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The U.S. Open Golf Championship – Complete Overview & Betting Guide

Winning the U.S. Open golf championship puts you in rarefied air. Most of us will never experience the climax that is winning the U.S. Open. That’s why we are here writing this article and not out there sinking the winning putt!

The goal of this page is for you to know just about everything there is to know about the National Championship of American Golf. We can’t describe what it feels like to win the tournament, but we can certainly tell you the ins and outs of how to qualify – believe us. We have tried.

We will discuss how the event is played at a bunch of different courses and go through a list of all the winners since 1960. We are going to discuss the what happens if golfers tie and there is a playoff, which is much different than with any of the other three Major Championships.

We of course wanted to share some of the most memorable U.S. Open highlights that us golf fans have been spoiled to witness over the years. Tiger’s incredible run at the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach immediately comes to mind, along with Tom Watson’s famous chip-in at 17 in 1992.

Our guide made sure these classics and other unforgettable moments and Championships would get the full attention they deserve.

If you are only curious about and interested in certain areas, feel free to use the table of contents below to guide yourself around your own personal U.S. Open journey.

For those of you who are starving for U.S. Open knowledge, continue reading. You will not be disappointed.

Table of Contents

We organized this page in such a way that you can pick and choose what you want to learn about.

If you are golf junkie like many of us are, pull up a chair and get comfortable. Crack open an ice-cold beverage and enjoy this ride through golf’s toughest championship – the U.S.

Now is a good time to give you a brief history of the beginning the tournament, before we get into all the details that make the tournament so exceptional.

Betting the U.S. Open

Betting during the U.S Open is meant to add to the entertainment of watching the event and to hopefully give you a chance to pad your bank account.

Follow these tips to advance and watch your wallet get thicker from round to round!

Who’s Trending?

When thinking about which golfers to bet for a specific tournament, very little in golf takes precedence over recent form. It’s much tougher to “put your money where your mouth is” when it comes to a golfer who has been playing poorly or hasn’t been playing at all.

Let’s just be honest here. The U.S. Open is a brutal test of golf. The only way to perform well at a U.S. Open is to be on your “A” game. It doesn’t matter who you are. Even the top players in the world get caught looking silly during a U.S. Open if they aren’t in control and command of their golf ball.

It goes without saying. When we target players to bet, we want guys that are playing well. This doesn’t mean only golfers that have won tournaments in the weeks leading up to the event.

If a guy was playing poorly in the early portion of the year and starts rounding into form, that works too.

Say Rory McIlroy played poorly early in the year and missed the cut at Augusta. Now pretend Rory finishes 20th, 10th, and 7th, in his next three events heading into the U.S. Open. That would constitute as “trending in the right direction.”

In fact, it’s generally these players that are “rounding into form” that have the best chance to win. The player who peaks the week before the U.S. Open is less likely to be able to repeat his performance.

There is a fine line and balance when it comes to preparing for a Major Championship. Between playing too much, not enough, and how well you are playing at a certain time, finding the perfect formula is not easy.

For this very reason, don’t put too much hype into the guys that have won in the weeks leading up to the Open.

Golfers don’t want to peak before the U.S. Open, but rather during the tournament.

For example, look at the 2017 Masters Champion, Sergio García. Sergio only played two tournaments in the six weeks leading into the Masters. A 14th place finish at the Honda Classic in late February followed by a 12th at the WGC Mexico Championships the next week was the perfect “recipe of preparation” for García.

Sergio didn’t win either of the events, but he showed he was playing consistently and giving himself chances. He essentially was ready to pounce on one of his opportunities, and now he has a Green Jacket hanging in his closet to prove the solid golf he was playing leading into the tournament was a big factor in being able to get the job done on Sunday.

See, trying to pick a single winner for the entire golf tournament can be tough. A U.S. Open field consisting of 156 players makes it awfully difficult to pick the guy who will be left standing on Sunday afternoon.

Fortunately for you, this doesn’t have to be the case. You don’t even have to pick a winner at all to make money betting the U.S. Open golf championship.

When it comes to deciding on what to actually bet on during the U.S. Open, we are spoiled by the plethora of wagers offered on the best online betting sites.

Golf IconProp Bets

Unlike a typical PGA Tour event, the number of bets available during the U.S Open balloons to a bounty of options. Instead of just being able to wager on different golfers to win the tournament outright and a few player matchups to play around with, you are now privileged to a buffet of offerings.

We are talking about the unique prop bets that are available to bettors on the top online betting sites.

