The five best U.S. Opens played in California

By Doug FergusonJune 11, 2012, 10:21 pm

SAN FRANCISCO – Of the states that have hosted the U.S. Open at least 10 times, California was the last to join the rotation, in 1948 at Riviera.

But the Golden State has delivered some golden moments over the years.

With the growing importance of television ratings and revenue, taking the U.S. Open to California means prime-time viewing for most of the country. Torrey Pines in 2008 was the first time the tee times were pushed back to allow for a prime-time finish on the East Coast, and Tiger Woods put on quite a show.

Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan were denied a record fifth U.S. Open in California.

Nicklaus had a signature moment on the 17th tee at Pebble Beach with a 1-iron that struck the pin, and 10 years later, Tom Watson had his signature moment behind the 17th green by chipping in for birdie.

Here are the top five U.S. Opens in California:


5. HOGAN'S ALLEY OFF SUNSET BOULEVARD.

Ben Hogan going to Riviera for the 1948 U.S. Open was similar to Tiger Woods going to Pebble Beach. Hogan won the Los Angeles Open in 1947 with a record-tying 66 in the second round. He defended his title at Riviera with a course-record 275. So when the U.S. Open rolled into town in June, all eyes were on Hogan, who had just won the PGA Championship. As usual, Hogan delivered.

Sam Snead, with yet another chance to finally win the U.S. Open, had the 36-hole lead going into the final day. Hogan closed with rounds of 68-69 to win by two strokes over Jimmy Demaret. Hogan broke the U.S. Open scoring record by five shots – a record that stood for nearly two decades – and he became the first player with three rounds in the 60s at a U.S. Open.

No wonder Riviera became known as ''Hogan's Alley.''

Hogan was not able to defend this title. Eight months after the first of his four U.S. Open titles, his car was struck by a bus in west Texas and he was nearly killed.


4. AN UPSET OF OLYMPIC PROPORTIONS

Not many paid attention to Jack Fleck, a club pro from Iowa, and some might not even have known he was in the field in 1955.

The first U.S. Open at The Olympic Club in 1955 was headed toward a record fifth title for Ben Hogan. When he finished late Saturday afternoon with a 70, Hogan was being congratulated in the clubhouse. The only player left on the course who could possibly stop him was Fleck, and he was two shots behind. Fleck, however, made birdie on the 15th and followed with pars on the 16th and 17th. He caught a decent lie in the right rough, and then hit 7-iron to 8 feet for birdie and a 67.

The news was relayed to Hogan, who knew he and his battered legs would have to play another 18 holes the next day.

Fleck wouldn't go away, holing key putts and seizing control around the turn. Hogan needed a birdie on the 18th to force extra holes, but he pulled his tee shot into rough deep enough to cover the cuffs of his pants. His first shot barely moved the ball a few feet, and his hopes were over.

Fleck wound up with a 69 to win by three shots for his first win in what many consider one of the greatest upsets in golf. But it was no fluke. Olympic was so tough that year it yielded only seven rounds under par. Fleck had three of them. Hogan never won another major, contributing to Olympic being known as a ''graveyard of champions.''


3. IN THE CLUTCH ON WOUNDED KNEE

Tiger Woods probably should not have played the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. He had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee just two days after the Masters, and weeks before the U.S. Open, discovered two stress fractures of the left tibia. Woods played anyway, and turned in one of his most memorable major performances.

Even as his knee began to buckle, he surged into contention with a six-hole stretch late in the third round that was pure theater – a 70-foot eagle putt from the back of the 13th green, a chip that one-hopped into the hole for birdie on the 17th, and a 30-foot eagle putt on the final hole for a one-shot lead going into the final round. But when he came to the 18th hole Sunday, he was one shot behind Rocco Mediate. Woods laid up into the right rough and hit a sand wedge to 12 feet.

His putt bumped along and caught the right edge of the cup, dropping for birdie to force a Monday playoff against Mediate.

Woods again fell behind in the playoff, and he had to two-putt for birdie on the 18th to extend the playoff. On the first extra hole, Mediate ran into trouble off the tee at No. 7 and Woods won with a par. It was his 14th major championship, and his seventh win at Torrey Pines.

Two days later, Woods had reconstructive surgery on his left knee and was out the rest of the year.


2. A CHIP THAT WAS ANYTHING BUT ELEMENTARY

Jack Nicklaus was going for a fifth U.S. Open title at Pebble Beach, where he won the Open in 1972 that was remembered for his 1-iron that struck the pin on the 17th. The same hole proved pivotal 10 years later, only for Tom Watson.

