To say that Hale Irwin's victory at the 1990 US Open was a surprise
would be something of an understatement. As he was by now 45 years of
age,and had not won on the US Tour for five years,it was the most
unlikely of successes. Irwin's fine closing round of 67 was sufficient
to leave him tied with fellow American Mike Donald at eight under par.
He had forced the play-off by producing a quite incredible putt from
some fifty feet for birdie at the last hole and thereafter followed one
of the most amazing celebrations one could ever wish to see. The
ecstatic Irwin set off an a high pace lap of honour that belied his
advancing years and swapped high fives with seemingly each and everyone
of the delirious crowd as he went on his merry way - extraordinary!
job was not complete of course and the players returned the following
day with Irwin finally grabbing victory at the first sudden death hole
thanks to his ten foot birdie putt. Hale returned to Ryder Cup action at
Kiawah Island in 1991 and what a return it proved to be. After
gathering two points from a possible three in the first two days the
whole match rested on his final day singles clash with Bernhard Langer.
In an incredibly tense finish the game reached the final green where
Langer had a six foot putt to retain the cup for Europe. The putt
slipped by the right side of the cup,the match was halved and Irwin was
the hero of the hour as the Americans celebrated a 14 1/2-13 1/2
victory. Hale was to win just once more on the full Tour with his
victory at the 1994 MCI Heritage Golf Classic and he is now a highly
successful campaigner on the Seniors Tour. (David Scranage)