As one of the four majors, the US Open is widely regarded as one of the pinnacles of the men’s game in golf. It was first established in 1895 and over the last 120+ years it’s remained relatively true to its roots in allowing both amateur and professional players to compete in the same tournament.
The tournament is held every year and takes place across a range of courses throughout the US. The courses are one of the more interesting aspects to the event as they are generally set up to be about as tough as possible. Compared with regular PGA Tour events, the US Open on average plays several shots harder, highlighting both the severity of the courses and the fact that only the best players will prosper.
The courses are chosen on a rota basis and each year will be at a different course. Course layout, difficulty, facilities and the ability to host tens of thousands of fans over the span of the 4 days are the main criteria for course selection. As it’s held in the middle of June each year means that the climate does play a role, with the North East of America hosting significantly more US Open’s than any other area across the country.
|Winged Foot Golf Club||Mamaroneck, New York||7,477 Yards||$12,500,000|
The USGA have taken some fairly bold decisions in recent years when it comes to the host venue for the US Open. It’s not always gone to plan with Chambers Bay and Erin Hills examples of courses which were far from universally revered but it is very different this year as the 2020 US Open heads to Winged Foot.
This is the sixth time that the classical, parkland layout has hosted the US Open. Geoff Ogilvy won the last time the US Open was at Winged Foot with a score of +5. Clearly, the course was playing very difficult that year and it is not expected to be any easier this time around even though the course underwent some significant changes under Gil Hanse’s guidance in 2016.
The handful of players competing this week who also played in 2006 will notice fewer spruce trees around the fairways and the lengthening of some holes but they won’t find Winged Foot playing any easier. This is a really tough course, where every single part of the players’ games will be tested but scrambling ability may be the most decisive factor given just how tricky things will be.
The USGA have allowed the rough to grow up, as is the norm for the US Open, so players will have to be careful with their tee shots. Distance will help, as always, but this is certainly not a layout that can be in any way overpowered.
As well as the test from the tee, it’s the green complexes that should provide the biggest challenge though. The vast majority of the greens are set above the fairway and are guarded by runoff areas. Hitting the greens in regulation is a serious challenge but it doesn’t get any easier once safely aboard as they are incredibly slopey and the speed can be controlled thanks to a sub air system.
So, this is going to be a real challenge, we’ve established that. Ogilvy won with +5, Hale Irwin won here in 1974 on +11 and both Billy Casper (1959) and Bobby Jones (1929) were also over par when they triumphed in US Opens here. The chances are that level par will be more than enough but who are the players most likely to be able to produce such a score?
US Open (Golf) Recent Winners
|Year||Winner||Course||To Par||Winning Margin|
|2020||Bryson DeChambeau||Winged Foot Golf Club||-6||6 Strokes|
|2019||Gary Woodland||Pebble Beach Golf Links||-13||3 Strokes|
|2018||Brooks Koepka||Shinnecock Hills Golf Club||+1||1 Stroke|
|2017||Brooks Koepka||Erin Hills||-16||4 Strokes|
|2016||Dustin Johnson||Oakmont Country Club||-4||3 Strokes|
|2015||Jordan Spieth||Chambers Bay||-5||1 Stroke|
|2014||Martin Kaymer||Pinehurst Resort||-9||8 Strokes|
|2013||Justin Rose||Merion Golf Club||+1||2 Strokes|
|2012||Webb Simpson||Olympic Club||+1||1 Stroke|
|2011||Rory McIlroy||Congressional Country Club||-16||8 Strokes|
About the US Open Championship
The US Open is one of the prestigious golf tournaments in the world making up one of the four major championships alongside the Masters, the PGA Championship and the Open Championship. These tournaments have shifted in the season schedule over the years though currently the US Open ordinarily takes place in June and is the third major played, following the PGA Championship but before The Open. In 2020 the tournament was switched to September.
The organisers of the event are the United States Golf Association (USGA), the national governing body for golf in the USA and Mexico. It is the USGA who preside over the rules of the sport in the country for all golfers, amateur and professional.
