Top 5 Most Memorable Moments From the U.S. Open
1. Tiger Woods’s win at Pebble Beach in 2000
This will go down in history as the greatest performance ever at Pebble Beach. Tiger blew away the field by 15 strokes — that was unheard of at the U.S. Open, where most players struggle to play even par. This was one of the most impressive sporting events ever. The way that Tiger built his lead — keeping his foot on the gas for a full 72 holes — is something that I will never forget. No matter how big his lead, every single shot got his full attention. Not to mention he broke the scoring record that year, and to do it at Pebble Beach…well pretty memorable.2. Tiger Woods’s win at Torrey Pines in 2008
Another performance that I’m sure few will forget. A limping Tiger (he had a broken leg and a torn ACL) trudged around the course between pitiful shots to miraculous shots, made a tremendous putt on the 72nd hole, and then won in a playoff over Rocco Mediate. (18 holes wasn’t enough and they had to go to sudden death). Even when you’re not at your best, if you want it bad enough you can make it happen. Everyone had counted Tiger out. I mean, who wouldn’t? The man hardly was in a condition to play. But this is Tiger Woods we are talking about, so you should never count him out. This was also the last US Open that Tiger has won, so I am thinking it is about time for him to wrack up another victory.
3. Phil Mickelson at Winged Foot in 2006
This tournament will be forever linked with the phrase, “Did you see what Phil just did?” Well, that and Phil’s own comment: “I am such an idiot.” He had a one-shot lead coming into the 72nd hole and chose to hit a driver off the tee. That choice got him into trouble, which then lead to five minutes of the some worst decision making in golf history. He wound up with a double bogey, and lost by one stroke to Geoff Ogilvy. There are so many memorable moments: One, understand the situation you are in. Phil could have made a bogey and still gotten into an 18-hole playoff, but he decided to hit some kind of hero shot instead of pitching out from long rough and playing more conservatively. But that is Phil in a nut shell. He goes for busto, and when you go all in or nothing, sometimes you come up with nothing. Two, as much as I thought he had made a poor decision, at least he owned up to it. He never once blamed anyone else other than himself and was available for questions after the round. This was a true testament to the idea that golf is a gentleman’s game, and that Phil Mickelson is golf’s gentlemen ambassador. Who else would have stuck around to answer questions after one of the most horrific meltdowns on the 72nd hole to loose the tournament Phil wants the most. Hats off to Phil for the way he handled it and for going on to win two Masters jackets after all of that.
4. Payne Stewart’s win at Pine Hurst #2 in 1999
Payne Stewart won the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst with a 15-foot par putt on the 72nd hole. His celebration after making the par putt to win is one of golf’s and U.S. Open most memorable celebrations. Payne was not a bomber. He was straight and precise with his game. He had a plan and stuck to it all the way to the end. Everyone will remember his putt to win but few will remember his decision to lay up on the last hole of the tournament from a questionable spot in the rough. This was the first time I had seen someone simply make up his mind in a situation like that, react to it, and move on to the next shot. He was going to win the U.S. Open his way. I am also a fan of what he said to Phil after he made his victories putt… he told Phil that he was going to get many other chances to win the US Open and that he was going to be a proud father very soon. Payne Stewart is the only US Open reigning champion to miss the next tournament. Payne Stewart died shortly after winning his US Open, and we have all missed him since.
5. Rory McIlroy’s win at Congressional Country Club in 2011
The lowest 72 hole total (268) was set by McIlroy at Congressional with four consecutive rounds in the 60’s. The dominance that Rory showed while playing at last years US Open was not only a show of how good the guy really is, but how much character Rory has. Only a few short weeks before Rory blew a four shot lead with a final round 80, but he came back with a vengeance at the US Open. Since the US Open last year Rory has won and lost the #1 spot in the world, won tournaments, lost tournaments, and found himself the center of the media as golf’s newest young gun. He has handled all of the press with style and grace, and he has played some amazing golf since. Who knows if Rory will be the next Tiger Woods, or beat Jack Nickalus’s records. The only thing we know is he can play golf, and currently he has the lowest total score to win a US Open. If he never did anything else, he has accomplished more than most, and I would bet anything that Rors is not done.
Chicago Golf Guy’s Two Cents:
The US Open is golf’s toughest test on golf’s best and brightest. It is a grueling process, and many of the top players fold under the pressure of the longest courses, the toughest conditions, the fastest greens (the USGA doesn’t even release what the stimp meters read), and the longest rough you will find. I must say that I do relish in the fact that these guys can struggle like the mortal golfers out there do every day for at least one week a year. God bless the USGA and its feeling that the US Open should be won by a player close to par, rather than 10-15 under par.