History of the U.S. Open
By: Courtesy of U.S. Open
The U.S. Open, which dates to 1895, has afforded fans countless moments through its robust history. Here we present some of those moments that have impacted the championship.
1930 – Bob Jones was halfway to achieving his goal of winning the "Grand Slam" as he approached the 1930 U.S. Open at Interlachen Country Club in Minneapolis. At the final hole, Jones left his approach shot 40 feet from the hole, meaning four was not a sure-fire guarantee. "As I stepped up to the putt, I confess that my most optimistic expectation was to get the thing close," Jones wrote later. Jones did one better, he holed the putt for a birdie to earn a two-stroke victory over Macdonald Smith. Ten weeks later, he finished off the "Slam" by winning the U.S. Amateur at Merion.
1950 – Sixteen months after a near-fatal car accident, Ben Hogan mustered enough strength to compete at Merion Golf Club. Needing a par at the 72nd hole to force a playoff with Lloyd Mangrum and George Fazio, Hogan hit his famous 1-iron approach to 40 feet and two-putted for par. The next day, Hogan won his second of four Open titles with a 69, beating Mangrum by four and Fazio by six.
1955 – Ben Hogan appeared on his way to a record fifth U.S. Open title at The Olympic Club until unheralded Jack Fleck holed an 8-foot birdie putt at the 72nd hole to force a playoff. While everyone expected Fleck to fold in the playoff, it was Hogan who surprisingly succumbed to the pressure, hitting his tee shot on 18 into deep rough en route to a double-bogey 6. The unsung Fleck had won just $7,500 over his previous 41 professional events.
1960 – Arnie's Army enjoyed its finest charge at the 1960 U.S. Open with Arnold Palmer seven strokes off the lead entering the final 18 holes. After lunch between the two rounds on that final day, Pittsburgh sportswriter Bob Drum allegedly told Palmer after The King thought he could win with a 65, "No. You're too far back." Palmer then went out and drove the par-4 first hole en route to a 65 and a two-stroke victory over 20-year-old amateur Jack Nicklaus.
1962 – The genesis for a great rivalry actually began two years earlier when Jack Nicklaus finished second to Palmer at the 1960 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills Country Club. But in Palmer's backyard at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club, Nicklaus would out-duel the crowd favorite in an 18-hole playoff before some 10,000 spectators. As the playoff came to a conclusion, Palmer tried to concede a "gimme" putt to Nicklaus, but since it was stroke play, he had to putt out as a matter of formality. Nevertheless, this would become the first of four Open triumphs for Nicklaus.
1964 (Venturi hangs on) – Torrid temperatures enveloped the 1964 Open at Congressional C.C. in Bethesda, Md., and the heat was taking its toll on the competitors, especially Ken Venturi. He trailed by six strokes entering the 36-hole final day and it didn't appear as if he would finish, despite a third-round 66 that put him within two shots of leader Tommy Jacobs. Venturi was visibly shaking down the stretch and missed short consecutive par putts on Nos. 17 and 18. In the locker room, Venturi was given tea and salt tablets to combat his dehydration. Dr. John Everett advised him to withdraw. Venturi declined and the doctor followed him with ice packs throughout the final 18 holes. Venturi's perseverance paid off with a 70 and a four-stroke victory.
1971 – Lee Trevino always had a penchant for being a bit of a comedian on the golf course. At the 1971 U.S. Open at Merion, Trevino decided to release the tension of his 18-hole playoff with Nicklaus when he remembered that his daughter had left a toy snake in his golf bag. Trevino grabbed the rubbery object and playfully tossed it at Nicklaus, getting a scream from a nearby woman and a hearty laugh from Nicklaus. Now loosened up, Trevino shot a 68 to defeat Nicklaus by three strokes. The victory was part of a remarkable streak that saw Trevino win the U.S., British and Canadian Open titles in a span of 20 days.
1972 – Jack Nicklaus' love affair with Pebble Beach began with his U.S. Amateur victory in 1961. Nicklaus came into the 1972 Open at Pebble fresh off a victory at the Masters in April. Even with the weather turning downright miserable on the final Sunday, Nicklaus still managed to hold a three-stroke lead over Bruce Crampton through 70 holes. Playing into the teeth of the wind at the difficult par-3 17th, Nicklaus fired a 1-iron tee shot that hit the flagstick and stopped inches from the hole for a tap-in birdie. Nicklaus won his third Open with a 290 total, the second-highest by a champion since World War II.
