Remembering six of the best ever editions of the US Open

Tiger Woods celebrates winning US Open

The last three editions of the world-famous US Open tournaments have gone right down to the wire, with the eventual champion winning by just one shot ahead of his nearest rival. There is obviously something about this grand old major that brings out the drama.

With two of 2024’s majors now out of the way, golf fans are eagerly anticipating the 124th US Open – but we have learned to expect the unexpected.

Not many experts predicted Wyndham Clark winning the tournament last year in their US Open golf betting tips. The American had never finished better than 75th before and missed the cut entirely in the previous two years.

The 2024 golf season has been gearing up quite nicely and we are fully expecting another dose of excitement at Pinehurst once again. The North Carolina course is an absolute delight and will no doubt provide us with some more elite golf memories. As we get ready for the championship to begin, we thought we would look back a little further to some of the best-ever tournaments.

2008 – Tiger Woods, Torrey Pines

You should always be wary of a wounded Tiger. A fit and healthy Tiger Woods would have been the runaway favorite to win the US Open in 2008. But the fact that he was bruised and battered, with a very badly injured left knee, makes this victory almost impossible to believe.

His ailments saw Tiger battle against Rocco Mediate all the way through the four rounds, with Woods one shot down at the final 18th. But a 20-foot birdie there forced a playoff for the championship. The great Tiger Woods came through in sudden death in what would be his last major win before the 2019 Masters. 

1999 – Payne Stewart, Pinehurst

Tragedy struck just four months after the 1999 US Open when the champion, Payne Stewart, died in a plane crash. But he was able to leave fans with plenty of amazing memories including his triumph at Pinehurst. Stewart went into the final round as leader – but only one shot in front of the then up-and-coming Phil Mickelson.

By the time the two had reached the 16th, Mickelson had actually taken the lead but then missed an eight-foot putt to bring it back level. Stewart then birdied the 17th and made par on the last to claim the title. His celebratory pose was later immortalized in statue form at the course after his death.

Statue of 1999 US Open champion Payne Stewart

1973 – Johnny Miller, Oakmont

Oakmont is a notoriously difficult course to play and Johnny Miller had not enjoyed a very good opening three rounds of the 1973 US Open. Four players were tied for first before the final round began and Miller was nowhere to be seen on the leaderboard. But a change of tactic saw him go round in 63 when only three other players managed to break par all day.

That incredible round of golf saw Miller win five under and just one shot ahead of John Schlee. His tee shots were a sight to behold, with all 18 making the green and he only needed 29 putts on some of the toughest greens in the tournament’s history. To put Miller’s performance into some perspective, only three golfers have hit a 63 at the US Open since.

1960 – Arnold Palmer, Cherry Pines

In one of the greatest comebacks in golf history, let alone the US Open, a legend of the game and the then reigning Masters champion, Arnold Palmer, clawed back seven shots to win his one and only US Open title. The tournament that year would go down as a meeting of the past, present, and future of golf.

Arnold Palmer was the current star, but he ended up beating the legendary Ben Hogan and a 20-year-old amateur by the name of Jack Nicklaus. Palmer came back into contention after hitting six birdies in the first seven holes of the final afternoon. Now that’s what we call an outstanding day of golf!

1950 – Ben Hogan, Merion

In what became forever known as the “Miracle at Merion”, Ben Hogan claimed his second US Open championship title less than a year and a half after a car crash that almost took his life. It was a miracle that he could even walk properly, let alone play top-level sports.

A poor final round from all the leaders ended with Hogan famously using a one-iron to hit the green on the 18th. A short putt for par then put him into a three-way playoff with George Fazio and Lloyd Mangrum. Hogan’s opponents overshot the last few holes the next day to leave him with the championship.

1913 – Francis Ouimet, The Country Club

Before the 1913 US Open, golf was dismissed as a sport for the elite with only around 250,000 participants in the US. Ouimet’s victory – the first ever by an amateur – showed that the sport was open to all and by the end of the decade, there were over two million golfers in the US.

Ouimet’s story was quite remarkable. He had grown up in a house just over the road from the 17th hole of the Country Club course in Brookline, Mass and caddied to earn money. But in 1913, in terrible conditions, he held his nerve against the professionals of the day, sinking a birdie on the 17th to claim the title.