The United States Golf Association has conducted the United States Open Championship since 1895. The national golf championship of the United States is one of the four major professional golf championships played each year. Because of its high standing and long history, there are many noteworthy facts associated with the event.
When the USGA initiated the U.S. Open, it was played concurrently with the then larger and more prestigious U.S. Amateur Championship. English professional Horace Rawlins was the first winner of the 36-hole event, which was played on the 9-hole Newport Golf and Country Club course in Rhode Island. In the early years, U.S. Open contestants were mostly American amateurs and British professionals.
No American golfer had ever won his own national championship until John McDermott accomplished that feat in 1911. In 1913, an unknown 20-year-old Boston amateur named Francis Ouimet shocked the golf world by defeating seasoned English professionals Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in a playoff. Americans dominated the event for the next 90 years, failing to win in only three contests.
Several championships marked significant milestones in golf history. In 1930, Bobby Jones won his fourth and last U.S. Open in the same year he captured the U.S. Amateur, the British Open and the British Amateur championships. No one else has ever won these four titles in a single year and it seems unlikely it will happen again.
In 1960, Arnold Palmer won his first U.S. Open over an aging Ben Hogan and a young Jack Nicklaus. Two years later, Nicklaus returned the favor when he defeated Palmer in a playoff for the first of his 18 major championship victories.
Tiger Woods won the 2000 U.S. Open by a record 15 strokes at Pebble Beach, establishing his absolute dominance of the game. He went on to win the next three major championships in succession to become the only player to simultaneously hold the U.S. Open, British Open, PGA Championship and Masters titles.
Arnold Palmer’s victory in 1960 required a final-round 65 for him to come from seven strokes behind for the win. Johnny Miller overcame the same deficit with a final-round 63 that propelled him to victory in 1973. For an exhibition of sheer determination, it would be hard to match Ben Hogan’s win in 1950 following his near fatal auto accident the year before.
Tiger Woods’ win over Rocco Mediate in 2008 ranks among the best head-to-head matches in U.S. Open history. It was compelling not only because of the contrast in the players’ rankings and styles, but also because Woods played on a severely injured knee throughout the week. The tournament went to an 18-hole playoff and was ultimately decided by sudden death.
Rise of International Players
In 1965, Gary Player became the first foreign winner of the U.S. Open in 40 years. Since that time international players have continued to contend and very often win. Between 1994 and 2010, 8 of the 17 winners have come from other countries, most notably South Africa with Ernie Els and Retief Goosen winning a combined four titles. It’s not surprising that the USGA added international qualifying sites for the U.S. Open in 2005.