Some prop bets aren’t even related to the actual golf that’s being played. To help illustrate this point, let’s examine some of the more popular prop bets that were offered at the online sportsbooks during the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills.

Will there be a hole-in-one?

  • Yes         -130
  • No          Even Money

Will Dustin Johnson make the cut?

  • Yes         -700
  • No          +460

What will the nationality of the winner be?

  • American             +110
  • European            +180
  • Other                    +250

What will the winner be wearing on his head?

  • Hat                         -1600
  • Visor                      +750
  • Nothing                +4500

Margin of Victory
Playoff+300
1 stoke+250
2 strokes+400
3 strokes+500
4 strokes+800
5 strokes+1500
6 strokes+3300
7 strokes+5000
8 strokes or more+2800

You can also bet on various categories that list individual odds for each golfer. For example:


Who will be the top European finisher?

All Europeans in the field are listed with their respective odds. This is basically offered for each nationality of the players participating in the tournament. All the Americans are listed with odds as to who will be the low finisher amongst the group.

Prop bets such as grouping two or more golfers together vs the field are also offered. The sites do a great job of trying to cover all the bases and give bettors ample opportunities to seek out unique bets.

Rory McIlroy and Jason Day vs the Field

  • McIlroy and Day               +600
  • Field                                   -1100

Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth vs the Field

  • Johnson and Spieth         +450
  • Field                                   -750

As you can see, betting on the U.S. Open is completely different than wagering on the average PGA Tour event. Jumping into the props can be a whole lot more fun and entertaining than the just picking a few matchups and trying to predict the winner.

Golf IconScour the Sites

As bettors, the more choices you have, the more likely you will find a wager you are interested in. As long as you are active on the best sites, there’s no doubt you’ll find plenty of fun bets during the U.S. Open.

Note that not every site will have the same props. The more sites you are scouring through, the more props you will encounter.

The other major reason you need to be combing through all the top betting sites that we listed at the toportant it becomes to be fully engulfed with the of the page is to make sure you are getting the absolute best price available. Take the 2018 U.S. Open for example. The first three sites we looked at we saw Jordan Spieth at +800, +1000, and +1200.

If we had only looked at the first site and made our bet, we would have left a lot of money on the table. Simply doing a tiny bit of homework and exploring an abundance of betting sites will automatically give you an edge.

If you are consistently getting the best lines, you will have a much better win rate in the long run.

The bottom line is that if you are looking to spice up the action during the U.S. Open, the section of prop bets is going to most likely be what does it for you.

Knowing and understanding what’s out there for you to bet on was the first step. We already talked about sifting through the golfers and feeling out who is trending upwards and primed for a big week.

The next order of business is to study the course, and the potential weather and setups the USGA committee will use.

Golf IconThe Course

Church Pew Bunker

**The famous Church Pews Bunker runs down the left side of the par-4 3rd hole at Oakmont Country Club

One thing that makes the U.S Open so special is the historic golf courses the USGA uses as host sites. There are 23 courses the USGA has used on more than one occasion to host the tournament, and the golfing public has gotten familiar with many of these tracks.

In order to bet confidently and profitably, you need to understand exactly what you are getting into. The term “different horses for different courses” applies here.

What it means is that certain setups and weather conditions will favor certain players who have particular strengths. For example, if the course is playing extremely long, say there’s a lot of rain and the players are getting no roll out on the drives.

In that case, you will want to target the “bombers”, or the guys that can carry the ball long distances. These are the players that will give themselves shorter approach shots into the greens, which leads closer proximity to the hole. That leads to better scoring, and that’s always the goal.

Let’s say one year the course is completely dried out. The temperature is hot and it’s blowing a steady 15-20 mph. The course is playing super firm and tremendously fast, and the rough is up.

This is clearly a brutal test for players, and the ones who are accurate off the tee and can keep it in the short grass will have the leg up.

When the conditions are firm and fast, the ball is getting plenty of roll-out. Even the shorter hitters are able to maximize their distance when landing the ball in the fairway.

Just knowing whether the course will be soft and wet or dry and fast can help you pick which golfers will play the best.

Golf IconPlayer Matchups

The best place to take advantage of the course knowledge and various conditions are in the player matchups. The U.S. Open will feature a bevy of head-to-head player matchups. You can generally bet on the overall tournament or choose to bet on a round-by-round basis.

Figure out who the best “bad weather” players are. Certain guys embrace tough conditions while others have a poor attitude about it. The ones who are willing to buckle down and plot their way through their rounds are the ones that are going to succeed in poor conditions.

