Top 10 U.S. Open Golf Championships of all time
The U.S. Open Golf Championship has produced some of the game’s most memorable moments. We rank the 10 greatest U.S. Opens in history.
Notice how there has not been much shade thrown between the PGA Tour golfers and the LIV Tour golfers lately? Well, there is a reason for that.
The LIV has been on a break in its schedule since Harold Varner III won by one stroke over Brandon Grace at the Trump National Course in Washington, D.C., on May 28, and will not resume until June 30 in Valderrama, Spain.
Perhaps someday in the near future the folks who run the PGA Tour will sit down to break bread with Greg Norman and find a peaceful solution to the feud that has gutted the PGA Tour of many of its biggest names. Whether you agree or disagree with golfers taking paychecks from the Sovereign Wealth Fund of Saudi Arabia, everyone has a right to make their own choices about how they make a living.
Yes, the money is bigger and easier on the LIV Tour. But every golfer in the world regards the PGA as the most important Tour in the history of the sport, and for now we only get to see players from the two tours compete against each other four times a year at the four majors: the Masters, the PGA Championship, the U.S. Open, and the British Open.
Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka have already thrilled us with their victories at the Masters and the PGA Championship, and should we really be surprised that the two golfers ranked among the best in the world who are not named Scottie Scheffler or Rory McIlroy took those first two majors?
Well, the U.S. Open is drawing near, and we can all be 100 percent certain that Scheffler has this one circled after finishing tied for 10th at the Masters and tied for second at the PGA. If he is your wagering choice, you should expect to have a fighting chance all the way through the weekend. Assuming, of course, that he does not card a 13 as Chad Ramey did at his 18th hole of the day on June 1 at the Memorial in Dublin, Ohio.
Can you think of a time that you wanted to throw your clubs in the creek, cuss and walk off the golf course?— Panther Creek Golf (@PCreekGolf) June 2, 2023
Check out this story about Billy Horschel and Chad Ramey. It happens to EVERYONE! #determination #perseverance https://t.co/TTiBr4X0V6
Where is the 2023 U.S. Open Golf Tournament being played?
This year’s Open is at the Los Angeles Country Club, which has never hosted a major but was the site of the 2017 Walker Cup, won by the United States. The private course actually has 36 holes and is located in wealthy Beverly Hills, which means the visitors among the corporate tents should include at least a few of Hollywood’s best actors and actresses -- few of whom miss the chance to be seen in public at high-profile events other than the Oscars.
History of U.S. Open Golf Winners
Americans have won most U.S. Opens, but an American has not been crowned champion since Bryson DeChambeau (now on the LIV Tour) was the last to do it in 2020 at Winged Foot Golf Course in Mamaroneck, N.Y., during the COVID-19 pandemic. U.S. Open golf winners include Rahm, from Spain, who won in 2021 at Torrey Pines, and Matt Fitzpatrick of England, who won in 2022 at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. Koepka was a back-to-back winner in 2017 and 2018, McIlroy won in 2011 at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., and 10 non-Americans have won in this century.
Who has won the most U.S. Opens?
The list of multiple U.S. Open winners includes Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Bobby Jones, and Willie Anderson (Scotland), who have each won the tournament four times. Tiger Woods and Hale Irwin have been U.S. Open golf winners three times, and Koepka is the only player in this year’s field who can get to three titles if he wins.
Ranking the Top 10 Best U.S. Opens of all time
- 1929 U.S. Open Golf Championship: Bobby Jones wins playoff at Winged Foot
Jones was up five shots coming down the stretch, but he made a disastrous triple-bogey on 15. When Al Espinosa birdied 16 and 17, Jones found himself facing a 12-foot par putt on the 18th hole just to make a playoff. It wasn’t easy -- a left-to-right breaker -- but he nailed it. Playoffs were 36 holes at that time, and the next day Jones won by 23 strokes.
- 1931 U.S. Open Golf Championship: Marathon at Inverness
Billy Burke and George Von Elm finished their 36-hole playoff in a tie. That meant 36 more holes, with Burke prevailing by just one stroke. In all, the two men played 144 holes in five days. Temperatures rose as high as 105 degrees, and Von Elm lost somewhere between nine and 15 pounds, while Burke boasted of smoking 32 cigars.
