OAKMONT, Pa. – Oakmont has hosted the U.S. Open more than any other golf course, and there's a reason.
No other American course has produced so many great champions. Eight of the 11 winners at Oakmont, which includes three PGA Championships, are in the World Golf Hall of Fame. The exception was Sam Parks Jr., who benefited from course knowledge as a club pro at nearby South Hills Country Club.
Three of the eight U.S. Opens at Oakmont ended in a playoff. All but one has been decided by two shots or fewer, the exception Ben Hogan in 1953, when he won all three of the majors he played that year.
Picking the best one is sure to lead to debate.
5. ANGEL CABRERA in 2007
Cabrera became the first Argentine in 40 years to win a major, and he took down two of the best players in the game. Tiger Woods was in the final group for the fourth straight major, and while he quickly made up ground on 54-hole leader Aaron Baddeley (who made triple bogey on the first hole), he couldn't catch up to Cabrera. Neither could Jim Furyk, whose hopes ended on the 17th hole when he tried to drive the green and made bogey. Cabrera's drive split the middle of the 18th fairway with a powerful drive and he made par for a 69. Woods needed a birdie on the 18th to force a playoff, but missed a 30-foot attempt.
4. ERNIE ELS in 1994
Ernie Els never made it look easy winning any of his four majors, and this was the start of it. He began the final round with a two-shot lead, hooked his tee shot and received a favorable ruling from USGA president Trey Holland, who deemed a movable television crane to be an immovable object. Needing par on the 18th hole to win, Els hooked another drive and made bogey to fall into a three-way playoff with Colin Montgomerie and Loren Robert. In sweltering heat, Montgomerie wore all black and wilted to a 78. Els and Roberts each shot 74, and on the 20th hole of the playoff, Els won when Roberts made bogey.
3. BEN HOGAN in 1953
One of the most dominant years in golf featured Ben Hogan at his best on the U.S. Open's toughest course. Hogan, who two months earlier won the Masters by five shots, opened with a 67, the best score of the tournament. Thus began a wire-to-wire victory. The only challenge came from Sam Snead, who answered with a 69 and a 72 to pull to within one shot going into the final 18 holes. Hogan closed with a 71 for a six-shot victory as Snead faded to a 76 and was runner-up for the fourth time. A month later, Hogan won the British Open at Carnoustie. He played three majors and won them by a combined 15 shots.
2. JOHNNY MILLER in 1973
Johnny Miller started the final round six shots behind. He finished with his only U.S. Open title and a story that has been told over the years, mainly by him. Miller shot the first 63 in major championship history — in the final round of a U.S. Open. At Oakmont, no less. It helped that the greens were softened overnight by too much water, but Miller was at his best. He piled up birdies in alarming fashion, finished with two pars and won by one shot over John Schlee. There have been 26 rounds of 63 at the majors since, three in the final round. Miller remains the only player to shoot 63 in the final round of a major and win.
1. JACK NICKLAUS in 1962
Jack Nicklaus, a 22-year-old rookie from Ohio, announced his arrival by beating Arnold Palmer in his own backyard. Nicklaus, who nearly won the U.S. Open two years earlier, was two shots behind Palmer going into the final 18 holes. Palmer was ahead by three until flubbing a chip on the ninth hole and taking bogey, and a bogey from the bunker on the 13th left him tied with Nicklaus. That's how they stayed, Nicklaus closing with a 69 to Palmer's 71, setting up an 18-hole playoff. Nicklaus built a four-shot lead through six holes and withstood Arnie's charge that pulled him within one. Palmer three-putted the 13th to stay two shots behind and never made up any more ground. Nicklaus shot 71 in the playoff to win by three, capturing the first of 18 professional majors. Palmer won the British Open a month later, and a rivalry was born.