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U.S. Open 2021: Frequently Asked Questions

June 09, 2021

Gregory Shamus

For the first time since 2008, the U.S. Open is set to return to Torrey Pines in San Diego, Calif. Thirteen years ago, the South Course produced one of the great major championships ever contested, with Tiger Woods holing a long birdie putt on the 72nd hole to get into an 18-hole playoff with Rocco Mediate, who he beat the following day for his 14th major. Oh, and he did it all on a broken leg.

Woods won’t be back to defend his Torrey crown this year, nor will the 18-hole playoff, should the event end in a tie (the USGA changed the playoff format to a two-hole aggregate in 2018). But one thing is certain—Torrey Pines should make for another exciting and brutally difficult U.S. Open.

The field promises to be as strong as ever, though it’s hard to recall a major in recent memory where so many of those stars have some sort of question mark surrounding them coming into the event. Jon Rahm, the favorite, was just pulled from the Memorial while leading by six shots for testing positive for COVID-19. Bryson DeChambeau has just one top-10 finish in his last six starts, while Rory McIlroy has been quiet on form since his Wells Fargo win and hasn’t won a major in nearly seven years. Justin Thomas’ putter continues to fail him, Dustin Johnson has been flat out bad, and Brooks Koepka will always have injury issues lurking. Other than all that, these guys should be ready to roll.

With that as a primer, here are the answers to some frequently asked questions to get you ready for Torrey Pines.

When is the U.S. Open played?

Traditionally, the U.S. Open is scheduled every year for the third weekend of June, with the final round planned to be finished on Father’s Day. Last year, however, the USGA was forced to postpone the championship until mid-September in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. In 2021, it’s back in its normal spot on the schedule, June 17-20.

Who conducts the U.S. Open?

The United States Golf Association (USGA) conducts the championship.

When and where was the first U.S. Open? And who won?

The first U.S. Open was played in 1895 at Newport Golf Club in Newport, R.I. At the time, it was a nine-hole course, so the championship was a 36-hole, one-day competition. The winner was an Englishman named Horace Rawlins, a 21-year-old who beat a field of nine other professionals and one amateur. He won with a score of 173 and was awarded $150, a gold medal and custody of the U.S. Open Trophy for one year.

What is the format of the U.S. Open? How many players are in the field?

The U.S. Open is a four-round, 72-hole stroke-play championship, with a cut after 36 holes. Ordinarily, there are 156 players who compete but last year the field was reduced to 144 given the change in dates and the reduced daylight that comes with playing the championship in September. In 2021, it will return to a field of 156.

If players are tied after 72 holes, how is the winner determined?

Up until 2018, if players were tied after 72 holes of play at the U.S. Open, the winner was determined in an 18-hole stroke-play playoff on the Monday after the final round. The USGA has since changed the format to a two-hole aggregate playoff. If still tied after two holes, players will compete in sudden death until a winner is crowned.

When was the last time an 18-hole playoff occurred?

The last time the U.S. Open went to an 18-hole playoff was in 2008 at Torrey Pines, when Tiger Woods defeated Rocco Mediate on the 19th hole after they were still tied at the end of the scheduled playoff.

Tiger Woods reacts as he sinks a birdie putt on the 18th hole to force a playoff with Rocco Mediate at the 2008 U.S. Open. Woods would beat Mediate in 19 holes the next day to win his third U.S. Open title.

Gina Ferazzi

Where is the U.S. Open being held in 2021?

Torrey Pines is a municipal facility in San Diego, Calif., that golf fans should be familiar with since it hosts the Farmers Insurance Open each year on the PGA Tour. Unlike the Farmers, which utilizes both the North and South Courses at Torrey, the U.S. Open will only be played on the South Course, which was originally designed by William F. Bell and opened in 1957, then redesigned by Rees Jones in 2001.

Does Torrey Pines host any other professional golf events?

Yes, every February, Torrey Pines hosts the Farmers Insurance Open, which is contested on both the North and South Courses. Players play the South Course three times and the North once.

