5 Times the U.S. Open Beat Down the World’s Greatest Golfers

Much has been said this about how difficult Oakmont is expected to be for the U.S. Open. It was absolutely merciless last time Oakmont played U.S. Open host, as winner Angel Cabrera finished at 5-over par.

As tough as it was, it was far from the only time that the remorseless U.S. Open monster enveloped an entire field of elite golfers.

Here is a look at some of the more memorable ones:

1898, 1901, and 1908 at Myopia Hunt Club

Winning scores: 328 Fred Herd, 331 Willie Anderson, 322 Fred McLeod, respectively

I’m grouping these three U.S. Opens together because golf was such a different game back then. Pars had not even existed yet. While it is impossible to compare those tournaments to more recent ones, there were some interesting stories that should be recognized.

Fred Herd, 1898 U.S. Open Champion

The Myopia Hunt Club was a originally nine-hole course, and to get to 72 holes, the golfers had to play each nine eight times. In the 1898 edition, the only U.S. Open at Myopia before the expansion to 18 holes, winning golfer Fred Herd shot three rounds in the 80s and still won. The 1901 version had to be spread out over five days to accommodate member play.

The players in the 1908 U.S. Open had to deal with high winds in addition to the normal course difficulties, which showed as nobody carded a round of less than 77 the entire tournament. Professional golf was in its nascency, and man had yet to tame it.

1963 at The Country Club

Winning score: Julius Boros +9 (293)

Before he became the oldest to ever win a major, Julius Boros was the survivor at the end of 1963’s U.S. Open carnage. One stat from this tournament that shows how just how tough it was: Jack Nicklaus missed the cut at +11, and this event was in the early part of the Golden Age of the Golden Bear.

Julius Boros is the last person to win the #DDL16 and the #USOpen in the same year, back in 1963. Credit USGA

The winds at the Boston area course wrecked havoc during the entire tournament, with gusts reaching upwards of 50mph! A combination of the wind, deep rough, and small greens made 1963 one that most of its participants would like to forget.

1974 at Winged Foot aka “The Massacre at Winged Foot”

Winning score: Hale Irwin +7 (287)

The 1974 U.S. Open was such a disaster for the players that it became known as “The Massacre at Winged Foot”. A combination of treacherous conditions and alleged overcompensation of the course set-up in the aftermath of Johnny Miller’s famous round of 63 the year prior, produced a tournament unlike like one that had never been seen before.

Hale Irwin survived extremely difficult conditions to win the 1974 U.S. Open at Winged Foot, the first of his three U.S. Open triumphs. Credit: USGA

The rough was nearly unplayable; well-over six inches in many spots. Miller exclaimed that it was impossible to hit out of it with anything other than a wedge. Any drive not hit into the fairway was almost guaranteed to lead to lost strokes.

2000 at Pebble Beach

Winning score: Tiger Woods -12 (272) | Best score among players not named Tiger: +3 (287)

I cannot hold it against Pebble Beach for getting mauled by Tiger in 2000. He was Ali/Ruth/Gretzky all rolled into one at that point in his career. Ripping Pebble Beach for Tiger’s score would be like criticizing Barry Sanders for never winning a ring with the Lions. The Detroit Lions franchise is an unstoppable vortex of losing. Just like Pebble, Barry never had a chance.

Tiger Woods left the field in the dust at the 2000 U.S. Open Championship at Pebble Beach.

Nobody else was able to figure out how to keep their balls on line on the frustratingly brutal, much criticized poa annua greens, and as a result, the best non-Tiger score was the +3 posted by Ernie Els and Miguel Angel Jimenez.

Ryan Moore once said that Pebble’s greens under the old setup required shots that he “can’t physically do”, which did not seem to bring about much disagreement.

2006 at Winged Foot

Winning score: Geoff Ogilvy +5 (285)

The Massacre was not the only time that Winged Foot played unbelievably difficult. 2006 was one of those special tournaments that is remembered less for what the winner was able to do, and much more for how others lost it. This was the year that Phil Mickelson stood on the 18th tee box with a one-stroke lead, and double bogeyed.

Mickelson’s collapse occurred immediately after Colin Montgomerie had three-putted the same hole for a double bogey of his own, and Jim Furyk missed a short putt that would have forced a playoff.

Golfer Phil Mickelson stares at the ground on June 18, 2006, on the 18th green after realizing he would double-bogey to lose the U.S. Open by one stroke. Getty

The difficulties of Mickelson, Montgomerie, and Furyk on 18 can be largely imputed on major championship pressure, but their sky-high final scores, and the troubles of the rest of the field showcased just how tough Winged Foot played.

Joel Cook

Joel Cook is Pro Golf Weekly's Lead Writer. He is a member of the Golf Writer's Association of America.

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