Understanding that being an exquisite ball-striker in extraordinarily windy conditions is a huge advantage. When the wind starts howling on a long and difficult U.S. Open golf course, golfers “can’t fake it around.” If a player is not hitting the ball solidly, the wind is going to exaggerate the mishits and the player won’t have a legitimate chance at contending.

Players that can pierce and penetrate the ball through the wind will really stand out. Guys like Dustin Johnson or Sergio Garcia who are always hitting the ball off the center of the club face are going to be more dependable than players who are known to hit errant shots.

The more you dive into the prop bets and the player matchups, the more important it becomes to be fully engulfed with the specific venue that week.

The more nuances you can get a hold of, the better off and more prepared you will be. Things like checking out how many par-5s the course has is easy — just look at the scorecard.

You can take it a step further and see how many holes have hazards down the left side or study the type of grass used on the putting surfaces. Any advantages and extra knowledge you can wrap your head around will allow you to make your bets more confidently than those casual golf bettors just throwing money at the wall hoping something sticks.

Now that you are locked and loaded to make some dough, let’s start diving into the history of the tournament. It makes the most sense to just start back at the beginning.

The Beginning

The first U.S. Open was played in 1895 at Newport Country Club in Newport, Rhode Island. Back then, the Championship was contested over 36 holes in one single day. In total, 11 entries were all that teed up for the event.

A $150 cash prize and a gold medal worth $50 were the only compensations that 21-year-old Horace Rawlins received for winning the first title.

Clearly, the prize pool and winner’s share have certainly escalated since the inaugural event, but that’s not the only change that has been made from the early U.S. Opens. It wasn’t until the fourth Open in 1898 that the tournament was changed from 36 to 72 holes.

Fred Herd’s score of 328 in the 1898 U.S. Open, or an average of 82 per day, was good enough for a 7-shot victory that year. Keep in mind that with the equipment they were using during these times, this score is much more impressive than at first glance.

Consider that the balls players were using around 1900 were nothing like the “pearly white ones” we see on the on the course today.

Golf Balls Through the Years

While the golf equipment is changing as years go by, the importance of golf’s second Major Championship of the year is not. The rich tradition behind the tournament is what makes this such an admired golf tournament.

The Open has been played in each and every year since its inception in 1895, excluding 1917-1918, and 1942-1945, due to the World Wars.

Winning the U.S. Open means getting your name engraved on the trophy, something that is permanent. Joining the elite club that is the Champions of the U.S. Open means everything to a professional golfer. It is the rich and deep history behind the event that makes this Major arguably the most meaningful one of them all.

One thing that makes this tournament so special is the rotation of courses used by the United States Golf Association (USGA).

Rotation of Courses

The United States Golf Association is the governing body that organizes and controls this premier Championship. The USGA hosts a number of significant golf tournaments; however, the U.S. Open is their flagship event.

While there are a plethora of reasons this tournament is so substantial, the meticulous process of choosing and setting up the golf courses is right up at the top.

Golf IconCourses Used

An extreme amount of thought and careful consideration goes into selecting the location for a U.S. Open. The USGA will actually announce future host sites some 7-10 years in advance. Believe it or not, in some cases it takes several years to get a location ready.

For example, look at the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay in the state of Washington. They had to construct a clubhouse and other on-site facilities just to make the area hospitable for players and fans. Initially, there was nowhere near the course for the public to park their cars or sleep at night.

The amount of work and planning that goes into hosting a Major Championship like the U.S. Open is overwhelming. We haven’t even mentioned preparing the course setup. You can start to get a picture as to why these host sites are chosen so far in advance.

While the USGA will occasionally implement new courses into the rotation, there are 23 courses that have been used on more than one occasion. Take a look.

CourseLocation# of Times Hosted

(as of 2017)

Oakmont Country ClubOakmont, Pennsylvania9
Baltusrol Golf ClubSpringfield, New Jersey7
Oakland Hills Country ClubBloomfield Hills, Michigan6
Merion Golf ClubArdmore, Pennsylvania5
Olympic ClubSan Francisco, California5
Pebble Beach Golf LinksPebble Beach, California5
Winged Foot Golf ClubMamaroneck, New York5
Inverness Golf ClubToledo, Ohio4
Myopia Hunt ClubSouth Hamilton, Massachusetts4
Shinnecock HillsShinnecock Hills, New York4
Cherry Hills Country ClubCherry Hills Village, Colorado3
Chicago Golf ClubWheaton, Illinois3
Congressional Golf ClubBethesda, Maryland3
The Country ClubBrookline, Massachusetts3
Medinah Golf ClubMedinah, Illinois3
Oak Hill Country ClubRochester, New York3
Pinehurst ResortPinehurst, North Carolina3
Southern Hills Country ClubTulsa, Oklahoma3
Bethpage State ParkFarmingdale, New York2
Canterbury Golf ClubBeachwood, Ohio2
Hazeltine National Golf ClubChaska, Minnesota2
Olympia Fields Country ClubOlympia Fields, Illinois2
Philadelphia Cricket ClubPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania2

Expect these numbers to continue rising. With the locations announced for each U.S. Open until 2027, we already know we will see Torrey Pines join this list in 2021. The gorgeous setting just outside San Diego was the host of Tiger Woods’s dramatic playoff victory over Rocco Mediate in 2008.

