Published June 07, 2013
A look at some of the anniversaries this year at the 113th U.S. Open, to be played June 13-16 at Merion Golf Club:
100 years ago (1913): A century later, this remains the seminal moment in American golf. Never mind that John McDermott the previous two years had become the first American-born player to win its national championship. Francis Ouimet was an amateur who lived across the street from the 17th green at The Country Club. He crashed the duel of British heavyweights Harry Vardon and Ted Ray by matching their 79s in the final round to force a three-way playoff. Ouimet beat them both handily in the 18-hole playoff with a 72. Vardon had a 77 and Ray had a 78. It remains perhaps the greatest upset in major championship golf. More than that, it piqued the American interest in golf, put the privileged sport on the front page and began the shift to American dominance.
75 years ago (1938): Ralph Guldahl became the fourth player to successfully defend his U.S. Open title with a six-shot win over Dick Metz at Cherry Hills outside Denver. Metz had a three-shot lead going into the final day, and he stretched his lead to four shots going into the final afternoon round. But he stumbled to a 79, and Guldahl seized on the opening with two birdies in his opening six holes. Guldahl closed with a 69. The '38 U.S. Open is equally known for Ray Ainsley, who hit into the stream on the par-4 16th. Instead of taking a drop, he tried to play the ball out of the water and took a 19, the highest score on a hole in U.S. Open history.
50 years ago (1963): The U.S. Open returned to The Country Club to celebrate the golden anniversary of Ouimet's win, and it led to another playoff where the favorite didn't win. Julius Boros, who won his first U.S. Open in 1952, closed with a 72 and forced a playoff with Arnold Palmer, who missed a short putt on the 17th; and Jackie Culpit, who made double bogey on the 17th and missed a birdie chance on the 18th. In the playoff, Boros built an early lead and shot 70, while Culpit had a 73 and Palmer a 76. It was the second straight year that Palmer lost in a U.S. Open playoff. One more playoff loss was to follow in 1966.
25 years ago (1988): The third and final U.S. Open at The Country Club had a familiar theme — an American winner in a playoff. Curtis Strange had a one-shot lead over reigning British Open champion Nick Faldo going into the final round. Strange three-putted for bogey on the 17th hole to fall into a tie, and then forced a playoff with a pressure-packed bunker shot in front of the final green. Strange was in command of the playoff and stretched his lead to three shots on the back nine. This time, Faldo couldn't recover. Strange shot 71, while Faldo had a 75. It was the start of a remarkable run for Strange in the U.S. Open. He remains the only player to break par in three straight U.S. Opens (winning two of them).
10 years ago (2003): The U.S. Open returned to Olympia Fields south of Chicago for the first time in 75 years, and it wasn't nearly as exciting as the 1928 championship when Johnny Farrell beat Bobby Jones in a playoff. Rain earlier in the week left the course soft and vulnerable. Vijay Singh became only the fourth player in history with a 63 in the U.S. Open. Tom Watson, at age 53, opened with a 65. The steady hand belonged to Jim Furyk, who was at 10-under 200 for a three-shot lead over Stephen Leaney. The Australian never seriously challenged him on the back nine. Despite bogeys on the last two holes for a 2-over 72, Furyk tied the U.S. Open record of 272 and won by three for his first major title.