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Ranking the Greatest Performances in US Open History

| June 4, 2022 9:46 am PDT
US Open logo, American flag, golf course, collages of golfers

The United States Open has been one of the biggest golf tournaments for over 100 years. The U.S. Open has traditionally used a challenging course to test the best golfers in the world. There haven’t been many low scores, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a great performance.

There have been many memorable moments in the U.S. Open. Whether it’s a big comeback or a dominant performance, these eight performances stand out in U.S. Open history.

Here are the greatest U.S. Open performances of all time.

8. Tiger Woods – 2008 U.S. Open

It didn’t take long for Tiger Woods to make an appearance. Woods is arguably the greatest golfer of all time, but a knee injury kept him out of action for the two months leading up to the 2008 U.S. Open.

Woods had a tough start, double-bogeying the first hole. He recovered with three birdies on the front nine, but another double bogey gave him a one-over score in the first round.

He climbed the leaderboard with a great second round. Woods had five birdies on the front nine and an eagle on the 13th hole. He also had four bogeys, but he was only one back heading into the third round.

Woods was dealing with knee pain, but he refused to slow down. He had a pair of long eagle putts in the third round and chipped in from off the green on 17. His eagle on the 18th hole gave him a one-shot lead going into the final round.

It was an up and down day, but Woods needed a birdie on the 18th hole to force a playoff. He hit the putt to force an 18-hole playoff against Rocco Mediate.

Woods had a three-stroke lead through ten holes, but Mediate recovered to take a one-shot lead. For the second straight day, Woods birdied the 18th hole to stay alive. A par on the 19th hole earned him his third U.S. Open title.

7. Johnny Miller – 1973 U.S. Open

Johnny Miller’s 1973 U.S. Open wasn’t very dominant, but there’s no denying it was one of the most clutch U.S. Open performances. He was looking for his first major championship after back-to-back top 10s in the U.S. Open.

Miller opened the tournament with a 70 and 72. He was only two-under, but you’re in contention in the U.S. Open. Miller trailed Gary Player by three shots.

Player dropped back after shooting a 77 in the third round. However, Miller was only one better with a 76. That left him five shots back heading into the final round. That’s where we saw Miller pull off one of the best U.S. Open performances.

He opened the round with four straight birdies. Miller bogeyed the eighth, but that was the only blimp on his scorecard.

Miller added four birdies on the back nine to score a one-shot victory over John Schlee.

There were many amazing feats about this performance. Miller became the first player in major championship history to shoot a 63. His round remains the best round at Oakmont. Miller also accomplished this on a day when only three players broke 70.

There’s no denying Miller’s final round is one of the top U.S. Open performances. He came from nowhere to capture his first major championship.

6. Billy Casper – 1966 U.S. Open

Billy Casper

Johnny Miller pulled off an impressive comeback in the 1973 U.S. Open, but that only paled compared to Billy Casper’s performance in the 1966 U.S. Open.

Casper was in contention throughout the tournament. He was one-under after the first round but moved into a tie for the lead after the second round. It looked like he and Arnold Palmer would battle for the win, but Palmer pulled away in the third round.

Palmer held a three-shot lead ahead of the final round, but that’s when Casper left his mark with one of the best U.S Open performances.

Palmer was six-under through nine holes, while Casper was seven shots back. I can’t imagine anyone gave Casper a shot, but check out their numbers on the back nine.

  • Billy Casper: 3 birdies
  • Arnold Palmer: 1 birdie and 5 bogeys

It was a massive final round collapse, as Palmer bogeyed three of the final four holes. His performance could’ve easily made the list of biggest PGA Tour collapses.

Casper helped his cause with three birdies on the back nine. That forced an 18-hole playoff on Monday. Palmer held a two-shot lead, but he had another back-nine collapse. He shot four over in the last seven holes, giving Casper the victory.

Palmer was a top performer in the U.S. Open, but only one of his top-five finishes was a victory.

5. Hale Irwin – 1990 U.S. Open

Hale Irwin

Hale Irwin was a dominant golfer in the 1970s, but his best days were well behind him in 1990. Irwin’s most recent top 10 finish in a major was the 1984 U.S. Open. That was also the year of his most recent PGA Tour victory.

The 45-year-old didn’t let that stop him from having one of the greatest U.S. Open performances.

Irwin wasn’t much of a factor in the early rounds. He was five-under through two rounds, leaving him four shots behind leader Tim Simpson. A rough third round left Irwin four shots back.

Like Johnny Miller and Billy Casper, Irwin staged a final-round comeback. He was even through ten holes, but check out his final eight holes.

  • 11: Birdie
  • 12: Birdie
  • 13: Birdie
  • 14: Birdie
  • 15: Par
  • 16: Par
  • 17: Par
  • 18: Birdie

His final-round performance moved him into a playoff with Mike Donald. It wasn’t looking good for Irwin, as he was two shots back with six holes remaining. Irwin had a pair of birdies, while Donald bogeyed the 18th hole.

Irwin birdied the 19th playoff hole to win his third U.S. Open. He also became the oldest winner in U.S. Open history. That all contributes to him being a top golfer at the U.S. Open.

4. Ben Hogan – 1950 U.S. Open

Big comebacks have been a common theme among the top U.S. Open performances, but Ben Hogan’s comeback wasn’t within the tournament.

Sixteen months before the 1950 U.S. Open, Hogan was in a car crash that left him with numerous injuries. Initially, doctors believed he would never walk again. However, he overcame the odds to compete in the 1950 U.S. Open.

