U.S. Open 101: Guide to this year’s major at Winged Foot
Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about the United States Open:
How old is the tournament?
One hundred twenty-five years. The first one was played in 1895.
How many times has it been played?
This year will mark the 120th U.S. Open. It was not played in 1917 or 1918 because of World War I, nor was it played in 1942-45 because of World War II.
Who started it?
The United States Golf Association, an organization formed in 1894 by five prominent golf clubs to be the game’s national governing body.
Is it the oldest national championship in the world?
No. The Open, also referred to as The Open Championship, dates back to 1860.
Where was the first U.S. Open played?
It was played on a nine-hole course at Newport (R.I.) Country Club.
Who was the first winner?
Horace Rawlins, a 21-year-old Englishman, shot 173 for 36 holes to beat Scotsman Willie Dunn by two strokes.
Who is the most recent winner?
That would be Gary Woodland, who shot 13 under par last year at Pebble Beach to claim his first major title by three strokes over two-time defending champion Brooks Koepka.
Who has won the most U.S. Opens?
Four players have won the U.S. Open four times each: Scotsman Willie Anderson and Americans Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus. Hogan also won the 1942 Hale America Open, which some of his supporters claim should be counted as his fifth U.S. Open. The Hale America was a substitute for the U.S. Open, was held in the same time slot and was run like the U.S. Open with local and sectional qualifying.
How many times has a player won consecutive Opens?
Six players have won back-to-back Opens and one has won three in a row. Chronologically, they are Scotsman Willie Anderson (1903-05), and Americans John McDermott (1911-12), Bobby Jones (1929-30), Ralph Guldahl (1937-38), Ben Hogan (1950-51), Curtis Strange (1988-89) and Brooks Koepka (2018-19).
Who are the most noteworthy players who have NOT won a U.S. Open?
This list would have to start with Sam Snead, whose failure to win a U.S. Open cost him a career Grand Slam. Snead was runner-up in the Open four times – in 1937, 1947, 1949 and 1953. But his most painful loss probably came in 1939, when he came to the final hole needing only a par to win but instead made a triple bogey. As on-course scoreboards did not yet exist, Snead didn’t know he needed only a par; a spectator erroneously told him he needed a birdie. Phil Mickelson is also in this category; he has a record six runner-up finishes (1999, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2009, 2013).
I often hear the name Francis Ouimet in connection with the U.S. Open. Who was he and why was he important?
Ouimet was a 20-year-old former caddie who pulled off one of the biggest upsets in sports history in 1913, beating two of the top British professionals in a playoff to win the U.S. Open on his home course, The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts. Beyond the magnitude of the upset, Ouimet’s win helped open up the game to working-class people.
Which U.S. Opens have been the most memorable?
It’s all a matter of opinion, of course, but here is our Top 20 list. Working backwards in the top 10: 10. 1973: Johnny Miller shoots a record 63 in the final round to win. 9. 1982: Tom Watson chips in from deep rough on the 71st hole to win at Pebble Beach. 8. 2008: Limping on what would turn out to be a broken leg, Tiger Woods edges Rocco Mediate after an 18-hole playoff and one sudden-death hole. 7. 1930: Bobby Jones wins the third leg of a Grand Slam he would soon complete. 6. 2000: Woods destroys the field by a record 15 shots at Pebble Beach. 5. 1950: Less than a year and a half after a near-fatal car accident, Ben Hogan wins at Merion. 4. 1966: Seven shots ahead of playing partner Billy Casper at the final turn, Arnold Palmer is caught and loses in an 18-hole playoff. 3: 1913: Francis Ouimet stuns the golf world. 2. 1962: Rookie Jack Nicklaus takes it to Palmer in front of Arnie’s home crowd at Oakmont. 1. 1960: Seven shots back after 54 holes, Palmer drives the green on the first hole, a par 4, shoots 65 and wins his first – and only – U.S. Open.
How do you get to play in a U.S. Open?
There are various categories of exemptions, including winners of the previous 10 U.S. Opens, winners of the other three majors for the past five years, and the top 60 in the Official World Golf Ranking. In addition, local and sectional qualifying is held. Local qualifying is open to any professional and amateurs with up-to-date USGA Handicap Indexes not exceeding 1.4. In other words, you have to be pretty good just to try to qualify. The USGA also on occasion grants special exemptions to players who have not qualified but are deemed worthy of being in the field. Such exemptions have gone to accomplished veterans such as Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Gary Player, Seve Ballesteros and Lee Trevino. Two-time U.S. Open winner Ernie Els received on this year.
How big is the Open field?
It is 156 players.
But this year is different, correct?
Very different. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the championship has been moved from mid-June to mid-September, no fans are allowed to attend and the USGA abandoned qualifying. Instead, the organization used a series of exemption categories to determine the field.
Where is this year’s Open being played?
It is being played for the sixth time at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York.
What was the “Massacre at Winged Foot”?
U.S. Open courses are typically set up to be very difficult, with long rough and fast greens, but Winged Foot, site of the 1974 Open, took things to a new level. Not one player broke par in the first round, and Hale Irwin’s 7-over 287 score was the second-highest U.S. Open winning total since World War II. Many believed – still believe – that the USGA made the course extra difficult in retaliation for Johnny Miller having shot a record 63 the previous year at Oakmont. The phrase “Massacre at Winged Foot” was coined by sportswriter Dick Schaap, who used it as the title of a book he wrote about the championship.
Oh, you mean that wasn’t 2006?
No, that was a different kind of golf debauchery. The last time the U.S. Open was contested at Winged Foot, in 2006, Colin Montgomerie and Phil Mickelson – among others – blew chances to win on the final hole. Mickelson led by one shot entering the 72nd hole, in a bid for his first U.S. Open title and, at the time, third consecutive major win. He proceeded to make a ghastly double bogey and Geoff Ogilvy was crowned champ.
Which course has hosted the most Opens?
Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa., near Pittsburgh, has hosted nine Opens, including in 2016.
Who is the oldest player to win the Open?
Hale Irwin was 45 years and 15 days old when he won in 1990.
Who was the youngest winner?
John McDermott was 19 years, 315 days old when he won in 1911.
Who was the youngest player?
In 2012 a 14-year-old amateur from China, Andy Zhang, qualified.
Who had the largest victory margin?
Tiger Woods won by 15 strokes in 2000. This is the record for any major.
Who holds the 72-hole scoring record?
Rory McIlroy shot 268 in 2011. That was 16 under par – also a record – on par-71 Congressional. Brooks Koepka won in 2017 at par-72 Erin Hills with a 16-under total (272).
Who holds the 18-hole Open scoring record?
Johnny Miller set the record by shooting 63 in 1973 at Oakmont. That score was subsequently equaled by Jack Nicklaus (1980, Baltusrol), Tom Weiskopf (1980, Baltusrol), Vijay Singh (2003, Olympia Fields) and Justin Thomas (2017, Erin Hills).
What does a player get for winning the U.S. Open?
This year’s winner’s purse is $2,250,000 (out of $12.5 million, overall purse). The winner is also exempt from qualifying for the other three majors and The Players Championship for the next five years, and exempt from U.S. Open qualifying for the next 10 years. If the winner is a PGA Tour member, he would receive a five-year exemption to all PGA Tour events.
What happens if the U.S. Open is tied after 72 holes?
There used to be an 18-hole playoff the following day. Now, if two or more players are tied at the end of regulation there is a two-hole aggregate playoff, followed by sudden death.