While the Masters gets the most acclaim and attention, the U.S. Open has provided more memorable events over the last 11 years. Before we head into the third major of the year, we need to take a look back at the most recent editions.
Our friends at the USGA have done a fantastic job of maximizing attention (for better or worse) at their championships. Course setup always has an impact on this event. It brings drama, controversy, and plenty of quotes for the media to play with.
The USGA has also dipped their toes in the modern golf pool recently, leading to some phenomenal content. This ranking will take all aspects of the championships into consideration. This means that the leaderboard, quality of course, weather, drama, controversy, and level of Phil heartbreak all play a role in my rankings.
11th Place – June 12-15, 2014
The 2014 U.S. Open suffered because Martin Kaymer was too good, plain and simple. Kaymer opened the tournament with two rounds of 65 and held a six-shot lead heading into the weekend. That does not happen, especially not at a U.S. Open.
When all was said and done, Kaymer won by eight strokes. Those looking for intrigue and drama were left longing. Well, actually, Patrick Reed’s wife did kick his own family off the golf course, but that’s neither here nor there.
This event was the first look that most had at the restored Pinehurst No. 2. It was the first U.S. Open played there since Payne Stewart ripped Phil’s heart out. Coore and Crenshaw did remarkable work on the property and showed how strong architecture helps separate the best player.
10th Place – June 15-18, 2017
In 2017, the USGA looked like an 18-year-old drinking for the second time. Erin Hills was its second foray with the “made for U.S. Open”-style venue. The first came at Chambers Bay and didn’t go well—like drinking six Four Lokos and puking in your sock drawer. In an effort to avoid a repeat, the tournament committee was too cautious with the setup at Erin Hills, though the expectation of wind obviously played a role.
Kevin Na started complaining about the fescue early. Justin Thomas shot a remarkable 63 on Saturday to get into contention. In the end, we saw the contrasting styles of Brooks Koepka and Brian Harman battle down the back nine on Sunday.
Unfortunately for this event, two-man races aren’t always the most entertaining. We had Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas in the mix, but neither played well on Sunday. Kopeka made matters even more benign by pulling away at the end. It was a fine event but not one we will remember forever.
9th Place – June 18 – 22, 2009
Mike Weir, Ricky Barnes, and Lucas Glover. Those were the names atop the leaderboard after each round of the 2009 U.S. Open. That’s not going to move the needle.
The event itself, however, was rather entertaining. Heading into the final round, it appeared that Glover and Barnes were in a two-horse race. Low and behold, the pair went a combined +10 through 12 holes, and Phil Mickelson came from six shots back to tie the lead. Lefty played 9-13 in -4. David Duval also reinvigorated himself with a back-nine charge.
Per usual, Phil let the event slip away. Duval did as well. This left Glover and Barnes to decide who wanted to lose more than the other. Turns out Ricky Barnes did, leaving Lucas Glover holding the trophy.
What I’ll remember most about this event is that Glover won a major championship in the rain without wearing a glove. That’s incomprehensible.
8th Place – June 17 – 20, 2010
Pebble Beach and the U.S. Open, living together in perfect harmony.
While 2010 wasn’t the best national championship that the course has ever seen, it did provide some great moments. Eight different countries were represented in the top nine after the first round. Tiger the tanimal made a Saturday charge to get into the conversation. Grégory Havret made France proud. But the tournament will be remembered for Dustin Johnson’s meltdown and Graeme McDowell’s triumph.
I’ll never forget getting to a TV and seeing Dustin Johnson on the 5th tee at -1. I was caddying that morning, and DJ was -6 before he teed off. Turns out that 2010 wasn’t a great year of majors for Dustin (shoutout waste bunkers). He tripled the 2nd hole at Pebble, doubled the 3rd, and bogeyed the 4th on his way to an 82. This left McDowell with the victory and a great embrace with his dad that every father and son could appreciate.
7th Place – June 14 – 17, 2012
There were some cool storylines at The Olympic Club for the 2012 U.S. Open. A 14-year-old Andy Zhang qualified for the event. A 17-year-old Beau Hossler was in the top 10 going into Sunday. Tiger and McDowell were in the mix yet again. Jim Furyk looked to be in position to capture his second U.S. Open before being overcome by a case of the hooks.
In the end, Webb Simpson was the only one who didn’t piss down his own leg. Webb was six shots back through five holes on Sunday but made four closing birdies and won by two.
Ultimately, though, the 2012 U.S. Open was not memorable because of the golf. Not at all. In one of the most bizarre scenes ever been on a golf telecast, Bob Costas was interrupted by an “environmental activist” while interviewing Simpson. Mike Davis pulling Jungle Bird out of the picture will forever be the lasting image of this event.
6th Place – June 13 – 16, 2013
The week of the 2013 U.S. Open was full of low whispers among golf fans: “Is he really going to do it this time?”
He, of course, is Phil Mickelson. Phil led or co-led each of the first three rounds at Merion. On Sunday, Phil three-putted Nos. 3 and 5 for double bogeys and brought a slew of players back into the fray. Hell, Hunter Mahan led for a bit.
