U.S. Open 101: Guide to the year's second major

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about the United States Open Championship:

How old is the tournament?

One hundred twenty-three years. The first one was played in 1895.

How many times has it been played?

This year will mark the 117th U.S. Open. It was not played in 1917 or 1918 because of World War I, nor was it played in 1942-45 because of World War II.


Who started it?

The United States Golf Association, an organization formed in 1894 by five prominent golf clubs to be the game's national governing body.


Is it the oldest national championship in the world?

No. The Open, also referred to as The Open Championship or the British Open, dates back to 1860.


Where was the first U.S. Open played?

It was played on a nine-hole course at Newport (R.I.) Country Club.


Who was the first winner?

Horace Rawlins, a 21-year-old Englishman, shot 173 for 36 holes to beat Scotsman Willie Dunn by two strokes.


Who has won the most U.S. Opens?

Four players have won the U.S. Open four times each: Scotsman Willie Anderson and Americans Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus. Hogan also won the 1942 Hale America Open, which some of his supporters claim should be counted as his fifth U.S. Open. The Hale America was a substitute for the U.S. Open, was held in the same time slot and was run like the U.S. Open with local and sectional qualifying.


How many times has a player won consecutive Opens?

Five players have won back-to-back Opens and one has won three in a row. Chronologically, they are Scotsman Willie Anderson (1903-05), and Americans John McDermott (1911-12), Bobby Jones (1929-30), Ralph Guldahl (1937-38), Ben Hogan (1950-51) and Curtis Strange (1988-89).


Who are the most noteworthy players who have NOT won a U.S. Open?

This list would have to start with Sam Snead, whose failure to win a U.S. Open cost him a career Grand Slam. Snead was runner-up in the Open four times - in 1937, 1947, 1949 and 1953. But his most painful loss probably came in 1939, when he came to the final hole needing only a par to win but instead made a triple bogey. As on-course scoreboards did not yet exist, Snead didn't know he needed only a par; a spectator erroneously told him he needed a birdie. Phil Mickelson is also in this category; he has a record six runner-up finishes (1999, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2009, 2013).


I often hear the name Francis Ouimet in connection with the U.S. Open. Who was he and why was he important?

Ouimet was a 20-year-old former caddie who pulled off one of the biggest upsets in sports history in 1913, beating two of the top British professionals in a playoff to win the U.S. Open on his home course, The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. Beyond the magnitude of the upset, Ouimet's win helped open up the game to working-class people.


What was the "Massacre at Winged Foot"?

U.S. Open courses are typically set up to be very difficult, with long rough and fast greens, but Winged Foot, site of the 1974 Open, took things to a new level. Not one player broke par in the first round, and Hale Irwin's 7-over 287 score was the second-highest U.S. Open winning total since World War II. Many believed - still believe - that the USGA made the course extra difficult in retaliation for Johnny Miller having shot a record 63 the previous year at Oakmont. The phrase "Massacre at Winged Foot" was coined by sportswriter Dick Schaap, who used it as the title of a book he wrote about the championship.


Which U.S. Opens have been the most memorable?

It's all a matter of opinion, of course, but here is our Top 10 list, working backwards: 10. 1973: Johnny Miller shoots a record 63 in the final round to win. 9. 1982: Tom Watson chips in from deep rough on the 71st hole to win at Pebble Beach. 8. 2008: Limping on what would turn out to be a broken leg, Tiger Woods edges Rocco Mediate after an 18-hole playoff and one sudden-death hole. 7. 1930: Bobby Jones wins the third leg of a Grand Slam he would soon complete. 6. 2000: Woods destroys the field by a record 15 shots at Pebble Beach. 5. 1950: Less than a year and a half after a near-fatal car accident, Ben Hogan wins at Merion. 4. 1966: Seven shots ahead of playing partner Billy Casper at the final turn, Arnold Palmer is caught and loses in an 18-hole playoff. 3: 1913: Francis Ouimet stuns the golf world. 2. 1962: Rookie Jack Nicklaus takes it to Palmer in front of Arnie's home crowd at Oakmont. 1. 1960: Seven shots baack after 54 holes, Palmer drives the green on the first hole, a par 4, shoots 65 and wins his first - and only - U.S. Open.