Shinnecock Hills and Pebble Beach Golf Links are both penciled in two more times each over the next 10 years. The 2018 and 2026 tournaments will be played at Shinnecock Hills, while competitors in the 2019 and 2027 U.S. Open will be at Pebble Beach.

In fact, through 2027, only one new course will have been added to the rotation. The 2023 Championship will be hosted at the North Course at Los Angeles Country Club in Los Angeles, California. The reason the USGA continues to go back to venues that have previously hosted the tournament is because of the prior success they have had.

Think of it as the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. In order to host a tournament of this magnitude, the United States Golf Association needs to make sure the course meets their standards, as well as look at the viability of the property itself.

A whole lot goes into being the location of a U.S. Open, and the committee that chooses these locations likes to revert back to the ones they trust – the ones that have proven they are textbook sites for U.S. Opens.

Golf IconCourse Setup

After choosing the course, the next order of business is planning the setup of the course. Course setups vary from year to year. The weather forecasts from day to day will actually dictate the course setup during the four days of the tournament.

The USGA loves to play around by using different tee markers and hole locations from round to round, depending on the potential wind or rain that specific day may endure.

The overall course setup ends up playing a huge role in deciding how the tournament will play out.

When the summer heat dries certain regions of the country out, the playability of the course can sometimes get out of control. Firm and fast conditions are synonymous with a U.S. Open setup, but when the greens turn brown and are unable to hold wedge shots, you know the USGA got in over its head.

The 2004 final round at Shinnecock Hills comes to mind as a juncture where the USGA admittingly “lost control of the golf course.” The average that day was nearly 79, or 9 over par. There is a fine line between being a “firm test of golf and a fair challenge” and being over-the-top unplayable and silly.

The difficulty of the final round of the ’04 Open at Shinnecock Hills was almost comical, unless you were one of the 66 competitors.

The USGA learned the lesson and now is willing to adjust mid-tournament when things aren’t going as planned.

Since we mentioned Tiger’s heroics at the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, we’ll use that as a perfect example. The course conditions were brutal for the players that week. The course was playing so difficult that the committee decided to try to give the players an extra birdie opportunity before the third round began.

The 14th hole is traditionally a 437-yard dogleg left that plays into the prevailing wind from the Pacific Ocean. After playing severely difficult over the first two days, the USGA moved the tee up to the red tees, making the hole a 277-yard par-4. The breeze that was coming in and from the players left didn’t seem so bad all of a sudden.

The USGA almost always does something similar to this during the course of the tournament. While they want the players to face an extraordinarily harsh task, they now keep in mind that the players and the fans need to enjoy themselves, too.

The fact is, the average person watching on television doesn’t want to see players suffering, making bogeys and double bogeys. Fans like action, and birdies and eagles make for much more exciting theater.

Brooks Koepka’s performance of 16 under par at Erin Hills during the 2017 U.S. Open is a prime example of what good weather and soft conditions can do to scoring. The USGA was anticipating much more wind over the four days, hence the widened fairways and soft greens.

The lack of wind opened the floodgates for birdie opportunities, and the players took full advantage.

While -3 would win you many U.S. Opens, it only netted Major Champs Jim Furyk and Louis Oosthuizen a T-23 finish. Don’t get caught up with the scores at a U.S. Open until you fully take into account the course setup and playing conditions.

Now that you know about rotation and setups of the different venues, let’s examine how players get a tee time on Thursday in the first place.

How to Qualify

Qualifying for the U.S. Open all starts with its title. Notice the tournament’s name ends with the word “open.” This tournament is exactly that; it’s isn’t closed off and only reserved for the best PGA Tour players on the planet. This thing is wide open.

All professional golfers can submit an entry. Any amateur golfer with a registered handicap of 1.4 or less is permitted to enter a U.S. Open qualifier. Let’s talk more about the voyage of trying to qualify for the U.S. Open.

