Forget Seve in the car park, or Spieth on the practice ground, Harry Bradshaw’s shot at Royal St George’s must be the strangest in Open history
When people talk about someone hitting the bottle, this isn’t exactly what they mean.
It’s the second round of the 1949 Open at Royal St George’s, the Sandwich club that will host the Claret Jug for the 15th time next summer.
Harry Bradshaw sauntered off the par 4 5th tee in buoyant mood with his opening 68 seeing him just a shot off the first round lead.
Now the Irishman’s name might not trip off the tongue to Rory-obsessed audiences but Harry was quite a player in his day.
The winner of 10 Irish PGA Championships and two Irish Opens, Bradshaw played in three Ryder Cups – including that famous win in 1957 at Lindrick – and was twice a Dunlop Masters champion.
Consider it read he had some game.
Seventy years ago, the Open was a very different affair. Everyone in the field played two rounds of qualifying just to get into the Championship at Royal St George’s – it was why the Americans largely stayed at home – and our hero had stormed them.
His 139 put him top of the pile and he continued that dominant form in the early stages of the then three-day main event.
But when he arrived at his ball at the 5th, he was stunned to find it had rolled right into the remains of a glass bottle littering the course.
Today, just take relief and carry on. But it appears Bradshaw wasn’t sure of the rules and elected to play it as it lies.
I’m not even sure you’d see this on YouTube nowadays but, on the biggest stage of all, Harry took a lofted club and let rip.
He crashed into the glass as hard as he could – presumably hoping he didn’t take his eye out with a big shard.
Incredibly, the ball went forward, some 30 yards in fact, but Bradshaw couldn’t save his par.
The experience must have unsettled him as he fell away to a 77 and tumbled down the leaderboard.
“If the ball had been in a Guinness bottle, I couldn’t have brought myself to hit it,” he’s reported to have said when asked about his shattering encounter.
Its effects weren’t over yet. Settling down, Bradshaw immediately fired a 68 in the afternoon to tie Max Faulkner and Bobby Locke for the lead and his final day 70 shared the spoils with Locke and sent him into a playoff with the South African.
Were it not for the bottle, he might already have been celebrating an Open victory. As it was, Locke beat him by 12 shots the next day over 36 holes.
Locke would go on to win the Open the following year and taste success on two further occasions.
But Royal St George’s was Bradshaw’s moment in the sun. Denied by a cruel twist of fate, he’d never get as close in a major championship again.
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