After the first round, Hogan was six shots back, but he moved into contention with a 69 in the second round. Hogan shot two-over in the third round, but he remained two shots back.

The final round was a brutal scoring day. Hogan shot four-over in the final round and didn’t have a birdie. However, that was enough to qualify for a playoff.

Hogan faced Lloyd Mangrum and George Fazio in an 18-hole playoff. Hogan and Mangrum were neck-and-neck, with Fazio in striking distance. Ultimately, the final five holes decided the winner.

Hogan shot one under, while Mangrum and Fazio combined to shoot six over. Hogan captured his second of four U.S. Open titles.

The score isn’t indicative of a top U.S. Open performance, but Hogan’s comeback from the car crash is more impressive than anything else. He overcame the odds by just competing. He is one of the best performers in the U.S. Open.

His performance has me thinking about the largest PGA Tour comebacks.

Ranking the Largest PGA Tour Comebacks of All Time

Wondering what the biggest comeback in PGA Tour history is? The answer is 10 shots and it happened to occur at a major championship. More on that calamity later on. We’ve also seen a nine-shot comeback on tour, as well as nine comebacks from a player...

Read More

3. Jack Nicklaus – 1967 U.S Open

Jack Nicklaus

Jack Nicklaus is an 18-time major champion, so it only makes sense that he has one of the greatest U.S. Open performances.

Amateur Marty Fleckman held a two-shot lead following the first round. Nicklaus struggled out the gate, shooting a one-over 71. An impressive second round moved him one shot behind Arnold Palmer. Palmer, Nicklaus, and Billy Casper were 1-2-3 heading into the weekend.

After the third round, all three players were even par, but Fleckman reclaimed the lead.

It looked like a classic finish between the four golfers. Ultimately, it turned into a battle between Nicklaus and Palmer. Fleckman shot 10-over while Casper fell out of contention. Following a bogey on the second hole, Nicklaus went on an impressive run.

  • 3: Birdie
  • 4: Birdie
  • 5: Birdie
  • 6: Bogey
  • 7: Birdie
  • 8: Birdie

Nicklaus took command with a dominant performance on the front nine. He bogeyed the 10th hole but birdied three of the last six holes to capture his second of four U.S. Opens. His four U.S. Opens are more than enough to consider him one of the best golfers at the U.S. Open.

Everyone wanted a dual between Palmer and Nicklaus. Nicklaus left no doubt about who was the better golfer in the 1967 U.S. Open.

2. Rory McIlroy – 2011 U.S. Open

Rory McIlroy entered the 2011 U.S. Open a little over two months after a heartbreaking collapse in the 2011 Masters. I’d say McIlroy earned redemption with one of the most dominant U.S. Open performances.

He opened the tournament with a bogey-free 65. He looked even better in the second round, shooting a five-under 66. McIlroy had a double bogey on the 36th hole, but his six-shot lead tied a 36-hole major record. He also broke the record for the lowest 36-hole score in U.S. Open history.

McIlroy continued his strong play with a three-under score in the third round. He held an eight-shot lead going into the final round. McIlroy was well on his way to one of the best U.S. Open performances.

He had three birdies in his first ten holes, including a near hole-in-one on the 10th hole. A pair of back-nine bogeys couldn’t stop McIlroy as he claimed the 2011 U.S. Open with an eight-shot victory.

McIlroy’s performance set numerous records. His 16-under and 268 total shots are both a U.S. Open record. He also became the third golfer to shoot four rounds in the 70s in the U.S. Open. I’d say that qualifies as one of the most dominant U.S. Open performances.

Our US Open betting guide will give you more information about McIlroy’s triumph.

1. Tiger Woods – 2000 U.S. Open

Tiger Woods happy

Did you expect anyone else? Tiger Woods entered the 2000 U.S Open on the heels of three straight top 10 finishes in majors. Woods made sure he would do one better at Pebble Beach.

Woods cruised through the first round, recording six birdies to take a one-shot lead. The second round featured tough conditions, but Woods powered through to post a two-under 69.

It was even worse on Saturday, as Ernie Els was the lone player to shoot under par. However, Woods’ even-par round gave him a 10-shot lead. He was eight-under, while Els was two-over in second.

Woods capped off the most impressive U.S. Open performance with a four-under 67. He parred the first nine holes but birdied four of his first five holes on the back nine.

He finished 12-under, 15 shots ahead of second-place. No one had ever seen a performance like this in the U.S. Open. Woods became the first player in U.S. Open history to finish double-digits under par. His 15-shot victory remains the largest in major championship history.

Woods has won 15 major championships, but it’s hard to argue with the 2000 U.S. Open not being his most dominant performance. No one else broke par, while Woods finished 12-under.

His victory kicked off the “Tiger Slam” as Woods won the ensuing three majors.

While The Masters is the biggest major, there must be extra motivation to win the U.S. Open. Americans want to represent their country, and what better way to do that than by winning the United States Open.

The greatest U.S. Open performances featured comebacks and dominant performances. It’s hard to imagine anyone will top Tiger Woods’ 2000 U.S. Open but never say never.

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Nicholas Sterling
Nicholas Sterling

Nicholas has been a Sports Writer with GamblingSites.com since May 2021. He has a rich sports background, writing about NASCAR, NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, Golf, etc. Nick is always ready for a new challenge.

He enjoys rooting on D.C. sports teams, including the Commanders, Wizards, and Capitals.

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