Golf IconEntry Form

This is where it all starts. The road to the U.S. Open Championship begins with a simple entry form. This can be filled out and submitted via the internet. All you have to do is pony up $175 and prove that you are a capable golfer. A capable golfer in terms of U.S. Open standards means you maintain a handicap of 1.4 or less.

If you are a professional golfer, you may or may not be exempt from the Local Qualifier. Most amateurs will have to go through the local qualifiers as well.

Golf IconLocal Qualifier

Now that you have signed up to attempt to qualify for the U.S. Open, you need to pick out a local qualifying site. There are ways to skip local qualifiers and go straight to the 36-hole sectional qualifier. This list of categories explains the way to “avoid” having to go through locals.

Local qualifiers are 18-hole rounds. Choosing where you want to play your local qualifier is important. The USGA will have the site locations listed for you before you have to make your final decision.

Doing a little research can go a long way.

Google the courses to not only check the convenience of the location,

but how well the course suits your game.

If you are a short-hitter whose strengths are chipping and putting, don’t be silly and sign up for a site that is 7,500 yards long. If you are a bomber, don’t pick a site that is a par-70 and only has two par-5s. Be smart, and try to take advantage of your strengths.

How many spots are available at each local qualifier depends on the number of entrants in each respective field. The general rule of thumb is about 1 spot per 20 golfers. In other words, if the qualifier has 100 competitors, expect the top 5 finishers to be moving on. If there are only 45 players, chances are there will only be 2 spots.

Regardless of the site you are at or how many spots are available, just focus on playing good, solid golf. Getting too caught up with who is playing and how many spots there are just takes your focus away from the task at hand. Play the best you can, and add them up at the end.

Once you finish your round and turn in your official scorecard, you will find out if you will have an upcoming tee time at sectionals.

Golf IconSectional Qualifier

There is absolutely no faking it here. Not to say advancing through a local qualifier isn’t a feat in itself, but once you get to the sectional qualifier, “it’s all big boys.”

The fact of the matter is that every local qualifier will have golfers in the field that truly have no business playing in the qualifier. Some guys want to play in a U.S. Open qualifier just to tell their buddies they did so.

Many of them literally have zero chance of qualifying before they even step foot on the first tee.

Forget about that occurring at U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying. This one day and 36 holes of marathon golf is designed for only the players that have a legitimate shot at making the U.S. Open.

A lot of these guys are PGA Tour players and proven winners. That leads us into the discussion of getting to sectionals in the first place. There are two categories of players in sectional qualifiers.

Non-Exempt

Non-exempt players are simply those that earned their tee time at sectionals by advancing through a local qualifier. Whether you are professional or an amateur, it doesn’t matter.

Those golfers who do not have enough status to be exempt from local qualifying must earn their way into sectionals. On the other hand…

Exempt

Some golfers are exempt from local qualifiers and automatically receive a birth into a sectional qualifier. These “exempt spots” are reserved for those golfers who have some sort of professional playing status, or they earned their exemption.

Golf IconPlayers Exempt Straight into the U.S. Open

Now that you have an idea of what the road to the U.S. Open looks like for us dreamers at home, let’s look closely at the exemption categories that allow you to skip qualifying all together.

Any golfer who can claim status in one of the following categories earns a ticket directly into the 2018 U.S. Open.

  • ­Winners of the U.S. Open – previous 10 years
  • Winner and Runner-up – 2016 & 2017 U.S. Amateur (must still be an amateur)
  • Winner of the 2017 U.S. Junior Amateur (must still be an amateur)
  • Winner of the 2017 U.S. Mid-Amateur (must still be an amateur)
  • Winner of the 2017 R&A Amateur Championship (must still be an amateur)
  • Winner of the 2017 McCormack Medal (World’s top-ranked amateur) (must remain an amateur)
  • Winner of the Masters – previous 5 years
  • Winner of the Open Championship – previous 5 years
  • Winner of the PGA Championship – previous 5 years
  • Winner of the Players Championship – previous 3 years
  • Winner of the 2018 European Tour BMW Championship
  • Winner of the 2017 Senior U.S. Open
  • The top-10 plus ties from the 2017 U.S. Open
  • The 30 players who qualified for the 2017 Tour Championship
  • The top-60 point leaders in the Official World Golf Ranking as of 5/21/18
  • The top-60 point leaders in the Official World Golf Ranking as of 6/11/18
  • Special Exemptions (as per the USGA committee)

The special exemptions are up to the discretion of the USGA only and are not applied for. An example of when a special exemption was used was for Arnold Palmer in the 1994 Open at Oakmont, near Arnold’s hometown of Latrobe, Pennsylvania.