The final round turned into a duel between Nicklaus and Watson, and Nicklaus was in the clubhouse at 4-under 284. Watson had a one-shot lead until he three-putted the 16th hole from about 70 feet to fall back into a tie. Then, Watson slightly pulled a 2-iron on the par-3 17th and went just over the back of the green. It looked to be impossible. The ball was nestled in thick grass, but the pin was toward the back of a green that ran away from him.

Watson needed a par so that he could go to the par-5 18th with a chance to force a playoff, or perhaps win with a birdie. His caddie, Bruce Edwards, urged him to get the chip close. Watson had other ideas. ''To hell with getting it close,'' he replied. ''I'm going to make it.''

The shot came off perfectly, ran into the pin and dropped for a birdie. Watson needed only to par the 18th to win his first U.S. Open, and he made birdie to win by two.


1. PERFECTION AT PEBBLE BEACH

Mark O'Meara and Paul Goydos played practice rounds with Tiger Woods at Pebble Beach in 2000, and both knew what was coming.

O'Meara told his wife that it didn't matter how well he played because Woods was going to win, ''and not only is he going to win, he's going to blow away the field.'' Goydos saw two reporters behind the 18th green on Tuesday and said the tournament ended that day. ''He's going to win by 10.''

He was wrong. Woods won by 15.

Not only was it a record margin in 140 years of major championships, it was as close to perfection as golf allows in a U.S. Open. Woods opened with a 65, the lowest score ever at Pebble in a U.S. Open. After two rounds, he stretched his lead to six shots, and to 10 shots after 54 holes. Both were U.S. Open records. As Goydos had predicted earlier in the week, Woods only needed to stay upright to win.

So dominant was his performance that he didn't make a bogey over the final 26 holes. He finished on 12-under par – the first player to finish at double figures under par in U.S. Open history. No one else finished under par that week, leading Thomas Bjorn to say years later, ''It was literally perfection. I don't think we've ever seen anything like it before, and I find it difficult to believe we'll ever find anybody doing it again.''

What's in the bag: RSM Classic winner Cook

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 20, 2017, 3:52 pm

PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook earned his first Tour title at the RSM Classic. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Ping G400 (8.5 degrees adjusted to 9.2), with Fujikura Speeder Evolution 661X shaft

Fairway wood: Ping G400 (13 degrees), with Fujikura Motore VC 7.0 shaft

Hybrids: Ping G400 (19, 22 degrees), with Matrix Altus Red X shafts

Irons: Ping S55 (5-PW), with KBS Tour S shafts

Wedges: Ping Glide 2.0 (50, 56, 60) with True Temper Dynamic Gold S400 shafts

Putter: Ping Sigma G Tyne

Ball: Titleist Pro V1

Monday Scramble: For money and love

By Ryan LavnerNovember 20, 2017, 3:00 pm

Lexi Thompson falters, Jon Rahm impresses, Justin Rose stuns, Austin Cook breaks through and more in this week's edition of Monday Scramble:

It’ll be a long two months for Lexi Thompson.

She’ll have plenty to think about this offseason after a strong 2017 season that could have been spectacular.

She won twice, led the LPGA in scoring average and took home the $1 million first-place prize … but she also finished second six times – none more excruciating than the careless spotting in the first major of the year and the 2-foot miss in the season finale – and dealt with the crushing off-course distraction of her mother, Judy, battling cancer.

Thompson said all the right things after the CME Group Tour Championship, that those types of short misses happen in golf, that she’s overcome adversity before.

“It didn’t stop me,” she said, “and this won’t either.”

But at 22, she has already accumulated an incredible amount of scar tissue, especially for a player with world-beater talent.

What will 2018 bring? For Lexi’s sake, hopefully it’s more wins, not heartbreak. 


1. The Thompson miss was plenty awkward. So was the end to the LPGA season.

In a fitting result for a year in which no dominant player emerged, So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park shared the Player of the Year award, after both players finished with 162 points. It’s the first time that’s happened since 1966.

Can’t there be some way to break the tie? Low scoring average? Best finishes in the majors? A chip-off content? Rock-paper-scissors?

2. Some of the other awards ...

Vare Trophy: Thompson, who finished the year with a 69.114 average. Maybe the players this year were just really good, but it’s a bit of a head-scratcher than 12 players finished with a sub-70 average, besting the previous best total of, gulp, five. Easier setups?

Money title: Park, with $2.336 in earnings.