What type of course is Torrey Pines South?

Torrey Pines South is a demanding test on a normal day, but it will be ratcheted up that much higher for the U.S. Open. All you need to do is go back and watch the 2008 U.S. Open, when the winning score was one under par, for proof of that. It’s long (it could be stretched to 7,800 yards), the rough is very thick and there are bunkers everywhere. We’d say you have to hit the fairway, but Bryson DeChambeau will almost certainly put that theory to the test like he did at Winged Foot. Short-game heroics are also a must, if Patrick Reed’s 2021 Farmers Insurance Open victory is any indication.

Can you play Torrey Pines?

Yes, Torrey Pines is open to the public, and it costs less than $70 to play for residents. For non-residents, though, it will cost between $200-250, depending on the day of the week.

Is Tiger Woods playing in the 2021 U.S. Open?

Unfortunately, Woods will not be playing in the 2021 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. The 15-time major champion is still recovering from injuries he sustained in a single-car crash this past February.

How many U.S. Opens has Tiger Woods won?

Tiger Woods has won three U.S. Opens, the last coming in 2008 at Torrey Pines. He previously won the U.S. Open in 2002 at Bethpage Black and in 2000 at Pebble Beach, when he set the record for largest margin of victory in major championship history, winning by 15 strokes.

Who has won the most U.S. Opens?

Willie Anderson, Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus hold the record for most U.S. Open victories, each winning four.

Who won the 2020 U.S. Open?

Bryson DeChambeau won the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot’s West Course in New York. He won with a total score of six-under 274, six strokes clear of Matthew Wolff. It was DeChambeau’s first major championship victory and at the time his seventh career PGA Tour win. He’s since added an eighth, which came this past March at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.

Gregory Shamus

Is Phil Mickelson playing in the 2021 U.S. Open?

Yes, thanks to his PGA Championship victory, Phil Mickelson will get to play in the next five U.S. Opens, guaranteeing him five more cracks at finishing off the career grand slam. Prior to his win at Kiawah, Mickelson was not exempt into the U.S. Open field, though he did accept one of the rare special exemptions from the USGA. Of course, that became irrelevant after his PGA triumph.

Who are the favorites to win the 2021 U.S. Open?

Despite his positive COVID-19 test at the Memorial Tournament, Jon Rahm is the solo favorite at 10-1 at the William Hill Sports book. Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka all check in right after Rahm at 14-1. Collin Morikawa is next at 18-1, as is Xander Schauffele, who grew up in the San Diego area. Phil Mickelson, another San Diego native, is 50-1.

How can you qualify for the U.S. Open?

The U.S. Open is open to any professional or amateur with an up-to-date men’s USGA Handicap Index not exceeding 1.4.

The USGA allows those eligible players attempt to qualify for the national championship. Qualifying consists of two stages, local and sectional, now known as “Final.” Local qualifying is played over 18 holes at more than 100 courses around the United States. A total of roughly 525 spots are available to move on to the final qualifying round, known as “Golf’s Longest Day.” Final Qualifying is played over 36 holes with several sites in the United States, as well as one each in Japan and Europe. Those who qualify after this stage earn a spot in the U.S. Open’s field of 156 players.

Has a U.S. Open ever been won by something who earned a spot through Final Qualifying?

Yes. The last time was Lucas Glover at Bethpage in 2009.

Has the U.S. Open ever been won by someone who earned a spot through Local and Final qualifying?

Yes. The last time was Orville Moody at Champions Golf Club in 1969.

Is there an age limit to qualify?

There is not an age limit to qualify for the U.S. Open. The youngest player ever to make the field was 14-year-old Andy Zhang in 2012.

What site has hosted the most U.S. Opens?

Oakmont Country Club outside of Pittsburgh, Pa., has hosted the most U.S. Opens with nine, the most recent in 2016.

The 18th hole at Oakmont.

Getty Images

What state has hosted the most U.S. Opens?