Arnie was given this special exemption to compete in the tournament in order to give Palmer a proper farewell to his beloved fans. For everything he had done for the game of golf, this exemption was beyond justified, and nobody complained.

As you can see, having your PGA Tour card does little to guarantee you a spot in the coveted National Championship of golf. For example, Justin Rose shot -18 and defeated Rickie Fowler by 3 shots to win the 2010 Memorial the week before the U.S. Open.

Believe it or not, Rose missed out on trying to win back-to-back weeks, as he was not exempt in the tournament that year. Perhaps a special exemption was in order for Rose that year?

Fortunately for Justin Rose, he was exempt into the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion, where he would capture his first Major.

Let’s take a peek at who else has hoisted the U.S. Open Trophy over the past 50+ years.

List of Winners

The U.S. Open has been played each and every year since 1946. Known as arguably the most prestigious golf championship on the entire planet, getting your name on this trophy is quite the accomplishment.

Let’s take a look at who has been lucky enough to call themselves a U.S. Open Champion since 1960.

YearChampionCourseWinning Score
1960Arnold PalmerCherry Hills Country Club280 (-4)
1961Gene LittlerOakland Hills Country Club281 (+1)
1962Jack NicklausOakmont Country Club283 (-1)
1963Julius BorosThe Country Club (Brookline)293 (+9)
1964Ken VenturiCongressional Country Club278 (-2)
1965Gary PlayerBellerive Country Club282 (+2)
1966Billy CasperOlympic Club278 (-2)
1967Jack NicklausBaltusrol Golf Club275 (-5)
1968Lee TrevinoOak Hill Country Club275 (-5)
1969Orville MoodyChampions Golf Club281 (+1)
1970Tony JacklinHazeltine National Golf Club281 (-7)
1971Lee TrevinoMerion Golf Club280 (E)
1972Jack NicklausPebble Beach Golf Links290 (+2)
1973Johnny MillerOakmont Country Club279 (-5)
1974Hale IrwinWinged Foot Golf Club287 (+7)
1975Lou GrahamMedinah Country Club287 (+3)
1976Jerry PateAtlanta Athletic Club277 (-3)
1977Hubert GreenSouthern Hills Country Club278 (-2)
1978Andy NorthCherry Hills Country Club285 (+1)
1979Hale IrwinInverness Club284 (E)
1980Jack NicklausBaltusrol Golf Club 272 (-8)
1981David GrahamMerion Golf Club273 (-7)
1982Tom WatsonPebble Beach Golf Links282 (-6)
1983Larry NelsonOakmont Country Club280 (-4)
1984Fuzzy ZoellerWinged Foot Golf Club276 (-4)
1985Andy NorthOakland Hills Country Club279 (-1)
1986Raymond FloydShinnecock Hills Golf Club279 (-1)
1987Scott SimpsonOlympic Club277 (-3)
1988Curtis StrangeThe Country Club278 (-6)
1989Curtis StrangeOak Hill Country Club278 (-2)
1990Hale IrwinMedinah Country Club280 (-8)
1991Payne StewartHazeltine National Golf Club282 (-6)
1992Tom KitePebble Beach Golf Links285 (-3)
1993Lee JanzenBaltusrol Golf Club272 (-8)
1994Ernie ElsOakmont Country Club279 (-5)
1995Corey PavinShinnecock Hills280 (E)
1996Steve JonesOakland Hills278 (-2)
1997Ernie ElsCongressional Country Club276 (-4)
1998Lee JanzenOlympic Club280 (E)
1999Payne StewartPinehurst Resort279 (-1)
2000Tiger WoodsPebble Beach Golf Links272 (-12)
2001Retief GoosenSouthern Hills276 (-4)
2002Tiger WoodsBethpage Black277 (-3)
2003Jim FurykOlympia Fields272 (-8)
2004Retief GoosenShinnecock Hills276 (-4)
2005Michael CampbellPinehurst Resort280 (E)
2006Geoff OgilvyWinged Foot Golf Club285 (+5)
2007Ángel CabreraOakmont Country Club285 (+5)
2008Tiger WoodsTorrey Pines South Course283 (-1)
2009Lucas GloverBethpage Black276 (-4)
2010Graeme McDowellPebble Beach Golf Links284 (E)
2011Rory McIlroyCongressional Country Club268 (-16)
2012Webb SimpsonOlympic Club281 (+1)
2013Justin RoseMerion Golf Club281 (+1)
2014Martin KaymerPinehurst Resort271 (-9)
2015Jordan SpiethChambers Bay275 (-5)
2016Dustin JohnsonOakmont Country Club276 (-4)
2017Brooks KoepkaErin Hills272 (-16)
2018Brooks KoepkaShinnecock Hills281 (+1)

Playoff Format

The average PGA Tournament, or golf tournament in general, follows the same procedure when two or more golfers tie for the lowest score after regulation. A sudden-death playoff ensues directly after the round.