How do you get to play in a U.S. Open?

There are various categories of exemptions, including winners of the previous 10 U.S. Opens, winners of the other three majors for the past five years, and the top 60 in the Official World Golf Ranking. In addition, local and sectional qualifying is held. Local qualifying is open to any professional and amateurs with up-to-date USGA Handicap Indexes not exceeding 1.4. In other words, you have to be pretty good just to try to qualify. The USGA also on occasion grants special exemptions to players who have not qualified but are deemed worthy of being in the field. Such exemptions have gone to accomplished veterans such as Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Gary Player, Seve Ballesteros and Lee Trevino.


How big is the Open field?

It is 156 players.


Where is this year's Open being played?

It is being played for the first time at Erin Hills in Erin, Wis.


Which course has hosted the most Opens?

Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa., near Pittsburgh, has hosted nine Opens, including last year's.


Who is the oldest player to win the Open?

Hale Irwin was 45 years and 15 days old when he won in 1990.


Who was the youngest winner?

John McDermott was 19 years, 315 days old when he won in 1911.


Who was the youngest player?

In 2012 a 14-year-old amateur from China, Andy Zhang, qualified.


Who had the largest victory margin?

Tiger Woods won by 15 strokes in 2000. This is the record for any major.


Who holds the 72-hole scoring record?

Rory McIlroy shot 268 in 2011. That was 16 under par - also a record - on par-71 Congressional.


Who holds the 18-hole Open scoring record?

Johnny Miller set the record by shooting 63 in 1973 at Oakmont. That score was subsequently equaled by Jack Nicklaus (1980, Baltusrol), Tom Weiskopf (1980, Baltusrol) and Vijay Singh (2003, Olympia Fields).


What does a player get for winning the U.S. Open?

This year's winner's purse is $2,160,000. The winner is also exempt from qualifying for the other three majors and The Players Championship for the next five years, and exempt from U.S. Open qualifying for the next 10 years. If the winner is a PGA Tour member, he would receive a five-year exemption to all PGA Tour events.


What happens if the U.S. Open is tied after 72 holes?

There is an 18-hole playoff the following day. If a tie remains in place after the extra round, the competition goes to sudden death.

Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

Ko told GolfChannel.com Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

“It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

Piller declined an interview request when GolfChannel.com sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

“I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

And that’s a magic word in golf.

There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.


Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery


A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

“The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

“It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

Parity was the story this year.

Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

“I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.

Love's hip surgery a success; eyes Florida swing return

By Rex HoggardNovember 22, 2017, 3:31 pm

Within hours of having hip replacement surgery on Tuesday Davis Love III was back doing what he does best – keeping busy.

“I’ve been up and walking, cheated in the night and stood up by the bed, but I’m cruising around my room,” he laughed early Wednesday from Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala., where he underwent surgery to replace his left hip. “[Dr. James Flanagan, who performed the surgery] wants me up. They don’t want me sitting for more than an hour.”

Love, 53, planned to begin more intensive therapy and rehabilitation on Wednesday and is scheduled to be released from the hospital later this afternoon.

According to Love’s doctors, there were no complications during the surgery and his recovery time is estimated around three to four months.

Love, who was initially hesitant to have the surgery, said he can start putting almost immediately and should be able to start hitting wedges in a few weeks.

Dr. Tom Boers – a physical therapist at the Hughston Orthopedic Clinic in Columbus, Ga., who has treated Fred Couples, Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman and Brad Faxon – will oversee Love’s recovery and ultimately decide when he’s ready to resume normal golf activity.

“He understands motion and gait and swing speeds that people really don’t understand. He’s had all of us in there studying us,” Love said. “So we’ll see him in a couple of weeks and slowly get into the swing part of it.”

Although Love said he plans to temper his expectations for this most recent recovery, his goal is to be ready to play by the Florida swing next March.