Bobby Jones achieved all he could achieve in life and golf, he was synonymous in excellence and class in all that he did, he was known all over the world, but in the whole world only two places would remain synonymous with him - St Andrews and Augusta.
Born in Atlanta, Georgia on March 17, 1902 Robert Tyre Jones Junior was born into a family of relative wealth, his father was a Lawyer. Despite this it didn't mean he had it easy, suffering from health issues throughout his life. He was diagnosed with Syringomyelia at the age of 46.
Jones was clearly a very talented golfer from a young age, indeed he proved this by winning the Georgia state amateur golf championship at the age of 14, as well as qualifying for the quarter-finals of the US Amateur in the same year. He qualified for the US Open at the age of 18 in 1920, and in 1921 he would make his first visit to the home of golf, St Andrews for the 1921 Open Championship.
The 1921 Open was the 12th to be played over the Old Course and is the last Major Championship to be won by a golfer born in St Andrews. Jock Hutchison was a naturalized American citizen, but was born in St Andrews in 1884 before emigrating to the United States and becoming a US citizen in 1920. Hutchison would also later win the inaugural PGA Seniors Championship at, ironically, Augusta National Golf Club.
The 1921 Open was however notable for "an act which would have been quickly forgotten had it been done by an ordinary player", in the words of legendary golf writer Henry Longhurst. Jones, having played the front nine in 46 strokes, reached the par three 11th and found Hill Bunker, which guards the left side of the green. After taking multiple swipes at the ball without extracting himself from the bunker, the prodigy picked up the ball, ripped up his scorecard and was disqualified from the competition.
Jones was renowned for his flashes of bad temper on the golf course, illustrating a burning passion within him and he could not accept playing so badly. Myth has it that Jones said he would never return to St Andrews, but indeed he did, and when he did so he would leave an indelible mark on the Old Course and the town.
In 1926 the Old Course staged the Walker Cup, the Americans defeated the British by a narrow 6-5 margin, but this was the week in which Jones came to terms with the subtleties of links golf. He won a singles game over 36 holes by a breathtaking score of 12&11 and was part of a win in foursomes too. When Jones next returned to St Andrews he would demonstrate a mastery of the links the like of which had never been seen before.
Truly great sporting performances can probably be counted using very few hands over the years, and one of these came at the 1927 Open Championship at St Andrews by Bobby Jones. The Old Course played as a Par 73 in 1927 and Jones shot rounds of 68, 72, 73 and 72 to win by six strokes and record the lowest score in Major Championship history at the time.
This would have been impressive if it was done by a full-time professional, but it should be remembered Jones was an amateur, he left the likes of Henry Cotton and Sandy Herd trailing by 13 and 15 shots respectively, he was the low amateur by 15 shots and only two other players broke the par of 292. His lead throughout the championship after each round was never less than 3 shots and Walter Hagen would win the next two Open Championships with scores of 292. Gene Sarazen would break Jones' record at the 1932 Open at Royal St George's when he shot 283, but in terms of score relative to par it took until 1936 for the record to be broken, by Alf Padgham at Royal Liverpool Golf Club.
It wasn't until 1955 that his total of 285 was beaten, when Peter Thomson shot 281 on the then par 72 Old Course. In relation to par it was still only tied with Jones, but in 1957 Bobby Locke shot 9-under to finally break the 30-year-old Open Championship record score in relation to par.
Aged 25, Jones returned home to a heroes welcome, and the golf media dubbed him "Golf's Wonder-man". Three years later he would return to St Andrews in a bid to win the one Major title which had eluded him, The Amateur Championship. He set out in 1930 to do the seemingly impossible, win all four Major Championships - The US Amateur, The Amateur Championship, The US Open and The Open.
The Amateur Championship at St Andrews was the first step along the road to immortality. Of course Jones would win, defeating American Eugene V Homas by the score of 8&7 in the final over 36 holes of the Old Course. He would go on to win The Open at Royal Liverpool, The US Open at Interlachen and The US Amateur at Merion.
They called it the "Impregnable Quadrilateral".
The closest thing to it since?
The Tiger Slam.
The US Open at Pebble Beach, The Open at St Andrews, The PGA Championship at Valhalla and the Masters at Bobby Jones's Augusta National.
Following completing the 1930 Grand Slam Jones honoured the commitment he made to his family to retire from competitive golf, at the tender age of 28. Imagine just how many Major titles Jones could have won had he not been suffering from the illness which would be diagnosed as having Syringomyelia some 18 years later. Imagine how much money he could have made had he turned professional, he could have changed the game and elevated it long before the emergence of Hogan, Palmer, Player, Nicklaus and Woods.
His major record as it stood in 1930 was truly remarkable:
As an amateur he won 7 Professional Majors - 4 US Open, 3 The Open
He won 6 Major amateur titles - 5 US Amateur, 1 The Amateur
Only Nicklaus, Woods, Hagen, Player, Hogan and Watson have won more professional major championships than Bobby Jones, think about that. Only 6 players, only 6 professionals, in the history of the sport have won more professional majors than an amateur, Bobby Jones.
Had he turned professional there is little doubt Jones would have won even more professional majors. He defeated Walter Hagen with regularity in that era, just his US Open record would suggest he would have won many PGA Championships, especially as it was a match play event in that time.
Jones NEVER finished outside the top 11 at the US Open, with 4 wins and 4 second places.
In the Match play Majors he competed in he reached the final in 8 of 15 entries. There's no doubt Jones would have won multiple PGA Championships, and if he hadn't retired at the age of 28 then the Masters, his own creation, would have been snaffled too. There is absolutely no question Bobby Jones deserves his place in history as one of the true greats.
Following his retirement from tournament golf Jones needed something else to focus on, and that something else came in the form of Augusta National Golf Club.
Bobby met Dr Alister Mackenzie at the 1927 Open in St Andrews and when the time came to find a designer for his course there was only one man Bobby wanted.
The architect of Cypress Point and Pasatiempo Golf Club on the West Coast, along with Royal Melbourne in Australia, Mackenzie shared many thoughts in common with Jones as to how a golf course should look and play.
BOBBY WANTED AUGUSTA NATIONAL TO BE HIS HOMAGE TO ST ANDREWS
He wanted to create a strategic course with room off the tee to enable all levels of golfer to enjoy their round, but the course would make the golfer think, just like the Old Course.
Bobby Jones's and Alister Mackenzie's vision was to create a course which would "reward the good shot by making the second shot simpler in proportion to the excellence of the first".
"A course which is constructed with these principles in view must be interesting, because it will offer problems which a man may attempt, according to his ability".
"It will never become hopeless for the duffer, nor fail to concern and interest the expert, and it will be found, like Old St Andrews, to become more interesting and delightful the more it is studied and played".
This is so true of both Augusta National and the Old Course, St Andrews, for different reasons. At Augusta the golfer is wowed by its beauty, but in general, with a few exceptions, it takes a player a few attempts to succeed on the course. On the Old Course many players have taken several attempts to appreciate the qualities of the course. Lee Westwood once said the Old Course wouldn't be in his top 200 in the world.
Westwood then won the 2003 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and came second at the 2010 Open Championship.