A specific hole, many times the 18th, is designated as the hole for a sudden-death playoff to take place at. Whoever has a lower score on the hole wins; if they tie, they continue until one person beats the other.

Occasionally, a different playoff format takes place. The PGA Championship uses a 3-hole combined total, while the Open Championship uses a 4-hole aggregate total to determine the winner.  While the Masters uses a traditional sudden-death format, the U.S Open uses something entirely different.

Golf Icon18 Holes of Stroke Play on Monday

If two or more players finish the 72 holes tied for lowest number of strokes, they return the following day to play 18 holes of stroke play. Whoever prevails with the lowest score is deemed the Champion. In the instance that two or more players remain tied after the 18-hole playoff (90 holes), then a sudden-death format will come into play.

There are pros and cons to this arrangement. The folks that would like to see it changed say that the tournament would be more genuine if it ended on Sunday. They say that following 4.5 hours of golf the next day while many are at work is too much to ask of the fans.

On the flip side, a tournament this prestigious and significant shouldn’t be decided based on the performance of a single hole. Those proponents of the current format claim that having the competitors play it out over the course of 18 more holes ensures that the Champion is fully deserving.

Whichever side you are on is irrelevant, because the U.S. Open playoff format isn’t changing anytime soon. Be happy and thankful you get to watch 18 more gut-wrenching holes in the cases where a playoff is necessary.

This perfectly transitions into our next section of the most recognizable U.S. Opens and the highlights that came with them.

U.S. Open Highlights

The U.S. Open has spoiled us over the years with one jaw-dropping performance after another. Blowout wins, comeback victories, playoffs, holed-out shots, winning putts – it’s all part of Golf’s National Championship. These are the highlights of the U.S. Open, and we are here to bring them to you.

Let’s begin with a U.S. Open that featured the original setting for one of the most iconic rivalries in the history of golf.

1960 U.S. Open – Arnie Beats Jack

Like comebacks from the fan favorite? Then you will love the storybook ending to the 1960 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills. Arnold Palmer started the final round trailing leader Mike Souchak by 7 shots.

Most people weren’t paying any attention to Palmer when Sunday began, as Ben Hogan and standout 20-year-old amateur Jack Nicklaus were only 3 shots out of the lead.

By the time Palmer birdied the first four holes out of the gate on Sunday morning, “Arnie’s Army” was fired up. Birdies at 6 and 7 got Palmer to -6 thru 7 holes and he was suddenly a factor in the tournament.

A steady back-9 diet of 8 pars and a birdie was good enough for a 2-shot victory over some college kid from Ohio State named Jack Nicklaus.

1962 U.S. Open – Jack Gets Back at Arnie

If you thought the 1960 U.S. Open was the last time these two foes would battle it out for a Major Championship, you’ve got another thing coming. This would be the first victory as a professional for 22-year old Jack Nicklaus.

Trailing leaders Arnold Palmer and Bobby Nichols by 2 shots, Jack shot a final round 69 to post a 283 total of -1 at the difficult test that is Oakmont Country Club. When Palmer missed his 12-foot birdie putt at the last, an 18-hole date between the two was set. Instead of a second date on the line, in this case, it was a U.S. Open trophy.

Jack shot even-par 71 in the playoff and beat Palmer by 3 shots. While this was Jack’s first victory at a Major Championship, he would feel “this feeling” 17 more times over the next 24 years.

Johnny Miller’s Final Round 63 in ‘73

The 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club will be remembered for Johnny Miller’s final round 63. Simply put, final round Sunday at a U.S. Open aren’t set up for players to shoot 63. Miller hit a 3-iron approach shot to 5-feet on the first hole to set up an opening birdie.

His 9-iron settled to within 12 inches of the cup on the second hole. A 25-foot birdie putt on the third hold was followed by a bunker shot to less than 6 inches on the fourth hole. Just like that, Johnny was -4 thru 4.

By the time the dust had settled, Miller had hit all 18 greens in regulation and had 10 of his 18 approach shots wind up inside of 15 feet.

Perhaps the single greatest ball-striking round in Major Championship history is all that this round was. His final round 63 and 279 total was good enough for a 1-shot victory and Miller’s only U.S. Open Title.