The tournament itself includes four rounds, which starts on the Thursday and run through to the Sunday. Each round includes 18 holes in total and the format is that of strokeplay. After 36 holes a cut is made, with the top 70 and ties or players within 10 shots of the lead. The remaining players all get to play over the weekend and the player with the lowest number of strokes across 72 holes will be deemed the winner.
One of the reasons why the US Open holds such high esteem in the golfing world is that technically any player with a handicap of 1.4 or better can qualify to play alongside the professionals. Each year the field will include 156 players and from that a host of qualifiers are played for access into the event.
Amateur players can gain entry by either being the winner or runner-up from the previous year’s US Amateur, the winner of the Amateur Championship, the top ranked amateur in the world, US mid-amateur and US junior amateur champions.
From the professionals, the top 60 from the Official World Golf Rankings are all exempt, along with previous major winners, winners of high-profile tournaments such as the Players, BMW PGA and Tour Championship, including that of players on the senior tour as well. A series of qualifying events are held around the world, open for both professional and amateurs alike.
The US Open has a couple of high profile tournaments that lead up to the event, normally in the form of the Canadian Open the week before, the Memorial Tournament two weeks before and the Charles Schwab three weeks before the US Open. The three events are often seen as part of a busy swing for the professional tour, with the major of players looking to hone their skills in order to be ready for one of the biggest prizes in golf.
Due to the calendar changes in 2020, the lead tournaments before the US Open were actually the three FedEx Cup playoffs and the Safeway Open.
US Open Lead-Up Tournaments (2020)
|August 20th – 23rd||Northern Trust||Dustin Johnson|
|August 27th – 30th||BMW Championship||Jon Rahm|
|September 4th – 7th||Tour Championship||Dustin Johnson|
|September 10th – 13th||Safeway Open||Stewart Cink|
The course rota is one of the most anticipated and debated in the golf when it comes to the US Open. As mentioned earlier, the USGA who host the event generally look to pick the hardest tests possible for the US Open. The majority of courses that you will see are links based, but not always exclusive to this style, with the likes of Pinehurst No.2 and Congressional being two examples. But courses such as Pebble Beach and Whistling Straits are some of the best links style courses in the world, let alone in the US.
One thing that is worth noting is that the USGA often go back to tired and tested venues, but also include those that either haven’t hosted for a number of years and have been improved and occasionally new courses to the tour altogether. Below is a list of the next seven venues for the US Open.
Upcoming US Open Venues
|2021||Torrey Pines (South Course)||La Jolla, San Diego, California||7628|
|2022||The Country Club||Brookline, Massachusetts||7033|
|2023||Los Angeles Country Club||Los Angeles, California||7200|
|2024||Pinehurst||Moore County, North Carolina||7588|
|2025||Oakmont Country Club||Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania||7255|
|2026||Shinnecock Hills Golf Club||Southampton, New York||7445|
|2027||Pebble Beach Golf Links||Monterey County, California||7040|
Whilst dozens of golf courses across America have been lucky enough to host a US Open, there are a few courses that get frequented on the rota more than others. No course has held more tournaments that Oakmont Golf and Country Club, with 9 in total stretching from 1927 through to 2016 and will host their tenth in 2025. Baltusrol Golf club is second with seven, Pebble Beach and Oakland Hills are third with six up to and including 2020. Pebble Beach will again hold the US Open in 2027 taking them to joint second with seven.
Shinnecock Hills is widely regarded as one of the very best golf courses in America. It’s a links style layout that has remained true to the architectural vision of William Flynn who did such great work in 1930. The players have been fulsome in their praise of the venue, claiming that the winner will be the man who plays the best golf, not the man who gets luckiest. The cream will rise to the top this week and it could well be the time that Jon Rahm makes the step up to become a major champion.
Shinnecock Hills was established over 125 years ago. A lot of work has gone into the layout since then and the 2012 redesign overseen by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore has done a great job of ensuring it remains a firm but fair test for the world’s best golfers. The introduction of new championship tees has taken the par 70 course to a challenging 7,445 yards with the compromise being the widening of many fairways. Still, this is not the safe haven for bombers that Erin Hills was last year and will be particularly tough if and when the wind blows.
