Flyers

Ben Hogan, his 1-iron, and the 1950 U.S. Open

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Ben Hogan, his 1-iron, and the 1950 U.S. Open

ARDMORE, Pa. — It’s the most iconic photograph in golf’s history and one of the most famous pictures in all of sports.

It’s a black-and-white shot of Ben Hogan at the 18th hole of the Merion Golf Club, following through on the 1-iron that he planted on the green before burying a putt to force a playoff at the 1950 U.S. Open.

The simple photo tells the story. There’s Hogan from behind, a little more than a year removed from a nearly fatal car accident, in a white snap-brim cap. His lead left foot is perfectly planted and his torso is spun around to face his target. The right foot matches Hogan’s body as the follow through of the club is turned in a perfect sweep behind his head.

Anyone who ever attempted to play golf has copied Hogan’s pure, flawless swing direct from Hy Peskin’s picture.

That photograph will be shown a lot this week as the U.S. Open returns to Merion for the first time in 32 years. It’s emblazoned on the official program and other USGA publications and merchandise.

More importantly, that photo, as well as the type of club Hogan used to hit that dramatic shot, is fresh in the mind of the golfers set to tackle Merion this week.

“It’s a great photo, but it would have been an all right photo if he didn’t win,” Tiger Woods said during his pre-tournament press conference on Tuesday at Merion East. “He still had to go out and win it the next day.”

Woods has a point. Would that great photo of Hogan and his 1-iron shot to the green have been as iconic if he didn’t make his putt to tie the tournament and win the 18-hole tiebreaker the next day?

“When you think of Ben Hogan, you just think of the swing and you think of the mystique and the aura that the man had,” 2011 U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy said. “I don't know if [Merion] makes that shot much more special or if his shot made [Merion] a little more special.”

How special was Hogan’s shot? It could be the only shot in golf that has its own historical marker from the spot it happened. On the 18th fairway, some 200-yards from the hole, a plaque reads:

June 10, 1950
U.S. Open
Fourth Round
Ben Hogan
1-Iron
 
Then there is the club itself -- the 1-iron. In a sport in which the technology has changed so much of the game, the 1-iron is a club rarely seen anymore. Some call it a “driving iron” and it’s used to hit long, straight and low-trajectory shots that stay below the wind.

Players rarely carry a 1-iron in their bags any more and younger stars like McIlroy have never hit a 1-iron unless they were fooling around. McIlroy carries a 2-iron, but he might switch it this week for a 5-wood.

“I know what a 1-iron is,” McIlroy said. “But I probably can’t hit one. I think my dad might have had a 1-iron but it was a Ping Zing or something like that. So if he can hit one, I should be able to.”

Woods said he used to play with a 1-iron but got rid of it.

“I used a 1-iron pretty much my entire junior golf career. It was part of the game. I used a 1-iron a little bit into my early career on the Tour,” Woods said. “But I think when I was 21, I pretty much was resolved to using a 2-iron instead of the 1-iron. I had to take the 1-iron out and put the 2-iron in. Now it's either 2-iron is in or the 5-wood is in.”

Is there even a need for the 1-iron? During the practice sessions this week in the run up to the U.S. Open, players have been taking shots from the plaque where Hogan hit his 1-iron.

Woods hit a 5-iron to the green. McIlroy’s countryman from Northern Ireland, Graeme McDowell, hit a 4-iron from the spot.

Has the technology changed so much that today’s pros hit mid-range irons 200-plus yards?

Well, yes and no. It’s not the clubs as much as it is the balls used today. If Hogan used the same ball Woods, McIlroy and the rest of the modern-day pros use, we might be talking about a miraculous 4-iron shot frozen in black-and-white at Merion instead.

Lee Trevino, who won six majors, including the 1971 U.S. Open at Merion in a playoff against Jack Nicklaus, says there is a simple solution to bringing back the old, classic courses and the old-style equipment …

Make the ball a few centimeters larger.