Tom Watson’s Chip-in on 17 in 1982

The 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links is remembered by one single shot. It was actually a chip-shot that launched this tournament into the section of “instant classics.” Watson arrived at the 17th tee tied with Jack Nicklaus, who was already in the clubhouse sipping a beverage after posting a total of 4 under par.

When Tom pulled his tee-shot into the left rough, announcers said he would be lucky to save par and go the 18th still tied for the lead. Little did they know, Watson had other plans in mind.

He holed the chip for a birdie-2 and left everyone stunned. Tom might have only won a single U.S. Open in his storied career. But boy, did he pick a fun way to do it.

Tiger Demolishes Field at Pebble Beach in 2000

Back to Pebble Beach Golf Links for the site of arguably the most dominant performance in Major Championship history. Players who competed in the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble are the only ones who can truly attest to the difficulty of the course setup.

US Open Logo Tiger Woods

The fact that no player in the field besides Tiger finished at better than +3 for the tournament tells you most of what you need to know.

Talk about going out and dominating a golf tournament from start to finish. Tiger’s opening round of -6 66 left him as the sole leader, and he never looked back. In fact, he got so far ahead of the field, we’re not even sure the competitors could see him. They certainly heard the roars, though, and man, were there a lot of them.

The 6-shot lead Tiger owned by the culmination of Friday’s second round had ballooned to 10 shots by the time Saturday’s third round was completed. It wasn’t a matter of if Tiger was going to win.

It was a matter of how badly he was going to embarrass the rest of the professional golfing world.

A ridiculously good final round of 67 left Tiger 15 shots clear of the rest of his playing competitors by the time “the fat lady sang.” The 15-shot margin is the largest gap between the winning golfer and the runner-up in Major Championship history.

While we may have to come back in years to come to update things on this page, something tells us this record will stay intact.

Tiger Wins on One Leg at Torrey Pines – 2008

Tiger has given golf fans more thrills in his career than one could ever imagine. He has shown us that he is capable of doing things other human beings simply are not capable of doing. The heroics he displayed at Torrey Pines in June of 2008 are right up at the top of the list.

Tiger was nursing an injured left leg, stemming from complications he was having with his left knee. This ailment prevented Woods from playing and practicing in the period leading up to the tournament.

It looked as if Tiger might actually be forced to skip the event all together, as things as simple as walking and bending over were painful. Well, Tiger being Tiger, he played and competed just as you would have imagined.

By the time the sun rose on Sunday morning, Tiger Woods had a 1-shot lead and was playing the final group, a position he was all too familiar with.

Unfortunately for Tiger, by the time he made the walk up to the 72nd and final green, he would need to make a downhill 12-footer on the bumpy Poa annua green to extend his tournament and force an 18-hole playoff the following day. With Rocco Mediate in the clubhouse at -1, this was “make or break” time for Woods.

As Tiger had done time and time again, he holed the putt when it mattered most. Tiger and Rocco would meet the following morning to decide the Championship. Monday was like Groundhog’s Day for Tiger.

He would make his walk to the final green needing a birdie just to tie Mediate. Not wanting to disappoint the millions of fans tuned in, Woods obliged, and after 90 holes, the two were still knotted up.

When Rocco bogeyed the sudden-death (91st) hole and Woods made par, Tiger captured his 14th Major Title. This one may have been earned more than any other in his past.

The knee injury was clearly severe, as Tiger had announced he would sit out the remainder of the 2008 season in order to fully address his injured left knee.

Whether Tiger will ever be able to win another Major remains to be seen. What can never be taken away from him is what he has accomplished. His showing at the ’08 U.S. Open will always be remembered as one of the “gutsiest” and most courageous performances in the history of competitive golf.

The Summary

Now that you’ve gotten here, you may as well be considered a U.S. Open enthusiast, if you weren’t already one. Opening with a brief description of how the tournament got started was important to set the stage.

Going over the privileged courses in the U.S. Open rotation was important so you would know how deep and far back the tradition runs.

Talking about how players qualify and how they become exempt into the tournament is clearly central to understanding what it takes to earn a tee time at golf’s second Major of the season.

Giving you a list of winners and talking about the unique playoff format adds to the wealth of knowledge you have gained by reading this U.S. Open guide.

Finally, an all-inclusive page on the U.S. Open would not be complete without sharing some highlights from some of the most memorable Championships in past years.

Our goal with this guide was to feed hungry golf fans a full plate of U.S Open material.

Hopefully we did our job and you are stuffed to the gills with facts and information about the toughest and most coveted Championship in professional golf.