A Brief History of Recent U.S. Opens
This coming Father’s Day weekend will of course bring the 3rd and 4th round of the U.S. Open. We’ve been playing our national championship since 1895. In its early years, the U.S. Open was a single-day 36-hole tournament. British professionals dominated the first fifteen years of the tournament. American golfers began imposing their will in this tournament in 1910.
This year’s tournament will be hosted by Oakmont Country Club. It will mark the 10th time the U.S. Open has been contested at the Pennsylvania course.
Baltusrol Golf Club has hosted the second most U.S. Opens with 7 championships. The last time they hosted the tournament was in 1993.
Oakland Hills Country Club in Michigan has hosted the tournament 6 times including the 1996 event.
Olympic Club (San Francisco), Pebble Beach, Marion Golf Club (OH) and Winged Foot (NY) have all hosted 5 U.S. Opens.
Here is a quick listing of the past 16 U.S. Open Champions and their score relative to par:
|Year||Player||Score to Par|
|2015||Jordan Spieth||- 5|
In these past sixteen years, two scores jump off the list and need to be discussed. In 2000, 24-year old Tiger Woods put on a performance for the ages; a performance Sports Illustrated magazine would call “the greatest performance in golf history.” Woods took over the tournament in the first round and finished at a then record 12 strokes under par. The runner up in the tournament carded +3. Woods’ margin of victory was an incredible 15 strokes – a record that most golf historians and analysts believe will never be matched again. The win also propelled Woods on a historic run that included wins at the next three majors – the 2000 Open Championship, the 2000 PGA Championship and the 2001 Masters – giving Woods his “Tiger Slam” as the current holder of all four major championships after his Augusta win.
The second performance we have to highlight is Rory McIlroy's destruction of Congressional in 2011. He eclipsed Woods’ lowest tournament score relative to par by four shots, finishing at 16 under par for the tournament. McIlroy’s dominating performance came on a course many considered easier for scoring than Woods’ score at Pebble Beach. McIlroy did win by 8 shots, but the runner up was 8 under par, a score that would have won 11 of the past 16 championships. Both wins were remarkable, but historians likely give the nod to Woods based on his fellow competitors’ scores and the fact that his margin of victory was nearly twice as large as McIlroy’s.
Scoring at the U.S. Open is often a function of course set-up and the two play hand in hand during the course of the week. An often quoted phrase attributed to the United States Golf Association (USGA), the tournament’s governing body, is “we are trying to identify the best players in the world, not embarrass them.”
When you look at those past sixteen U.S. Opens, you’ll notice that six of the winning scores were even par or over par. In consecutive years, 2006 and 2007, the winning score was +5. This rubs some players the wrong way. Many argue that fans want to see birdies and even eagles where the galleries roar their approval and the cheers reverberate their way around the golf course. A good example of this kind of excitement is what occurs at Augusta National’s back nine on Saturday and especially Sunday afternoons.
Supporters of the USGA approach argue that professionals, especially in major tournaments, should pay a price for missing fairways and greens. The rough at the U.S. Open is often the toughest on tour, only sometimes rivaled by the rough on Open Championship set-ups. Another sore spot for players is the condition of the greens. The USGA will occasionally let their greens become baked out, barely adding water after rounds, in an effort to make pins and scoring as difficult as possible. Some players embrace the approach and accept the fact that par is always a good score at a U.S. Open. There’s something to be said about restoring the value of a well-earned par.