Pro Golf Weekly

Remembering: George Duncan’s 14-Shot Comeback To Win Inaugural Irish Open

This week’s DDF Irish Open marks 90 years since the inaugural edition, though it hasn’t been played every year because of war interruptions and a lengthy hiatus in the 1950s and ‘60s.

A rich history of winners includes three-time champions Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Bernhard Langer, along with Ian Woosnam and even Ben Crenshaw. In all, 14 different winners also have a major title in their portfolio, all the way back to inaugural winner George Duncan.

Exhibition Match in 1910 at Rosapenna (Donegal, Ireland) – George Duncan (1920 Open Champion), Sandy Herd (1902 Open Champion), Tom Ball (Runner-up, 1908-09 Open Championship) and Harry Vardon (Open Champion – 1896,1898-99,1903,1911&1914). Credit: Rosapenna Golf Resort

Duncan’s 1927 victory might itself be worthy of major hardware.

The Scotsman already had the 1920 Open Championship title to his name when he joined the entrants teeing off at Portmarnock, where a 36-hole final day was played in such wretched weather that catering and press tents were blown down and rain came down in torrents.

Duncan was 14 shots off Jack Smith’s pace heading to the final round, but somehow strung together a 74 – two off the course record – while Smith skied to a 91 and Henry Cotton shot 81. That left Duncan one stroke clear of Cotton and three ahead of Smith.

British great J.H. Taylor described Duncan’s round as “one of, or perhaps even, the greatest round that has ever been played.”

Interestingly, that 14-shot deficit was about where Duncan found himself at the halfway mark of the 1920 Open Championship, just seven years earlier.

The Guardian’s David Randall, in a 2001 column which highlights the Open’s quirky history, wrote, “George Duncan, driving terribly as he opens with a pair of 80s, wanders into exhibition tent, sees a driver, buys it, and proceeds to finish 71, 72 to make up 13 shots and win – the best ever recovery.”


DID YOU KNOW

Speaking of golf across the pond… A week ago, Bronson Burgoon stood 406th in the world rankings. The former Texas A&M standout had missed six cuts in his previous eight starts. He still wouldn’t make the FedExCup playoffs if the postseason started today.

Burgoon, though, is headed to the Open Championship at Carnoustie Golf Links. Hey, timing is everything.

Bronson Burgoon is congratulated by John Clark of the R&A Championship Committee after qualifying for the 2018 Open Championship during the final round of the 2018 Quicken Loans National at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm (Maryland). Credit: Getty Images/Michael Cohen/R&A

A tie for sixth at the Quicken Loans National allowed Burgoon to grab the last of four Open berths available Sunday, joining runner-up Ryan Armour, Korean pro Sung Kang and Mexico’s Abraham Ancer.

Three berths also were filled from the HNA Open de France, where runners-up Julian Suri and Russell Knox were joined by Sweden’s Marcus Kinhult.

Seven more slots will be filled after this weekend’s play, with four awaiting top finishers at The Greenbrier and three at the Irish Open.

Jeff Shain

Jeff is a contributor to Pro Golf Weekly. He is the managing editor of Prime Sports, and a weekly contributor to PGATour.com. As a member of the Golf Writer's Association of America, Jeff has covered golf for nearly two decades, including stops at the Orlando Sentinel, Miami Herald and The Island Packet in South Carolina.

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