When US Amateur Stopped Counting as a Major
Tiger Woods could say he has won 13 majors using that math, but he doesn't see it that way and never has. Ask him how many majors he has collected, and Woods doesn't hesitate to say the British Open last month was his 10th.
None of it really matters to Jack Nicklaus.
Whether he has 18 or 20 majors, he still holds the record.
``You could do it either way you want to do it,'' Nicklaus said. ``I could have 20 and Tiger could have 13. I mean, I don't care. But I can't imagine that anybody would have thought of the U.S. Amateur being a major in the last 10 or 15 years. Forty years ago, they still looked at it that way.''
Nicklaus spoke two weeks before the start of the U.S. Amateur, the oldest championship (by one day) in American golf and long considered a major title. He won it in 1959 and 1961 before turning pro, then captured the U.S. Open the following year for the first of 18 professional majors.
Somewhere along the way, the U.S. Amateur seems to have lost its status, if not some luster.
Edoardo Molinari of Italy is the latest champion, winning Sunday afternoon at fabled Merion Golf Club to become the first European winner since Harold Hilton in 1911.
The victory earned Molinari a place in history alongside some of the biggest names in golf -- Francis Ouimet, Bobby Jones, Palmer, Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson and Woods. It gets him into the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open.
But should it count as his first major?
It sure didn't for Mickelson. And it certainly won't for Nathaniel Crosby or Bubba Dickerson.
``That should be classified as one of the major championships,'' said Palmer, who won the 1954 U.S. Amateur before adding seven majors as a pro. ``I don't know who downplayed it or why they did. Until they downgraded it, I used to say I had won eight. I've sort of backed off of that now, because no one recognizes it any more.
``To not recognize it as a major is too bad.''
If not for the U.S. Amateur, there wouldn't be a Grand Slam.
This is the 75-year anniversary of Jones winning the four major titles of his time -- the British Open, the British Amateur, the U.S. Open and the U.S. Amateur. George Trevor of the New York Sun referred to Jones' feat as the ``impregnable quadrilateral,'' while O.B. Keeler in the Atlanta Journal later called it the ``Grand Slam.''
And that's what inspired Palmer in 1960 to reinvent the notion of winning all four majors in one year.
He won the Masters and U.S. Open and was on his way to St. Andrews with Pittsburgh sportswriter Bob Drum. They got to talking about Jones, and Palmer suggested a new Grand Slam.
``That became the talk of the town,'' Palmer said. ``They dropped the status of the Amateur, and I'm sorry they did that. How can you say Jones won the Grand Slam if you don't include the Amateur?''
Someone was still counting the U.S. Amateur when Nicklaus came around.
His victory in the 1973 PGA Championship at Canterbury gave Nicklaus his 14th career major to break Jones' record of 13 (five U.S. Amateurs, four U.S. Opens, three British Opens and one British Amateur). At the time, Nicklaus had won 12 professional majors and two Amateurs.
But when he won his last major at the 1986 Masters, the record he left behind was 18 professional majors.
What became of the U.S. Amateur?
``It's a major championship in the game of golf,'' Nicklaus said. ``But is it one of the ones that you want to put in that list? Because of Jones is the only way you would put it there. I accept it either way.''
Without the U.S. Amateur, Jones only has seven majors. Nicklaus still would have beaten the record at Canterbury with his 12 professional majors, one more than Walter Hagen.
Trying to determine when the U.S. Amateur lost its status as a major is as unclear as when the Masters and PGA Championship took over.
Woods brought the U.S. Amateur some attention by becoming the first male to win three straight years. But he never considered it a major. He suggests the demise of the Amateur came in the 1940s and 1950s, when Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and Byron Nelson were the popular forces in golf.
``That's when professional golf got big,'' Woods said. ``They didn't play in it because they were all pros. I think that's when you can discount any guy winning the Amateur as being a major.''
Even Nicklaus says the U.S. Amateur as a major was ``borderline'' when he won in 1959 and 1961. He probably counted it toward his major total because the record he chased -- 13 by Jones -- included six amateur titles.
``A lot of people considered that a major at that time because of Jones' situation and what he did,'' Nicklaus said. ``I think as time has gone on, and so much focus has gone on the four professional majors, they just sort of dropped off.''
USGA president Fred Ridley is the last U.S. Amateur champion (1975) who didn't turn pro. Jay Sigel won in 1982-83 and remained an amateur until he turned 50 and tried the Champions Tour.
Golf at the highest level is now about professionals.
So are the majors.
Koepka watches as named engraved again on U.S. Open trophy
Masters champ Reed: 'I definitely had a chance'
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Patrick Reed’s Grand Slam bid made it all the way to the closing stretch of the final round at the U.S. Open.