- 2000 U.S. Open Golf Championship: Tiger dominates at Pebble Beach
The Tiger Slam became tangible here when Woods won by a staggering 15 strokes. It had an unreal feeling at the tim, and still does today. Woods was the only player under par on what was a very difficult U.S. Open course, and his margin of victory is a major record.
- 1955 U.S. Open Golf Championship: Club pro Fleck bests Hogan
Jack Fleck, a club professional from Iowa, was still on the course when TV broadcasters announced that Hogan had won. But Fleck made birdie on 15 and hit a cut 7-iron on the uphill 18th to eight feet. He made the birdie, forced a playoff, and the next day he took down his hero, Hogan, by three shots in the playoff.
- 1982 U.S. Open Golf Championship: Watson Clips in at Pebble Beach
Tom Watson had six top 10s in his previous eight tries without winning. With Jack Nicklaus in the clubhouse, Watson was tied for the lead on 17 when he missed the green. His caddie, Bruce Edwards, told him to get the chip close, and Watson famously said, “Get it close? Hell, I’m going to make it.” And then he chipped in.
- 1950 U.S. Open Golf Championship: Hogan’s famous 1-iron at Merion.
Ben Hogan came into this tournament just 16 months removed from a devastating car crash that left doctors wondering if he’d ever walk again. He was bandaged from his ankles to his hips to manage the swelling, and he used a collapsible chair to rest between holes. Heading into the 15th hole, he was leading by two shots. But he three-putted 15, failed to get up-and-down on 17, and stood on the fairway on 18 in a three-way tie for the lead. That’s when he hit his famous 1-iron, which led to a difficult par and secured his spot in the playoff. That club was actually stolen from his bag after the round, but he didn’t need it. The next day, he beat Lloyd Mangrum and George Fazio to take the title.
- 1962 U.S. Open Golf Championship: Changing of the guard at Oakmont
Arnold Palmer was up by four strokes standing on the ninth tee, and he almost reached the par 5 in two. But he somehow bogeyed, Jack Nicklaus birdied, and things tightened considerably. Nicklaus clawed back two more strokes to force an 18-hole playoff, and raced out the next day to a four-shot lead through eight holes. Palmer made his usual charge, with birdies on 9, 11, and 12, but a three-putt on 13 stopped his momentum, and Nicklaus shot even par to win by three.
- 1913 U.S. Open Golf Championship: Ouimet Inspires Famous Film
Chronicled in the movie “The Greatest Game Ever Played,” Francis Ouimet, only 20, was a local who grew up across the street from the 17th hole and caddied at The County Club in Brookline, Mass., as a child. He would square off against two of the world’s best golfers, Englishmen Harry Vardon and Ted Ray, and played a spectacular final eight holes in wet conditions on Sunday to force a three-way tie. He then defeated both men in the 18-hole playoff.
- 1999 U.S. Open Golf Championship: Stewart Statuesque at Pinehurst
For the second straight year, Payne Stewart was the 54-hole leader, but Phil Mickelson took the lead by the 16th hole on Sunday, and when Stewart hit a chip far past the hole on 16, it looked like it might be close to over. Then Stewart holed a remarkable downhill putt, Mickelson missed an eight-footer, and Stewart emerged tied for the lead. Two excellent tee shots followed on the par-3 17th, but only Stewart made his birdie, and that set up the iconic winning par putt on 18. It is commemorated thusly:
Statue at Pinehurst of Payne Stewart celebrating his great duel with Phil Mickelson in 99! pic.twitter.com/LpRLmxexTT— LifeOnTheLinks (@LifeOnTheLinks) April 24, 2014
- 2008 U.S. Open Golf Championship: Tiger Hobbles To Win At Torrey Pines
Woods won on a fractured tibia and a ruptured ACL. It’s one of the greatest gritty, gutsy golf performances ever. Not only that, but he had to birdie the 18th in the final round and the playoff against Rocco Mediate just to survive. The two shots on 18 to force his way into the playoff remain quite memorable.
Parameters of Rankings
As usual, we went for drama and history, not necessarily in that order, with a heavy sprinkling of overcoming weather obstacles to pull off these championships. Here’s hoping that the weather in Beverly Hills is bucolic, and if Will Smith and Chris Rock both attend, nobody slaps anybody else.
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