“It’s not the equipment, it's the ball,” Trevino said. “I tell amateurs, ‘You keep talking about this equipment, it hasn't helped you a damn bit. Your handicap is still 18.7. Even though you got the big-headed clubs, the graphite shafts, the ball that goes for miles and all this stuff, your handicap is still high.’ It helped the professional because he can hit the ball harder and it doesn't turn as much. The only solution to this ball business is to go bigger.”

Perhaps a slight change in the ball would bring the U.S. Open back to Merion sooner than 32 years? And if it does, maybe the future pros will be lining up shots from that plaque in the 18th fairway with a 1-iron.

Just like Ben Hogan in the photograph.

2019-20 Flyers season grades: Scott Laughton

2019-20 Flyers season grades: Scott Laughton

The 2019-20 NHL regular season has concluded and the next time the puck drops will officially kick off the race to the Stanley Cup. The Flyers are hungry and ready to battle it out, but that is thanks to the hard work from back in October. 

In an End to End series, NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Brooke Destra, Katie Emmer, Joe Fordyce and Jordan Hall will be grading players based on individual performances.

Today we will be looking at Scott Laughton.

Destra

Laughton is an under-the-radar player that the Flyers are lucky to have. While he did miss a handful of games in the early weeks of the 2019-20 season due to a broken finger, he remained a vital asset upon returning. 

Through 49 games, Laughton tallied 27 points (13 goals, 14 assists). The 13 goals were a career best and considering he missed 20 games and there were still 13 left to play, chances are, he would’ve continued adding on to that. 

There has been continuous growth in Laughton’s play over the past three seasons — with his puck handling, work in the neutral zone, and work on the penalty kill — his speciality. The Flyers have truly struck gold in the amount of depth they have on the roster and if Laughton continues to progress in the coming years, he’ll be the core of it all. 

I’ll give Laughton an A — overall, a great season. 

Emmer

Laughton had one of his best seasons in the Flyers uniform.

A guy that can play center and wing, he was a major key to the improved depth. In 49 games, he set personal milestones, scoring a career-high 13 goals and recording a career-high plus-13.

What needs to be recognized is the way he bounced back from adversity this season. Despite suffering 2 separate injuries, the 26-year-old continued to remain a solid role player for the Flyers, moving up and down the lineup when needed and stepping up in a major way on the Flyers improved penalty kill — where he recorded over 83 minutes of ice time. Some more point production could have been expected out of the Flyers 2012 first-round pick, but he certainly improved in his role this season.

Laughton gets a B+.

Fordyce 

There are a number of reasons why Laughton deserves this grade, but I’ll start with the most obvious. Despite multiple injuries this season, Laughton was still able to post a career high 13 goals in 49 games. Even more impressive is that Laughton did this all while playing different places up and down the Flyers lineup.

Laughton has become a Swiss army knife for the Flyers, playing wherever he is needed and doing so admirably. On any given night, Laughton can be a top 6 forward but doesn’t get down on nights when he plays lower in the lineup. Not only that but Laughton has an uncanny ability to elevate the play of others when playing alongside them. Laughton has been one of the most consistent players in the Flyers lineup and has proven that again this season posting a +13 rating. When No. 21 is in the lineup, you always know what you’re going to get. 

Laughton gets an A.

Hall

Laughton has been one of the Flyers' most consistent forwards over the past two seasons.

He's always skating hard, always forechecking, always killing penalties and he's got some offensive strengths, to boot.

After putting up career highs in goals (12), assists (20), games (82) and ice time per game (14:51) in 2018-19, Laughton topped his personal best in markers by scoring 13 despite playing 33 fewer games this season. The 26-year-old, who has played center and winger for the Flyers, was also a career-best plus-13.

Laughton dealt with two unfortunate injuries (broken right index finger, groin), missing 20 of the Flyers' 69 games, so let's go with a real solid B+ for the underrated forward who made up for lost time.

