pick up a birdie. All three were down the middle, with Ray, straight for the first time, the longest. Vardon played first and sent an elegant little pitch close to the cup. Ouimet and Ray could not match it. They two-putted for their 4's, and when Vardon sank his putt for a birdie 3, he went into the lead, one stroke in front of Ouimet, two in front of Ray.