U.S. Open golf: Oakmont Country Club's historic champions

No golf course personifies the examination the USGA hopes to present in the U.S. Open quite like Oakmont Country Club. The notorious Pittsburgh-area club, with its trenches, gnarly rough and severe greens, is well known for being one of golf's supreme tests.

In addition to staging the U.S. Open eight times, more than any other venue, the course has also hosted two U.S. Women's Opens, five U.S. Amateurs and three PGA Championships.

A big reason why the USGA keeps coming back to this fabled Henry C. Fownes design is the fact that more often than not, the tournament is epic. In its first appearance as a U.S. Open host in 1927, Tommy Armour defeated Harry Cooper in a playoff, the first of four playoffs staged in a U.S. Open at Oakmont.

Here is a refresher on what you need to know about Oakmont's most storied U.S. Open finishes.

Hometown pro wins only tournament in 1935

In 1935, Sam Parks Jr., head professional at nearby South Hills Country Club, shot 11-over par for the tournament and was the only golfer to shoot below 300 (299) in the four-round event. Perhaps the most notable event of the tournament was the inspiration for what would become known as the "Stimpmeter" after a spectator, former amateur champion Edward S. Stimpson, watched a Sam Snead putt roll off the green, adding to the lore of Oakmont's severe putting surfaces.



Ben Hogan's 1953 "Triple Crown"

When considering the greatest individual major championship seasons ever recorded in modern golf history, Tiger Woods' dominant 2000's chief competition is the 1953 campaign of Ben Hogan. Hogan, the legendary ball-striker, only competed in three majors that season because the Open Championship overlapped with the PGA Championship. Hogan won the Masters at Augusta National, then picked apart Oakmont with a 5-under, 72-hole total. No other player broke par for the week and only Sam Snead (1-over) was between the rest of the field at 4-over and higher.

Hogan went on to win the Open at Carnoustie later that summer in similar dominating fashion with a four-shot victory. While no golfer has won the modern grand slam, the "Tiger Slam" and Hogan's "Triple Crown" are the closest we've seen.

Golfing World on the career of Ben Hogan


Nicklaus defeats Palmer in playoff in 1962

"Arnie's Army" was in full march during the 1962 U.S. Open. Arnold Palmer, from nearby Latrobe, Pa., was the obvious fan favorite throughout the week. But an up-and-coming Jack Nicklaus was out to spoil the coronation. With Arnie and Jack tied after 72 holes, more than 10,000 fans showed up for the Monday playoff, with the majority of the crowd in Palmer's corner. Many fans even taunted Nicklaus throughout the round:

"The fans at Oakmont were not your typical golf fans," said Ian O'Connor, author of "Arnie & Jack." "These were blue-collar, Pittsburgh people. They were Steelers fans. They were rowdy and they were stomping the earth when Jack Nicklaus was putting. "Nothing was out of bounds in terms of trying to throw Jack Nicklaus off his game," O'Connor said. "They were calling him 'Fat Jack.'"

Nicklaus gave Arnie's crowd little to cheer about. He led by as many as four shots on the front nine and won the playoff by three shots. It was the first of four U.S. Open titles for Nicklaus, and at the age of 22, he became the youngest champion of the event since Bobby Jones in 1923 (later topped by 21-year-old Jordan Spieth in 2015 at Chambers Bay).

Video: Nicklaus shares his favorite moments with Arnold Palmer


Johnny Miller's 63 in 1973

Sixty-three is the best score ever recorded in a major championship (27 times). But given the venue and circumstances surrounding Johnny Miller's final-round 63 at Oakmont in 1973, it's widely considered the greatest round in U.S. Open history. Miller entered the final round tied for 13th, six strokes back of the lead. Among the names ahead of him were Jack Nicklaus, Tom Weiskopf, Gary Player and Western Pennsylvania's own Arnold Palmer.

But Miller lapped them all, taking advantage of overnight rains and a softer course to hit all 18 greens and beat John Schlee by one shot. Only three other players broke par in the final round. Miller would win 35 times in his pro career and win the 1976 Open Championship.



