When Sam Snead’s train pulled into St Andrews after World War II and he looked out his window, he thought the Old Course was abandoned. It was 1946 and many British courses had either been ravaged or put to other use during the war.
Snead was by no means the crowd favorite at St Andrews, especially since he was facing two-time Open Champion Henry Cotton and renowned Welsh golfer Dai Rees.
But Snead’s long low drives gave him an advantage and he was able to drive onto the greens on the par-4 9th, 10th and 12th holes throughout the Championship. After a first round 71 he trailed Bobby Locke of South Africa by two shots. He followed with a 70 that put him within one of Cotton after 36 holes. A 74 in the third round left him in a three-way tie with Rees and American golfer Johnny Bulla.
Strong winds buffeted the course during the final round. Snead struggled to a 40 on the front nine but played the back nine in two-under, including a birdie three at 10. He finished with a birdie-par at 17 and 18 for a 75, the best round of the day. Bulla and Locke finished four strokes back
Snead’s postwar win was the first American victory at The Open Championship in 13 years.