The US Open: Ten great victories revisited
The US Open Championship has had some truly thrilling and memorable winners over its long and storied history. We take a look at 10 of the best tournaments over the years…
2008 – Woods wins while injured
Tiger Woods was practically hobbling around on one leg as he defeated Rocco Mediate over 91 gruelling holes of golf at Torrey Pines nine years ago.
Twice Woods had to pull his own fat out of the fire with a clutch par save on the final hole, during Sunday’s final round and then again at the end of their 18-hole playoff the following day.
The contest went to sudden death, where Tiger finally emerged victorious on the 19th hole.
His victory was made all the more remarkable by the fact that he was playing with a torn ACL and two microfractures in his left leg. He required surgery shortly after the win, and was out for the rest of the season.
As great as the victory was, some question whether it was the right decision for Tiger to aggravate his injury to that degree. The win is also notable as being Woods’ last at a major championship to date.
1999 – Payne Stewart beats Phil Mickelson
A signature victory for the always flamboyantly-dressed Payne Stewart, made all the more poignant by the American’s untimely death shortly after.
Stewart, 42 at the time, had only won two tournaments on US soil in the eight years preceding the 1999 US Open at Pinehurst, but somehow managed to defy age and logic by beating an in-form Phil Mickelson in the pouring rain.
Stewart clinched the victory with a birdie at the 17th and a 20-footer for par at the last.
Just four months later, he was killed in an air crash after his light aircraft depressurised.
1950 – Ben Hogan’s triumphant return
No one was sure if the great Ben Hogan would ever be able to return to golf after his horrific car crash in February 1949.
Hogan and his wife were involved in a head-on collision and barely escaped with their lives.
But 16 months later, Hogan was fit enough to play at Merion, having recovered from multiple fractures – though his legs still required binding before he could go out and play.
It did little to deter the great man, however, as he fought his way into a playoff with Lloyd Mangrum and George Fazio, returning the next day to win by four shots.
Hogan’s story so captured the imagination at the time that film titled Follow the Sun was released about his life in 1951, with Glenn Ford starring as Hogan.
1960 – Arnold Palmer’s epic comeback
No player had ever come from seven shots down in the final round to win a major championship, but that’s exactly what the great Arnold Palmer managed to achieve 57 years ago.
Mike Souchak was the unlucky player who saw his massive lead evaporate at Cherry Hills, as Palmer started like a house on fire, birdying six of his first seven holes out of the gate before going on to shoot 65 for the win.
Souchak closed with a 75, finishing in joint third place. In second? A then relatively unknown young amateur named Jack Nicklaus.
1962 – Jack Nicklaus wins in his rookie season
Ben Hogan had played alongside Nicklaus for two rounds of the 1960 US Open and was quoted as saying: “I played 36 holes today with a kid who should have won this thing by 10 strokes.”
Hogan clearly knew what he was talking about.
Just two years later, Nicklaus, no longer an amateur and playing in his first US Open as a professional, tied with Arnold Palmer after 72 holes at Oakmont before going on to beat him by three in the 18-hole playoff.
It would be the first of four US Opens and a record 17 majors for Nicklaus during a 26-year span.
Johnny Miller shoots 63 to win
Several players were in with a real shout at the 1973 US Open at Oakmont, including Julius Boros, Jerry Heard, Arnold Palmer and John Schlee.
But they all had to play second fiddle following a stunning display from a 26-year-old Johnny Miller, who carved up the competition courtesy of a final-round 63, taking just 29 putts. Incredibly, he also had two lip-outs on 17 and 18.
It was the lowest round in US Open history at the time, though it has since been equalled by Jack Nicklaus, Tom Weiskopf and Vijay Singh.
Geoff Ogilvy wins (Phil Mickelson loses)
Not all US Opens are remembered for who won them.
Back in 2006, Phil Mickelson looked set to cement his status as the current best player in the world and the only man capable of challenging Tiger Woods’ dominance.
Having already won the Masters a couple of months earlier, Mickelson found himself standing on the 18th tee on the final day at Winged Foot Golf Club, needing just a par to complete one half of the calendar Grand Slam.
Opting for the driver, Mickelson was well wide off the tee, leading to an unforgettable double bogey that handed the trophy to Geoff Ogilvy.
1990 – Hale Irwin wins at 45
Hale Irwin proved age is nothing but a number when he won at Medinah in 1990.
Never a crowd favourite due to his less than excitable personality, Irwin finally got everyone on their feet when he sank a 45ft putt on the 72nd hole and raced around the green, high-fiving anyone who would offer a hand.
There was work still to be done, however, in the form of an 18-hole playoff the next day. After both he and Mike Donald signed for 74s, Irwin finally won on the 19th hole.
“It changed how the world looked at me,” said Irwin.
1982 – Tom Watson holes out
Most players will take a major win any way they can get it, but sometimes the planets align and victory comes courtesy of one fantastic shot.
That was the case at Pebble Beach in 1982 when Tom Watson, battling no less a foe than Jack Nicklaus, sensationally holed out from the rough behind the green on the par-3 17th to finally get the better of The Golden Bear.
Watson looked in big trouble after pushing his tee shot too far, but had the perfect answer, one not even Nicklaus could respond to.
Watson can look back with confidence and say that was the greatest chip shot he ever played.
2000 – Woods demolishes the field
Tiger Woods’ performance in the 100th US Open was quite simply the most dominant in major tournament history.
Woods set a new record for margin of victory by finishing a full 15 strokes clear of the field, beating the old mark of 13 achieved by Scotland’s ‘Old’ Tom Morris in The Open Championship of – wait for it – 1862.
Woods finished on 12-under. No other player was under par.
It was also the first leg of the ‘Tiger Slam’, which saw Woods go on to win the The Open and the US PGA later in the year, before lifting the US Masters early in 2001 to hold all four major trophies.
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