The US Open is actually the second richest golf tournament in the world with a total purse of $12.5 million and the winner picking up a cool $2.25 million. To compare that to other majors, the Masters has a purse of $11.5 million with the PGA Championship at $11 million. The Open Championship has a purse of £10.75 million, but this does fluctuate given the current state of the economy and exchange rates. The most valuable golf tournament as of 2020 is the Players Championship at $15,000,000 though this was cancelled that year.
As of the 2018 tournament, if there is a tie for the lead after 72 holes, those players will advance to a two-hole aggregate play-off to determine the winner. This means the scores are taken across both holes played. If any players remain tied after these two holes, they will continue to play one hole at a time in a sudden death format.
Prior to the 2018 rule change, The US Open was unique in that it was the only one of the four majors that played an 18-hole play-off the following day should one or more players be tied on the same score. The players would all start from scratch and then the winner would be the player with lowest score over 18 holes. If scores were still tied then a sudden-death format would be played. Since 1895 the US Open has only ever had 33 play-off rounds, only three in the last 25 years, the latest won by Tiger Woods in 2008 at Torrey Pines.
Last 5 US Open Play-Offs
|2008||Tiger Woods (USA)||1 shot (18 holes)||Rocco Mediate (USA)|
|2001||Retief Goosen (RSA)||2 shots (18 holes)||Mark Brooks (USA)|
|1994||Ernie Els (RSA)||1 shot (19 holes)||Loren Roberts (USA)|
|4 shots (18 holes)||Colin Montgomerie (SCO)|
|1991||Payne Stewart (USA)||2 shots (18 holes)||Scott Simpson (USA)|
|1990||Hale Irwin (USA)||1 shot (19 holes)||Mike Donald (USA)|
As with all the majors, aside from probably the Masters as it resides at the same location each years, the courses and picked and selected to not favour one player type each year. As you can see from the table above of the courses over the next 10 years with the lengths, you get short courses such as Shinnecock and long courses such as Torrey Pines.
The list of winners over the last decade doesn’t really show an awful in terms of correlation in terms of driving distance either. Whilst previous winners such as Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson are undoubtedly bombers, the likes of Jordan Spieth, Martin Kaymer and Webb Simpson are definitely not players you would associate with hitting the ball out of sight.
The main key ingredient we think that links all of the winners is being solid off the tee (hitting lots of fairways, not necessarily long) and having a good short game. The US Open tracks are set up to be very tough with 7 out of the last 16 events winning at scores of level or over par. Players are going to make bogeys, but making sure that they limit them to just that and not double, triple or even worse really keeps a round going.
The Americans have dominated the event though and put claim to 86 winners in total. To put that in perspective, Scottish players are the next most successful, with 13 winners overall. But, the Europeans have made a bit of comeback in recent years, with winner such as Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Martin Kaymer winning 4 of the 5 US Opens between 2010 and 2014.
Most Successful Players
There are currently 4 players who are tied with most wins (4) overall at the US Open, these are Willie Anderson, Bobby Jones (amateur), Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus. They also just so happen to be some of the best players to have played the game. Tiger Woods is the most successful from the modern era, with 3 wins to his name.
Rory McIlroy had one of the most incredible 4 days in US Open history back in 2011 when he destroyed the notoriously difficult Congressional Country Club, shooting a score of 268, which equated to 16 under par, the lowest US Open score ever.
His 8 shot victory was mightily impressive, but it failed to beat the greatest margin of victory ever recorded at a US Open of a staggering 15 shots by that of Tiger Woods in 2000 at Pebble Beach. What was most staggering about the victory or manner of victory even, is that Woods’ score was 12 under par, meaning he was the only player to be under par that week. Just let that sink in. The only player under par from 150+ players and his score was 12 under! It’s widely regarded as one of the most dominating victories on a golf course of all time.
In terms of general scores posted, a huge range can occur at the US Open, which is what it’s one of the most exciting majors. As we’ve stated, in the last 10 years alone wining scores as high as +5 have won it, with scores as lows as McIlroy’s record of 16 under and pretty much everything in between. As a middle ground you would be looking at around 5 under, but again, it has so much to do with the course set up and weather that it’s tough to really back up these assumptions.