1976 – In 1974, Jerry Pate won the U.S. Amateur, but the 22-year-old was certainly not a favorite at the '76 Open at Atlanta Athletic Club. But Pate played like a veteran throughout the championship and came to the final hole with a one-shot lead over 1975 runner-up John Mahaffey. Pate's drive at the 72nd hole found the right rough, leaving him a treacherous approach over water to a hole tucked on the front-left of the green. Mahaffey's 3-wood approach from the heavy grass found the water. Pate, however, caught a break as the ball was sitting up in the Bermuda rough and he took full advantage, drilling a 5-iron from 194 yards to within 3 feet of the hole.
1982 – Jack Nicklaus was looking for a record fifth U.S. Open title when the championship returned to Pebble Beach in 1982, but Tom Watson, like he did at the 1977 British Open at Turnberry, out-dueled his rival. He was tied with Nicklaus through 70 holes when his tee shot at 17 found the left rough. Faced with a challenging pitch, caddie Bruce Edwards told him to "get it close," but Watson retorted, "I'm not going to get it close, I'm going to make it."
1984 – There seems to be some discrepancy in the details surrounding Fuzzy Zoeller's gesture at the 72nd hole of the 1984 U.S. Open at Winged Foot. Everyone remembers Zoeller waving a white towel ceremoniously after Greg Norman holed a long par putt. Some believed he was surrendering to Norman, whom he thought had made birdie to possibly win the championship. But Zoeller has stated that he knew Norman's putt was for par and that he waved the towel as a light-hearted gesture. Zoeller parred 18 and then fired a sizzling 67 in the playoff to beat Norman by eight shots.
1990 – Hale Irwin took full advantage of his U.S. Open special exemption in 1990 at Medinah (Ill.) C.C. Irwin trailed by four strokes entering the final round, but the two-time Open winner carded a 5-under 31 on the back nine, including a 45-footer for birdie at the last that sent the crowd into a frenzy. Irwin circled the green and high-fived fans as if he just won the Super Bowl.
1992 – Mother Nature turned up the heat – make that wind – for the final round of the 1992 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. Blustery conditions took over the championship, sending scores into the stratosphere. Third-round leader Tom Kite was about to be blown off course when he came to the short par-3 seventh. Despite being just 107 yards, only three players had hit the green in regulation all day. Kite's 6-iron missed to the left and his pitch shot was screaming across the green when it hit the flagstick and plopped in the hole for an improbable birdie.
1995 –With the 1995 U.S. Open being held at Shinnecock Hills, a course that isn't overly long by today's modern standards, but requires patience and the ability to play a variety of shots, the diminutive Pavin thought this could be the ideal venue for him to get his first major title. Pavin overcame Greg Norman's 54-hole lead with a closing 68 and 72-hole total of 280 (even par). The Californian saved his best for last, drilling a 5-wood from the fairway at the 72nd hole to set up a two-putt par as Norman and Tom Lehman faltered down the stretch.
1999 – In 1998, Payne Stewart came up one stroke short of a second U.S. Open title, but at the 1999 championship at Pinehurst No. 2, Stewart delivered. The final round began with Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh, Tiger Woods and Stewart all in contention. Mickelson's presence was magnified by the fact that his wife, Amy, was due to give birth to the couple's first child at any moment. At 18, Mickelson missed a long birdie try, while Stewart faced a 15-foot par putt. Stewart calmly holed the putt and celebrated with caddie Mike Hicks before giving encouraging advice to the would-be father (Amy gave birth the next day).
2000 –Tiger Woods' performance at Pebble Beach was one of the most dominating in the history of any major championship as he posted a 12-under-par winning total of 272 and won by a whopping 15 strokes. Woods played the first 22 holes and his last 26 holes without a bogey. A microcosm of his dominance that week occurred as the second day of golf was about to conclude due to darkness. Woods faced a long birdie putt at the par-3 12th and a two-putt was no sure thing. Woods stepped up and drained the 50-footer.
2003 – For one magical day, Tom Watson, at age 53, turned back the clock with a 65 in the first round of the 2003 U.S. Open at Olympia Fields (Ill.) Country Club. The USGA granted the 1982 Open champion a special exemption at a course where he secured his first professional win (1974 Western Open). This Open was also special for Watson's longtime caddie Bruce Edwards, who had been diagnosed the previous fall with Lou Gehrig's Disease. Watson's round was punctuated with a 20-foot birdie putt at the seventh hole, Watson's 16th of the round (he started on 10).
2006 –Geoff Ogilvy didn't just win the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot, he survived it. Ogilvy's brilliant chip-in par at the 71st hole and up-and-down save at the difficult 72nd hole proved to be the difference in a one-stroke victory. His 5-over winning score of 285 was only two better than the score posted by Hale Irwin when he took the "Massacre at Winged Foot" in 1974. This time, the destruction took place at the par-4 18th hole, where Phil Mickelson arrived with a one-shot lead. But his tee shot sailed left off a hospitality tent and led to a double-bogey 6.
Courtesy of the USGA
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