Adding last year to the tally, New York has hosted the most U.S. Opens with 20. In addition to Winged Foot’s six, Shinnecock Hills has hosted the U.S. Open five times, Oak Hill three times, Bethpage Black two times with Fresh Meadow, Inwood, Country Club of Buffalo and Garden City each hosting once.

What is the U.S. Open scoring record?

The U.S. Open scoring record is held by Rory McIlroy, who shot a total of 16-under 268 at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., in 2011.

What is the highest winning score of the U.S. Open?

The highest winning score is held by Fred Herd, who won the 1898 U.S. Open with a total score of 328.

What is the lowest round in U.S. Open history? Highest?

Six players hold the record for lowest round in U.S. Open history with a score of 63. They are: Johnny Miller, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Weiskopf, Vijay Singh, Justin Thomas and Tommy Fleetwood. Thomas’ 63 was the lowest score-to-par (nine under) when he shot the score in the third round of the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills, where he finished T-9. Fleetwood shot his 63 in the final round at Shinnecock Hills in 2018, only the second 63 posted in the final round, along with Miller’s in 1973 at Oakmont.

The highest round belongs to J.D. Tucker, who shot a 157 at Myopia Hunt Club in South Hamilton, Mass., in 1898.

Who is the oldest winner of the U.S. Open? Youngest?

The oldest player to win the U.S. Open is Hale Irwin, who won the 1990 U.S. Open at Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill., when he was 45 years and 15 days old.

The youngest champion is John McDermott, who won the 1911 U.S. Open at Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton, Ill., when he was 19 years and 315 days old.

Has an amateur ever won the U.S. Open?

Five amateurs have won eight U.S. Opens in history: Francis Ouimet (1913), Jerome D. Travers (1915), Charles Evans Jr. (1916), Bobby Jones (1923, 1926, 1929, 1930) and John Goodman (1933).

Bobby Jones holds the U.S. Open trophy after his 36-hole playoff victory over Al Espinosa in 1929 at Winged Foot.


How many times has an American won the U.S. Open?

Of the 121 U.S. Opens that have been contested, an American has won 86 of them.

When was the last time an International player won the U.S. Open?

The last International player to win was Germany’s Martin Kaymer at Pinehurst No. 2 in 2014.

Which countries have produced the next most U.S. Open wins?

Second to the United States in U.S. Open victories is Scotland with 14. Englishmen have won seven times, while South African-born players have won five.

What type of conditions are the U.S. Open played in?

The U.S. Open is typically played under very difficult scoring conditions, where accuracy off the tee is essential. Fairways are often narrow and guarded by thick rough, and the course is generally set up quite long.

What are the confirmed future sites of the U.S. Open?

Below are the confirmed future sites of the U.S. Open:

2022: The Country Club, Brookline, Mass.
2023: Los Angeles Country Club
2024: Pinehurst (N.C.) No. 2
2025: Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club
2026: Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, Southampton, N.Y.
2027: Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links
2029: Pinehurst (N.C.) No. 2
2035: Pinehurst (N.C.) No. 2
2041: Pinehurst (N.C.) No. 2
2047: Pinehurst (N.C.) No. 2

Martin Kaymer reacts to making his putt on the 18th green during the final round to win the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2.

Jonathan Kolbe

How much is the purse of the U.S. Open, and how much does the winner receive?

The purse for the 2021 U.S. Open has yet to be announced. The purse in 2020 was be $12.5 million, with the winner receiving $2.25 million.

How many World Ranking points does the U.S. Open Winner get?

The winner of the U.S. Open receives 100 world ranking points.

How many FedEx Cup points does the U.S. Open winner get?

The winner of the U.S. Open receives 600 FedEx Cup points.

Who broadcasts the U.S. Open?

In June 2020, NBC Universal reacquired the U.S. broadcast and media rights for the U.S. Open, taking over the remainder of a 12-year $1.1 billion contract the USGA had signed with FOX Sports that began in 2015 and expires in 2026. NBC had been the official broadcast partner of the USGA from 1995 through 2014.