Consider yourself a golf trivia buff? Get ready to go to school, because the following tidbits are unknown to most of the sport's academics. Here are 18 things you may not know about the U.S. Open.
So, you think you can win the U.S. Open? Well, back in 1901 you might have been able to. That year’s Open was played at Myopia Hunt Club in Massachusetts. The course, minuscule by today’s standards at 6,130 yards, proved more than enough for the field back then as none of the 39 players broke 80. There were 55 scores in the 90s and two players shot an even 100.
Surviving a snowman to win the U.S. Open has only been done once. In the final round of the 1903 Open, Willie Anderson carded an 8 on the par-3 ninth hole at Baltusrol Golf Club in New Jersey -- the highest score ever on a hole for a champion. Interestingly, Anderson had made two 3s and a 2 on the hole in the previous three rounds.
Looking more like a jockey than a championship golfer, 1908 winner Fred McLeod weighed a mere 108 pounds.
People love to say that the USGA seeks to defend par at the Open, but the term wasn’t used in the national championship until 1912 when the tournament was held at the C.C. of Buffalo (N.Y.). The USGA defined the term as “Perfect play without flukes and under ordinary weather conditions, always allowing for two strokes on each putting green.”
Although today it sometimes feels like the USGA will charge you just to breathe the oxygen at an Open, there were times the governing body wasn’t such a business entity. In fact, the initial time spectators were charged for admission was for the 1922 U.S. Open at Skokie C.C. in Illinois. Fans were hit up for $1 for a daily ticket or five bucks for the entire week.
It was bad enough that players used to have complete 36 holes on the final day, but any playoff used to be 36 holes as well. Billy Burke and George Von Elm took that to the extreme when they needed 72 extra holes (for a total of 144 holes for the week) to decide their tilt in 1931 at Inverness Club, with Burke emerging victorious by a shot when Von Elm bogeyed the final hole of overtime. It was reported that Burke smoked 32 cigars during the 144 holes.
This will make the everyday hack feel better. With his ball submerged in a creek on the par-4 16th at Denver’s Cherry Hills C.C., Ray Ainsley refused to take a drop and continued to try and hit the ball out. The result: a score of 19 on the hole, the highest individual hole score in U.S. Open history.
Who was the last player to shoot 100 in the U.S. Open? No, not Mr. Havecamp of “Caddyshack” fame, but Brazilian doctor Walter Ratto, who hit that number on the nose in the second round in 1941at Colonial C.C. in Fort Worth.
Today’s mammoth check for winning makes charitable giving easy, but that wasn’t the case in 1965 when Gary Player gave away all but $1,000 of his $26,000 winner’s prize. The philanthropic South African donated $5,000 to cancer research and $20,000 to the USGA to benefit junior golf.
The forerunner of ShotLink came in 1967 at Baltusrol when the USGA hired IBM to keep track of the Open’s statistics for the first time.
While we’re young! In 1978, Bobby Impaglia became the first player in U.S. Open history to be penalized for slow play. After Impaglia took four and a half minutes to play a shot at Cherry Hills’ ninth hole in the second round, the USGA’s P.J. Boatwright and Jack Tuthill had the clock on Impaglia and assessed him a two-stroke penalty.
Playing the final round of the 1979 U.S. Open as a non-competing marker, Bobby Clampett came under fire for hitting his drive on the first hole from his knees. Clearly not caring what the USGA thought, Clampett hit from his knees again at the 10th and 11th holes and was removed from the course.
The U.S. Open is, well, an Open and anyone with a handicap low enough can try to qualify to play. Or you can do what Barry Bremen did in 1980 at Baltusrol. Posing as player Chuck Moran, Bremen managed to make it to the practice where he took a picture with Jack Nicklaus. He then played a number of holes during a practice round before being found out.
A man ahead of his time. With an eye towards protesting the mandate to wear long pants in the sweltering heat at Oakmont C.C. in 1983 Forrest Fezler donned a pair of shorts to play the final hole.
Birdies are hard to come by at the U.S. Open, but in 1989 holes-in-one were plentiful during the second round at Oak Hill C.C. in Rochester, N.Y. Doug Weaver, Mark Wiebe, Jerry Pate and Nick Price all used 7-irons to make a 1 on the par-3 sixth hole.
Taking the lead of the U.S. Open should virtually assure one of at least a solid finish—unless you’re Joey Sindelar. In 1993 at Baltusrol, Sindelar’s opening-round 66 gave him the lead. But when he followed it up with a 79 in the second round it gave him the distinction of being the first player to ever hold the lead in the Open after the first round and then miss the cut.
In 1995 at Shinnecock Hills G.C. Neal Lancaster shot 29 over the final nine holes to become the first player to break 30 in the Open. Incredibly, Lancaster did it again a year later during the second round at Oakland Hills. Since then others to match the mark have been Vijay Singh during the second round in 2003 at Olympia Fields and Louis Oosthuizen at Chambers Bay in 2015.
Sometimes the U.S. Open is hard work and scores in the 60s are scarce. In 2006 Geoff Ogilvy became the last player to win without a round in the 60s, shooting scores of 71-7—72-72 at Winged Foot West.