The U.S. Open Championship, conducted by the United States Golf Association in June in the modern era, is the preeminent golf event in the United States. But it had humble beginnings as a one-day 36-hole tournament played on Oct. 4, 1895, on the nine-hole course at the Newport Golf and Country Club in Rhode Island. Only 10 professional golfers and one amateur teed it up for the inaugural event, won by Horace Rawlins who took home first prize of $150. The first prize in 2010 was $1,350,000.
The USGA made the championship a 72-hole event in 1898, with 36 holes played over two days. That year, 49 golfers entered the tournament. In 1926 the U.S. Open became a three-day event, with 18 holes of competition over the first two days and a 36-hole finale on day three. It wasn't until 1965 that the tournament became the four-round event it is today, with 18 holes played each day. By 2009, the number of players entering and attempting to qualify to play in the U.S. Open had swelled to more than 9,000.
Through the 2011 tournament, Hale Irwin was the oldest winner of the U.S. Open. He was 45 when he won in 1990. The youngest winner was John S. McDermott, only 19 when he won the trophy in 1911. The oldest player to make the 36-hole cut was legendary Sam Snead, who was 61 when he made the cut in 1973.
Most Open Victories Through 2011
Four players have won the U.S. Open four times. Willie Anderson's victories came in the early part of the 20th century. Robert T. Jones Jr. -- the great Bobby Jones -- prevailed four times in the 1920s and '30s. Ben Hogan was a dominant golfer in the U.S. Open in the late 1940s and '50s. Jack Nicklaus' four titles were between 1962 and 1980.
Lowest Winning Scores Through 2011
In 1898 Fred Herd won the U.S. Open with a 72-hole score of 328. The lowest winning scores since that time were 272 totals. Jack Nicklaus won with that score at Baltusrol in New Jersey in 1980. Lee Janzen matched the score at the same course in 1993. Tiger Woods prevailed in 2000 at Pebble Beach in California with a 272, and Jim Furyk matched that winning score at Olympia Fields in Illinois in 2003.
The Hosts with the Most Tournaments
Through 2011, this record goes to Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pennsylvania, host of eight U.S. Open tournaments between 1927 and 2007. Baltusrol is in second place, having hosted seven events between 1903 and 1993.
Jack Nicklaus started 44 consecutive U.S. Opens. Hale Irwin follows him with 34. Playing in different eras, both Gene Sarazen and Tom Kite made 33 consecutive starts.
Largest Winning Margin
Tiger Woods won by a whopping 15 strokes with his score of 272 at Pebble Beach in California in 2000. The second largest winning margin goes all the way back to 1899, when Willie Smith won by 11 strokes at Baltimore Country Club in Maryland.
A Fact No One Mentions
When the subject of who shot the most under-par winning score in the U.S. Open comes up, it is usually forgotten that Alex Smith won with an amazing 33-under-par total in 1906. His 72-hole score was seemingly not that great, 295. But the course that year played to a par of 82 compared to the pars of 70, 71 or 72 of U.S. Open courses in the modern era.