No. 1 ranking: Shanshan Feng, though Thompson had a chance to take over the top spot. Alas, that final green … 



3. Oh, and there was also the tournament winner: Ariya Jutanugarn, who capped a bizarre year with a satisfying title.

Perhaps only Thompson boasts as much talent as Jutanugarn, and yet the Thai star showed her vulnerability this year. After reaching No. 1 in the world, she struggled through a shoulder injury and then missed five cuts and withdrew from another event in a seven-start span.

Here’s hoping she learned how to deal with that spotlight, because she’s going to be challenging for the No. 1 ranking for a while.

4. Of course, we wrote that about Lydia Ko, too, and she just wrapped up her first winless season on tour since she was 15.

She had 11 top-10s, including three runners-up, but failing to earn a victory was a massive disappointment for a player who was No. 1 in the world for 85 weeks. Perhaps next year she’ll get back on track, but you never know – she changed swings, coaches, equipment and caddies. That's a lot of turnover.



5. So much for that “controversial” Rookie of the Year award.

Jon Rahm, named Europe’s top newcomer despite playing only four regular-season events, left little doubt about who was the breakout star of the year with a comeback victory at the DP World Tour Championship.

Though it wasn’t enough to claim the Race to Dubai title – he finished third – it should serve as a warning to the rest of the European Tour that the 23-year-old Rahm be the man to beat for the next, oh, decade or so.

6. Ranked fourth in the world, particularly impressive because he hasn’t yet hit the minimum divisor in the rankings, Rahm wrapped up a season in which he won in California, Ireland and Dubai.

Just imagine how good he’ll be when he’s not seeing all of these courses for the first time. 

7. The biggest stunner on the final day was the play of Justin Rose, who entered the final round with a one-shot lead.

He seemed to be on cruise control, going out in 4 under, but he encountered all sorts of trouble on the back nine, making three bogeys a variety of ways – wayward drives, flared approaches into the water and missed shorties.

Not only did it cost him the DP World Tour Championship title, but it allowed Tommy Fleetwood – even with a closing 74 – to take the end-of-season Race to Dubai title.



8. Austin Cook is now a PGA Tour winner – and what a circuitous journey it has been.

After turning pro in 2014, he played the mini-tours, racking up five top-10s in nine starts on the Adams Tour. A year later, with a chance to earn his Web.com card, he finished bogey-bogey-quad-double. And then last year, Hurricane Matthew forced officials to cancel the Web.com Tour Championship. That left Cook without his card – by $425.

He made it to the big leagues this fall, after finishing 20th on the money list, and then won in just his 14th career Tour start.  

“I’ve been close on the Web a couple times but haven’t been able to get the job done, and to be able to do it on the biggest stage in the world, it definitely boosts my confidence and lets me know that I can play with these guys,” he said. 

9. Sam Horsfield, who in 2016 was the NCAA Freshman of the Year, routed the field at European Tour Q-School to earn his card for next year. He shot 27 under (!) during the five-round event to win by eight.

Expectations have been high for the 21-year-old ever since he received a public endorsement from Ian Poulter. His mentor chimed in again after Horsfield got his card:

Another great story to come out of Q-School was Jigger Thomson, who is interesting not just because of his incredible height – he’s 6-foot-9 – but his back story, after battling leukemia as a kid.

10. A limited fall schedule hasn’t cost Brooks Koepka any of his stellar form.

The U.S. Open champion defended his title at the Dunlop Phoenix, shooting 20 under par – one off his own scoring mark – and winning by a record nine shots. The margin of victory was one shot better than Tiger Woods’ romp there in 2004.

This was only Koepka’s second start since the Tour Championship (tied for second at the WGC-HSBC Champions).

Xander Schauffele tied for second while Hideki Matsuyama finished fifth. This is the time last year, remember, in which the Japanese star was the hottest player in the world, taking four titles in six starts, but he admitted of going up against Koepka right now: “I feel there’s a huge gap between us.” 

Um, has this ever happened before?

I.K. Kim had a WILD third round at the CME Tour Championship, making only seven pars and recording everything from a 1 to a 7 en route to a ho-hum 71. 

This week's award winners ... 


Back Under the Knife: Davis Love III. Set to undergo replacement surgery on his left hip, Love is looking at another extended layoff, likely about four months.  

Underrated Fall Performances: J.J. Spaun and Brian Harman. Spaun, who held the 54-hole lead at the Shriners, earned his first runner-up finish at the RSM, his third consecutive top-15. Harman, who won the Wells Fargo in May, had three top-8s. 