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What Patrick Mahomes' historic contract means for Andy Reid

What Patrick Mahomes' historic contract means for Andy Reid

It took Andy Reid 21 years to win the first one. Wild guess it won't take quite as long to win No. 2.

The news Monday that the Chiefs have agreed to a 10-year contract extension with 24-year-old Pat Mahomes means that Reid and Mahomes will be together essentially as long as Reid wants.

Mahomes is now signed through 2031, and the Reid we saw last year brilliantly leading the Chiefs to the Super Bowl championship sure didn’t look like anybody who was slowing down or thinking about retiring.

The Reid we saw at the end with the Eagles seemed weary, burned out. I thought he’d take a year off before even considering another job, but he resurfaced immediately with the Chiefs and the change rejuvenated him.

He's even better now.

The way he’s going now, I wouldn’t be surprised if Reid coaches until he’s 70. Marv Levy coached until he was 72 and Dick Vermeil until he was 69. Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick are 68, Bruce Arians is 67.

Reid isn’t slowing down. If anything, the Reid-Mahomes partnernship has given him new life. 

In his first full season under Reid, Mahomes threw 50 touchdowns — second-most in NFL history — and then last year he won a Super Bowl, averaging 39 points and overcoming double-digit deficits in the three playoff wins.

You get the feeling watching Reid these days that he learned from every mistake he made during his 14 years with the Eagles. And there were plenty of them.

He had a heck of a quarterback in Donovan McNabb, but other than one blip in 2004, he never surrounded him with enough weapons. He’s got an even better quarterback in Mahomes, and he and brilliant GM Brett Veach, who started out as an intern with the Eagles in 2004, have stockpiled the roster with electrifying playmakers.

One thing about Reid: He’s quiet and humble, but he loves to win football games more than just about anything, and he’s got a chance to win a lot over these next several years.

lot.

With Tom Brady turning 43 next month and now in Tampa, the balance of power in the AFC has shifted. Right over to Arrowhead Stadium.

The Chiefs are the best team in the conference and the Ravens, coached by Reid’s pal John Harbaugh, are next. They also have an elite young quarterback and a stocked roster. But then what? Nobody else in the AFC is close. The Texans are pretty good, but the Chiefs scored 51 on them in that wild comeback win in January. The Titans and Bills are competitive but don't look like Super Bowl teams.

Bottom line is the Chiefs have the best quarterback in the NFL and the second- or third-best head coach, depending where you want to put Sean Payton.

They're not going away anytime soon.

Belichick and Brady won six championships together.

Vince Lombardi and Bart Starr won five.

Those duos are untouchable.

Chuck Noll and Terry Bradshaw won four and Bill Walsh and Joe Montana three, and a handful of other combos won two, including Jimmy Johnson and Troy Aikman, Mike Shanahan and John Elway, and Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning.

Reid  got a late start. Didn’t win the first one until he was 61. But he’s not done yet.

Would it surprise anybody if the Chiefs win two or three more Lombardi trophies over the next six or seven years?

Let’s say Big Red coaches until he’s 70. Not that far-fetched. Belichick and Carroll are going to hit that in 2022.

That’s nine more seasons. Mahomes is now under contract for all of them. 

As long Mahomes is healthy, the Chiefs are going to be one of the NFL’s most dangerous teams.

And Reid knows how to win. He’s had three losing seasons in his career, including his very first, and he’s averaged 10 wins per year. He’s seventh in NFL history in wins. He's already a Hall of Famer.

And Mahomes? All he has is the highest passer rating in NFL history … by far.

When you have a Hall of Fame coach and the best QB in the game? We all saw last year what can happen.

The only head coaches to win at least three Super Bowls are Belichick, Noll, Joe Gibbs and Walsh.

Pretty good company.

If the Chiefs win two more before Big Red hangs 'em up, you can add his name to that list.

And by the time he’s done, the guy who was once known for never winning the Super Bowl could very well be known as the guy who won more Super Bowls than almost anybody. 

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