US Open Fun Facts
A few fun facts about the US Open that you may not be aware of:
- The United States Golf Association has run 121 U.S Open Golf competitions. Since 1898, the competition has involved 4 challenging rounds of 18 holes, which equates to the classic 72 hole total.
- This year’s US Open was the 122nd Championship and was held at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts.
- The most successful golfers in the history of the Open are Willie Anderson, Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus. Ben Hogan won the US Open an unbelievable 4 times in his admirable career (1948, 1950, 1951, 1953).
The Early Days of the US Open
It is fascinating to see that from the earliest stages of the US Open English and Scottish golfers were particularly successful in the tournament. For golf aficionados, Horace Rawlins is a very special Englishman as he took the very first prize on the 9 hole event in Rhode Island at the Newport Country Club. With his luxuriant moustache and flat cap, he must have really shaken up the locals with his expertise on the fairways. Having begun his golfing career on the Isle Of Wight’s now defunct club, he travelled for a professional engagement with the Newport elite.
It did not, however, take long for the US Open to become an all-American success story and remain so for decades to come. In fact, from John McDermott in 1911 to Bryson DeChambeau in 2020, the American flag has been raised in the Rhode Island club a record breaking 86 times!
John McDermott’s claim to fame was that he not only became the first American to win the Open but at the tender age of 19, he was the youngest player to win the event!
In fact, John McDermott, the boy from Philadelphia, changed everything. The son of a mailman made US golf history. Not only was he the first player to break par over 72 holes at the 1912 U.S Open but he became one of the most celebrated golfers in the world between 1910 and 1914.
The dominance of American golfers since 1950 has only been challenged by six other nations. The great northern Englishman Tony Jacklin shook things up in 1970 and took the winning prize, breaking numerous records on the way. His title in 1970 was the first time in 84 years (1926-2009) that a European player lifted the prestigious trophy. This, the 70th U.S Open, was held at the Hazeltine National Golf Club and according to Dave Hill (the runner up in 1970), it was “Eighty acres of corn and a few cows. They ruined a good farm when they built this course.”
Fortunately, for all concerned, the fairways were given a thorough overhaul and twenty-one years later, the U.S Open returned to the somewhat maligned course. By the way, it would take another 40 years for Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell to follow on and lift the cup in 2010!
What It Takes to Reach The US Open
Historically, there have been very tight regulations for players who wish to enter the prestigious cup. About half of the field is made up of players who are fully exempt from qualifying. Some of the current exemption categories are:
- The winner of the last S. Senior Open
- In the year after an Olympic golf tournament, the reigning men's gold medallist
- The top 60 in the Official World Golf Ranking as of two weeks before the start of the tournament
- Winners of the U.S. Open for the last ten years
- Winners of the last three Players Championships
Tiger Woods at the US Open
It is almost impossible to write about the US Open without mentioning Tiger Woods. The year 2000 was an astonishing time for golf and the legendary player! Here are a few fun facts from the days when Tiger Woods dominate at the US Open:
- In 2000, Woods became the first player to finish a U.S. Open at double digits under par. In 1992, Gil Morgan was the first ever to be double digits under par at any stage of a U.S. Open, but failed to finish in double digits under par, and indeed failed to win that event, with Tom Kite winning instead.
- Tiger Woods holds the record for the largest margin of victory at the U.S. Open based on 72 holes (no playoffs), 15 strokes (2000). In 1929, Bobby Jones had a margin of victory of 23 strokes, but that tournament was played over 108 holes, as a 36-hole playoff was played because he and Al Espinosa were tied; Jones (141) defeated Espinosa (164) in the playoff.
- At the 2000 US Open, there were two runners up. One of them was the gentle giant Ernie Els who stands at 1.91 metres tall and has a relaxed swing, both of which contribute to his nickname “The Big Easy”. The second runner up that year Miguel Angel Jimenez, the Spaniard known as “The Mechanic” owing to the passion for red Ferraris!
- Tiger Woods was the only player to finish under par at the following U.S. Opens: In the year 2000 at Pebble Beach Golf Links, he finished with an impressive minus 12. Later, in 2002, he went on to a dynamic 3 under par at Bethpage State Park, Black Course.
Other Golfing Legends at The US Open
Golf fans, are of course, aware of some of the greats that have opposed the mainly American cup holders. South African Retief Goosen, having battled with the likes of Mark Brooks and Stewart Cink, was one of the exceptions.
He won the Open in 2001 and 2004 and he is widely considered a great example of the tough mind-set required for golf. His great golf buddy Henri Potgieter told Golf World at the time that he saw his friend struck by lightning! His father simply took this in his stride and saw this as a great omen. Apparently Goosen could not re-call the event but retains a scar on his wrist as a memento of the horrific ordeal!
The character of the US Open is clear: par usually set at 70, long, long fairways and tricky greens designed to challenge. The infamous course at Pinehurst No. 2 was once described by Johnny Miller of NBC as “like trying to hit a ball on top of a VW Beetle."
Well this obviously suited the playing style of the great Maori New Zealander Michael Campbell. It is a fun fact to note that at the tender age of 7 years old, Micheal Campbell actually putted on greens fenced off to avoid sheep from destroying them. This was the beginning of a very successful golfing career in which he won no less than 15 professional titles. He is a great example of diversity at its finest, descended from Scottish ancestry and on his mother’s side Maori. Campbell was the 105th winner of the US Open in 2005 and raised the cup at the Pinhurst Resort, taking home $1.17 million for his efforts. Not a bad day’s earnings!
We now turn to the Australian Geoff Ogilvy. In 2006, with a 1-stroke advantage, he took the trophy with what was his first major championship success and at the same time became the first Aussie to win a major since Steve Elkington won the PGA championship back in 1995. Geoff took home a very nice cheque that year for $1.2 million. The event in 2006 was played at the very glamorous Mamaroneck, New York club.
Our other non-American exception is the Argentine Angel Cabrera whose humble early start as a golf caddy set him off on the right foot. He lifted the US Open in 2007 and was defined by his heavy smoking and his huge powerful swing. At a post-round interview, Cabrera said, "Well, there are some players that have psychologists, some have sportologists, I smoke."
Sadly, after the highs of raising this great trophy he was later to be chased by Interpol and imprisoned on charges of assault, theft and illegal intimidation.
It seems that money and golf are somehow inseparable and looking at the stats following the history of the US Open, the money is eye watering. From the 2002 benchmark at Pebble Beach California of $1 million it has increased steadily and it doesn’t look like any recession is going to hold this cash flow back. It goes something like; $1 million in 2000, $1.35 in 2010 , Bryson DeChambeau pocketing $2.25 in 2020 and the never ending cash flow provided this year’s 2022 winner with a mega $3,150,000 million Dollars!
Golf is a funny old game, as they say:
“You hit down to make the ball go up. You swing left and the ball goes right. The lowest score wins. And on top of that, the winner buys the drinks.”
The US Open has an extraordinary past and it appears to have an epic future going by the fabulous stroke play at this year’s 2022 event and all out great win by Matt Fitzpatrick! Armed with all the above, you are now in a great position to start thinking about your bets for the US Open 2023.