Phil eagled the 10th hole from 76 yards away to get a share of the lead with Justin Rose. The two stayed that way until 13 when Rose made birdie to Phil’s bogey. Rose ended up holding on for a two-shot victory after hitting some strong long irons on the final two holes.
The 2013 showing will always be memorable because of Phil. It was his sixth runner-up finish at the U.S. Open, an event he is desperate to capture. Justin Rose was a worthy champion, but our hearts were with Phil throughout their Sunday battle.
5th Place – June 16 – 19, 2011
Not all blowouts are created equal.
In June of 2011, Rory was just two months removed from a final-round 80 at the Masters. All of the storylines going into the U.S. Open were about whether he could recover from his epic collapse and prove that he was one of the best players in the world.
Enter mother nature. Rain pounded Congressional Country Club leading up to the event, creating extremely soft conditions. Rory bomb-and-gouged the course into submission. He led by three after Thursday, six after Friday, and eight after both Saturday and Sunday. Frankly, he whupped ass.
It was the epitome of the modern game. Rory simply hit it farther and straighter than the rest of the field. Winning in runaway fashion for your first major: decent.
4th Place – June 14-17, 2018
It has become obvious that players are preemptively upset as they head into the U.S. Open. 2018 at Shinnecock Hills was a perfect example of this.
Thursday was chaos. The scoring average soared over 76 and just four players broke 70. Tiger (78), Rory McIlroy (80), and Jordan Spieth (78) were all well on their way to missed cuts. On Friday, Dustin Johnson separated himself from the field, recording a 67 to take a four-shot lead into the weekend. Brooks Koepka and Tommy Fleetwood both shot 66, the low rounds of the day, to get themselves in the mix after opening 75s.
It started innocently enough. Daniel Berger and Tony Finau, beginning 11 strokes off the lead, put up a pair of 66s in the morning wave. As the afternoon winds picked up, the course dried out, and… things happened.
Phil released years of U.S. Open frustration, Zach Johnson sounded off, and the last four groups got completely ejected. Brooks Koepka shot the low round of the contenders, 72. Only three players broke 70 on the day, and the scoring average was over 75 for the second time in three days. Outrage over the setup gloriously boiled over. Few players kept their composure.
The USGA clearly took heed of the players’ reaction and neutered the golf course on Sunday. Tommy Fleetwood started the action early, birdieing eight holes on his way to a 63 and the clubhouse lead. Brooks Koepka birdied three of the first five holes to grab the outright lead while others chased. Brooksy wavered a bit in the middle of his round but never surrendered the top spot on the leaderboard. He made a cautious bogey on the 72nd hole and walked away with his second straight U.S. Open title.
3rd Place – June 16-19, 2016
The golf world has never been as flustered as it was during the final round of the 2016 U.S. Open. Early in the back nine, Dustin Johnson was told he may be penalized for making his ball move on the 5th green. He wasn’t told he WAS being penalized; he was told he MAY be penalized.
The uncertainty sent everyone into a tizzy.
Ironically, DJ seemed to be the person least affected by the news. He put on a driving display the likes of which we rarely see. He finished the round by stuffing his approach on 18 right down the throats of the rules officials. He closed with a birdie, accepted the asinine penalty, and won by three strokes. His victory came the year after his heartbreak at Chambers Bay and was his first major championship.
Side note, if they played the U.S. Open at Oakmont every year, I would not be upset.
2nd Place – June 18 – 21, 2015
Chaos. Pure, unadulterated chaos. That was the Chambers Bay U.S. Open in a nutshell. The USGA got the place to a new level of firm, and the greens were incredibly unreliable. Oh, and Jason Day had to literally lie down because of vertigo.
They also played golf. Branden Grace, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Jason Day, and Jordan Spieth were the lead pack for the entire week.
On Sunday, it came down to Grace, DJ, and Jordan. On 16, Grace sent his tee shot out of bounds while Spieth made the biggest putt of his life. This gave Spieth a three-shot lead with two to play. He then doubled 17, which Johnson birdied in the group behind him. In the end, Spieth birdied 18 while DJ made a three-putt par, giving Spieth his second straight major.
The USGA may stay away from Chambers Bay for a while, but the memories from the 2015 U.S. Open will stick forever.
1st Place – June 12 – 16, 2008
Expect anything different?
There are certain things all golfers remember: their first hole-in-one, their lowest round, the best course they’ve played, and where they were when Tiger made the putt on the 72nd hole of the 2008 U.S. Open.
Tiger’s win over Rocco Mediate may go down as the most legendary win in the history of golf. Saturday gave us the eagle on 13, the chip-in on 17, and yet another eagle on 18 (all three here). Sunday gave us the most dramatic putt of his career. And Monday gave us the last 18-… well, 19-hole playoff we are likely ever to see. Tiger finally defeated Rocco for his 14th major championship.
Did I mention the broken leg?