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Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Willie Anderson, the King of the US Open

Willie AndersonSince Brooks is trying to match the record of the great Scottish player Willie Anderson, I thought it might be nice to give you a bit about him -- especially, about his swing.

I found this article written by author Douglas Seaton for the North Berwick Hall of Fame in Scotland. It includes a brief description of his swing -- and how it seemed to fit Anderson -- and I found it very entertaining.
Anderson's accuracy was legendary particularly with his favourite club the mashie, equivalent to the present day five iron. He had a swing as flat as his nose and neither his game nor his facial features were flattering or classical. He looked more like an average middleweight boxer than a special golfer. He had bulging forearms and wide, muscular shoulders, a physique more suitable for carrying bags of coal from door to door instead of a golf bag from course to course.

Willie's unhurried move through the ball disguised effortless power and he was also a rhythmical putter but his main attribute was his unflappable demeanour. Described as a dour man who attended strictly to business and displayed little sense of humour on the course but he was a mixer off the course and popular with his fellow professionals. Golfers during Anderson's time essentially wore clothes formal enough to attend church in but not Willie Anderson. His typical attire was a tartan wool cap pulled low (to camouflage his large ears), baggy plaid trousers, a plain shirt, a cloth neckerchief (instead of a silk tie), and an old tweed jacket.
Willie Anderson in 1909I love that description of his swing being "as flat as his nose."

As you can see in this Wikipedia photo from 1909, the year before he died, Anderson was indeed a very muscular player. Despite that, Seaton notes that Anderson had an unhurried move -- no violent lashing at the ball -- and had a rhythmic putting stroke.

He sounds very much like the descriptions I've read of Ben Hogan on the course -- very much an intense, even grumpy-looking fellow who kept to himself and focused on his own game, apparently oblivious to those around him. However Seaton says he was a very social person off the course and very popular with the other players, perhaps in part because he was willing to buy the drinks.

Ironically, although he doesn't seem to have been a party animal himself, Anderson died at the young age of 31 from arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), which is generally thought of as an old person's disease.

Although he is officially credited with four majors -- all US Opens, won in 1901 and the three-peat in 1903-1905 -- Anderson also won four Western Opens (the modern BMW Championship) which were considered majors at the time.

To finish out, here are a few interesting facts:
  • Anderson is the only man to win three consecutive US Opens.
  • Only Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus have matched his four US Open titles.
  • And he's the only man to win the US Open playing both gutta percha and rubber core golf balls.
This is the legend that Brooks Koepka is chasing this week. If he can catch him, Brooks will certainly inscribe his name in the history books and be well on the way to becoming a legend himself.

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