Nelson's rally spoils Watson repeat in 1983

While Johnny Miller's Sunday 63 is always the first great comeback people point to at Oakmont, in 1983, Larry Nelson's weekend total, 132 (which included a Monday finish due to storms on Sunday afternoon), was a record for a U.S. Open weekend (until Rory McIlroy in 2011), and earned him a one-shot victory over defending champion Tom Watson.

Els outlasts Monty, Roberts in three-way playoff in 1994

In a U.S. Open plagued by scorching heat, 24-year-old South African Ernie Els burst onto the scene in 1994, prevailing in a Monday playoff vs. Loren Roberts and Colin Montgomerie. The playoff was shaky. Els began 4-over after two holes, and Montgomerie made three double bogeys through 11 holes). Els and Roberts finished the playoff tied at 3-over, and Els ultimately prevailed on the second playoff hole. Roberts and Montgomerie would never win a major championship until their Champions Tour careers, while Els would win a second U.S. Open in 1997.

Also notable: Arnold Palmer played in his final U.S. Open. This was the last U.S. Open pre-Tiger Woods, who won the 1994 U.S. Amateur -- his first of three consecutive -- and would enter the 1995 Masters, U.S. Open and Open Championship.

Cabrera steals the spotlight in 2007

Prior to the 2007 U.S. Open, word was already getting around about Oakmont. Phil Mickelson, playing a reconnaissance round a few weeks prior, sprained his wrist practicing shots out of the thick rough, and would ultimately miss the cut. Tiger Woods was a clear favorite, but Argentina's Angel Cabrera was the only player to shoot 2-under-par rounds during the week and finished in the clubhouse at 5-over. Jim Furyk and Woods both had putts on 18 to force a playoff, but missed. Woods, however, would witness the birth of his first child, Sam, shortly after, and win the following year's U.S. Open at Torrey Pines South in epic fashion.

Fairways of Life: USGA historian talks Oakmont history



Brandon Tucker is the Sr. Managing Editor for GolfPass and was the founding editor of Golf Advisor in 2014, he was the managing editor for Golf Channel Digital's Courses & Travel. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and nearly 600 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at @btuck34.
0 Comments
Related Links
Golfers love to play where the pros play. Why not play where they face the most pressure? These 32 courses that hosted a major championship are open to the public. Here are the courses I'd like to play the most.
12 Min Read
Another demanding week of U.S Open golf has the staff recalling their most difficult rounds ever played.
6 Min Read
There was a time when practically every U.S. Open venue was an exclusive, private club. These days, "America's Open" has never been more open. Here are the six host courses open to the public, with tips on the best ways to secure a tee time.
5 Min Read
Where does 2015 host Chambers Bay rank among the six U.S. Open venues open to the public? Jason Scott Deegan has played 'em all. Here's his take.
6 Min Read
More from the author
7 Min Read
October 7, 2021
We found the 10 cities where it's easiest to score a tee time.
2 Min Read
September 28, 2021
In a new exclusive series from GolfPass, Rory McIlroy demonstrates with Martin Hall how to hit the 9 shots. Here's how to add them to your practice routine.
9 Min Read
September 23, 2021
We've crafted a Dream 18 from the most exciting holes in American public golf.
7 Min Read
September 21, 2021
Large buddies groups love playing Ryder Cup-style, multi-day team events on their golf vacations. And what could be more epic than playing a Ryder Cup match on a former (or future) Ryder Cup venue?
2 Min Read
September 21, 2021
Bernhard Langer recalls the turning point that led to a European wave at the Ryder Cup matches
4 Min Read
September 10, 2021
Pete Dye's golf course designs set the bar for innovation, creativity and challenge. We've compiled his top courses as rated on Golf Advisor by regular golfers like you.
Popular
1:19
September 24, 2021
Get a glimpse of the No. 12 par 3 at Whistling Straits, which presents the shortest hole for participants to play on in the Ryder Cup.
2:59
September 28, 2021
Rory McIlroy and Martin Hall demonstrate how to hit a low, straight shot in this preview from the new series 9 Shots with Rory presented by WHOOP.
3 Min Read
October 4, 2021
America's largest golf resort, and one of its smallest, are expanding to enhance the guest experience.
4 Min Read
October 18, 2021
Slight cooling of Pacific Ocean waters increases likelihood of abnormal weather in major golf destinations.
Load More
Now Reading
U.S. Open golf: Oakmont Country Club's historic champions