Saturday, April 18

Doug Sanders, 'Blessed to Have the Career I Had,' Dies at 86

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DOUG SANDERS MIGHT BE IN the World Golf Hall of Fame had he made that 30-inch par putt to win the 1970 British Open at the Old Course in St. Andrews. Instead, Sanders lost to Jack Nicklaus the following day in an 18-hole playoff when the Golden Bear sank a birdie putt on the final hole.

Sanders died a week ago. He was 86.

Known for his colorful attire and lifestyle, it's easy to overlook Sanders' body of work over a long career. He won 20 times on the PGA Tour from 1956 to 1972. Those victories included the Canadian Open (as an amateur), the Colonial, Western Open, Doral and the Bob Hope. Sanders finished runner-up in four majors and was in the top 10 154 times.

I met Sanders on the Grand Champions circuit a dozen years ago. Yes, he was a character, always ready with a comment or story.

Sanders grew up poor in Georgia and taught himself the game. His swing was short and flat. The joke was that he could make his full swing in a phone booth. But that fast, jerky swing, and his deft touch around the greens, made Sanders a lot of money and a near-great player on the PGA Tour.

"My agent later told me that putt [to win the British Open] cost me millions," Sanders told Garry Smits in 2016. "But I can't complain. I've been blessed to have the career I had."

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