Reed had never cracked the top 10 in a major championship before a runner-up finish at last year’s PGA Championship, and he followed that with a convincing victory at the Masters in April. In the U.S. Open, despite starting the final round three shots behind a quartet of co-leaders, he made a concerted effort to add a second major title.
With Shinnecock Hills declawed in response to third-round conditions that bordered on unplayable, Reed birdied each of his first three holes and five of his first seven to move to 1 over and within a shot of Brooks Koepka’s lead. He could get no closer, though, as three bogeys in a four-hole stretch on Nos. 9-12 effectively ended his title bid.
Reed finished alone in fourth place at 4 over, three shots behind Koepka after closing with a 2-under 68.
“Of course, Grand Slam would have been nice. But you know, I mean honestly, to me, that was really the last thing on my mind,” Reed said. “It was go out, play some solid golf, try to post a number and see if you can get the job done. I had a chance. I definitely had a chance.”
It’s the third top-15 finish at the U.S. Open in the last four years for Reed, who tied for 13th at Chambers Bay and finished T-14 last year at Erin Hills.
Reed was bidding to erase a nine-shot deficit after 36 holes, which would have been the second-largest comeback in tournament history. He was also looking to join Craig Wood, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth on the short list of players to capture the Masters and U.S. Open in the same year.
“Of course it’s disappointing,” Reed said. “But at the same time … To finish in the top 10 my last three majors, and to have a chance to really win all three of them and to close one off, it means a lot.”
Watching Koepka, Fleetwood knew he was one shot short
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – In the end, even a record-tying performance wasn’t enough for Tommy Fleetwood at the U.S. Open.
Fleetwood started the final round at Shinnecock Hills six shots off the pace, but he quickly moved up the board with a run of four birdies over his first seven holes. He added four more in a row on Nos. 12-15, and he had a 9-footer for birdie on No. 18 to become the first player to ever shoot a 62 in the U.S. Open.
He missed, and that proved to be the difference – for both the record and the tournament.
Fleetwood waited around in player hospitality for the next three hours while the leaders finished, alternating between watching the golf (with sandwich in hand) and playing with his newborn son, Frankie. He was on the chipping green when Brooks Koepka completed play at 1-over 281, successfully defending his title and finishing one shot ahead of Fleetwood.
“Brooks kept giving me like a little bit of hope, and then he’d hole a putt just to stab you in the stomach a little bit,” Fleetwood said. “I always just had that feeling that I was one shy, so I never really got massively, massively excited.”
This was the first year the U.S. Open would have gone to a two-hole, aggregate playoff, so Fleetwood needed to stay loose for a possible overtime that in previous years would have instead been an 18-hole playoff on Monday. He emerged from the locker room and headed to the range to warm up after Koepka birdied No. 16 to take a two-shot lead with two holes to play.
“I just thought, 'I should really go up, because you never know,'” Fleetwood said. “I mean, the worst thing that could happen is if something did happen and I wasn’t really ready, so it’s better warming up with that intention.”
The solo runner-up is a career-best major finish for Fleetwood, who also finished fourth last year at Erin Hills. He now shares a piece of tournament history, becoming just the sixth player to shoot a 63, joining a list that includes Jack Nicklaus, Tom Weiskopf, Johnny Miller, Vijay Singh and Justin Thomas.
And after torching a demanding layout to the tune of eight birdies, he insisted he won’t dwell much on the final putt that got away – even though Koepka’s closing bogey meant that it ultimately made the difference.
“The putt on 18, I actually wanted more for the 62 at the time, and then it became a thing for the tournament,” Fleetwood said. “Obviously, that’s the putt that will play on your mind because that was the last shot you hit and that was your chance. But I missed some putts in the week, and I made some putts. I think everybody did. And your score is your score. And for me, just getting that close to winning a major again, I think that is the ultimate thing I’ll take from it.”
DJ and more congratulate Koepka on social media
Brooks Koepka won his second consecutive U.S. Open title at Shinnecock Hills. Dustin Johnson, his friend and playing competitor on Sunday, was quick to congratulate Koepka. And he wasn't alone.
Just wasn’t my day but ended on a high note. Congrats to @BKoepka on a well deserved win!— Dustin Johnson (@DJohnsonPGA) June 17, 2018
Final round 73 (total +7 T10) Enjoyed the @usopengolf test as always. Congratulations @BKoepka on back to back #USOpen wins. Happy Fathers Day to all the dads out there, and thank you #teamfor all the support and messages. JR pic.twitter.com/21wlFFsY8f— Justin Rose (@JustinRose99) June 17, 2018
Congratulations @BKoepka— Thomas Bjorn (@thomasbjorngolf) June 17, 2018
Amazing performance to go back to back...