Fill-In Duty: Cameron McCormick. Jordan Spieth’s swing coach will be on the bag for Spieth this week in Australia with his regular caddie, Michael Greller, at home with his wife and new baby.  

Get Well Soon: Luke Donald. He withdrew from the RSM because of chest pain. He spent the night in the hospital, undergoing seven hours of tests, but was given the all-clear sign. 


All the Best: Webb Simpson. Wishing the best to the Simpson family, after Webb chose to WD from Sea Island after rounds of 67-68 so he could spend time with his father, Sam, who, Simpson tweeted is “sick and living his last days.” 

Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Charles Howell III. Red-hot to open the season, with three consecutive top-10s, Howell missed the cut at Sea Island where he was 7-for-7 with three top-10s and a tie for 13th. Sigh. 

Love to undergo hip replacement surgery

By Rex HoggardNovember 20, 2017, 1:08 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Two days removed from arguably the most hectic week of his year, Davis Love III will undergo replacement surgery on his left hip.

Love, who hosted and played in last week’s RSM Classic, said he tried to avoid the surgery, but the pain became too much and he will undergo the procedure on Tuesday at the Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala.

“I had a hip problem the last few years, and I had a hip resurfacing trying to avoid hip surgery because I’m a chicken, but after playing [the CIMB Classic and Sanderson Farms Championship] I realized it was an uphill battle,” Love said.


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


Love said doctors have told him recovery from the procedure will take between three to four months, but he should be able to start work on his chipping and putting within a few weeks.

Love, who missed the cut at the RSM Classic, said earlier in the week that his goal is to become the oldest PGA Tour winner and that the only way to achieve that was by having the surgery.

“Now I’m excited that I’ve crossed that bridge,” said Love, who will turn 54 next April. “Once I get over that I can go right back to the Tour. I won after a spine fusion [2015 Wyndham Championship] and now I’d like to win with a new hip. That’s the reason I’m doing it so I can get back to golf and keep up.”

LPGA awards: Ryu, S.H. Park tie for POY

By Randall MellNovember 20, 2017, 1:56 am

NAPLES, Fla. – In the end, the CME Group Tour Championship played out a lot like the entire 2017 season did.

Parity reigned.

Nobody dominated the game’s big season-ending awards, though Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park came close.

Thompson walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for low scoring average. If she had made that last 2-foot putt at the 72nd hole Sunday, she might also have walked away with the Rolex Player of the Year Award and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Park shared the Rolex Player of the Year Award with So Yeon Ryu. By doing so, Park joined Nancy Lopez as the only players in LPGA history to win the Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year titles in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978. Park also won the LPGA money-winning title.

Here’s a summary of the big prizes:

Rolex Player of the Year
Ryu and Park both ended up with 162 points in the points-based competition. Park started the week five points behind Ryu but made the up the difference with the five points she won for tying for sixth.

It marks the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

Ryu and Park join Inbee Park as the only South Koreans to win the award. Park won it in 2013.


Vare Trophy
Thompson won the award with a scoring average of 69.114. Sung Hyun Park finished second at 69.247. Park needed to finish at least nine shots ahead of Thompson at the CME Group Tour Championship to win the trophy.

There were a record 12 players with scoring averages under 70.0 this year, besting the previous record of five, set last year.


CME Globe $1 million prize
Thompson entered the week first in the CME points reset, but it played out as a two-woman race on the final day. Park needed to finish ahead of Thompson in the CME Group Tour Championship to overtake her for the big money haul. Thompson tied for second in the tournament while Park tied for sixth.

By winning the CME Group Tour Championship, Jutanugarn had a shot at the $1 million, but she needed Park to finish the tournament eighth or worse and Thompson to finish ninth or worse.


LPGA money-winning title
Park claimed the title with $2,335,883 in earnings. Ryu was second, with $1,981,593 in earnings.

The tour saw a tour-record 17 players win $1 million or more this season, two more than did so last year.

Ryu came into the week as the only player who could pass Park for the title, but Ryu needed to win to do so.


Rolex world No. 1 ranking
The top ranking was up for grabs at CME, with No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Sung Hyun Park and No. 3 So Yeon Ryu all within three hundredths of a ranking point. Even No. 4 Lexi Thompson had a chance to grab the top spot if she won, but in the end nobody could overtake Feng. Her reign will extend to a second straight week.


Rolex Rookie of the Year
Park ran away with the award with her U.S. Women’s Open and Canadian Pacific Women’s Open victories among her 11 top-10 finishes. She had the award locked up long before she arrived for the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.