The oldest winner of the US Open was that of Hale Irwin in 1990 at 45 years and 15 days, with the youngest being that of John McDermott, aged just 19 years and 10 months in 1911.
The amateurs, in all honesty tend to struggle at the event and there hasn’t been an amateur winner since Johnny Goodman in 1933. The last highest ranked amateur was that of Jack Nicklaus in 1960, finishing second to none other than the great, Arnold Palmer.
The US Open has been about since 1895, making it one of the oldest golf tournaments in the world. Interestingly enough, the first tournament was actually played by just 11 players, 1 of which was an amateur. The event took place at the Newport Country Club. At the time, the golf course only had 9 holes, so in total 36 holes were played (4 rounds of 9) with all of them being played in the same day.
The first winner of the US Open was that of Horace Rawlins, who won the tournament aged just 21 years old. Much to the American’s dismay, Rawlins just so happened to be English as well! Rawlins went on to pick up a sizeable paycheque of $150 from the $335 prize pool. On top of that a gold medal worth $50 was also received by Rawlins, before his home club was formerly presented with the Open Championship Cup trophy for that year.
Interestingly enough, the British dominated early US Opens and it wasn’t until John McDermott’s win in 1911 that the first American finally got on the board. Of course, as the sport started taking off across the pond, the dominance of the American’s really started to show, with them winning way more US Open’s than any other nation or area. Since 1950, only players from 6 other nations have won the US Open.
The actual date of when the US Open or any of the four majors for that matter were officially crowned a major, is unknown. Many date it back to around the 1960’s when Arnold Palmer wanted to win the PGA and The Open after already winning the Masters and US Open to complete his Grand Slam. It would appear that all the four events were regarded as the biggest and best in the world, so naturally have fallen into place as the major tournaments in golf.
Ben Hogan is widely regarded as one of the best and most important golfers of all time. In an illustrious career both on and off the course, Hogan picked up 9 majors in total, with four of those coming from the US Open, the tied most victories of any player ever.
Hogan was famed for a silky smooth swing and his ball striking was often thought of to be the best ever. In fact, his book ‘5 Fundamentals of Golf’ is still one of the most popular golf teaching books of all-time and his theories are as apparent today as they were over 50 years ago.
His win back in 1948 was probably the most impressive of his 4 US Open wins. He managed to shoot 8 under par, which was the lowest aggregate score at the US Open. But, what makes it more impressive is that this record stood for over 50 years until Tiger Woods shot 12 under at Pebble Beach in one of the most amazing US Open victories ever.
Whilst Hogan never did complete the career Grand Slam (winning all four majors in a calendar year), he went very close in 1953, winning the Masters, Open Championship and US Open.
Francis Ouimet is a name that you might not be all that familiar with, but is a hugely important figure within both the US Open and the game of golf in general. Ouimet went on to be the first amateur winner of the US Open at the 1913 event and really managed to put golf on the map for a lot of non-professional and social players.
His win in 1913 was made even more impressive when he managed to beat two of the best players in the world in a play-off following a tied 72 holes previously. The players in question were Harry Vardon and Ted Ray, both professional golfers at the time.
Ouimet’s score of -1 would comfortably beat both Vardon’s and Ray’s scores of +5 and +6, respectively, and would go down as one of the biggest sporting upsets of all-time.
His win brought golf to the masses in the US and also tied in with the countries dominance within the US Open. In fact, many people truly believe that had Ouimet not been able to seal the deal in the playoff on the Monday, it would have set American golf back decades, such was the importance of his win.
McIlroy is one of the best golfers of the modern era. With 4 majors to his name by the age of just 25, he’s likely going to go down as one of the best of all-time. He sprung onto the scene in 2011 with his first major win at the US Open in Congressional. But, it wasn’t the fact that he was able to win the event, it was more the manner of the win.
You see, McIlroy went on to shoot a record breaking 16 under par for a total score of 268. He ended up winning it by 8 shots in total, which is one of the biggest margins of victories ever seen as well. Basically, the then 22-year-old had blitzed hundreds of years’ worth of golfing records within just 4 rounds.
But, his record at the US Open since that win has been pretty poor for his standards. He actually missed the cut in 4 of his following 9 US Opens with just three top 10 finishes to speak of in that time.