Thursday, June 14, 2012

5 Best U.S. Opens in the Modern Era

1. 1973--I've never seen a more mesmerizing round of golf than Johnny Miller's 63 on the final day. I remember watching the then 26-year old Miller pin-seeking on just about every hole at Oakmont resulting in a phenomenal birdie barrage that left players like Nicklaus and Trevino behind. The U.S.G.A. was so miffed that Miller essentially embarrassed them by soundly defeating its tough set-up that they came back the following year with near shin-high rough at Winged Foot where winner Hale Irwin shot a 7-over par for the victory.

2. 1999--Staged on Pinehurst No.2, this one had spectacular drama. Payne Stewart, with his wind shirt with cut off sleeves, sunk a treacherous 15-foot par putt on the final hole to beat Phil Mickelson. It was the pinnacle of Stewart's career. Sadly, he never got to defend his title. Stewart died tragically in a plane crash four months after he hoisted the U.S. Open trophy.

3. 2008--Tiger Woods won on a bum leg at Torrey Pines. Limping around the course like he'd been floored by a linebacker, Woods amazingly played at a championship level. Woods bested Rocco Mediate on the first hole of a sudden death playoff following an 18-hole playoff. Then came the fire hydrant at Isleworth, a slew of personal and knee problems and Woods hasn't won a major since.

4. 2011--This was the Rory McIlroy coming out party following his flame out at the Masters two months earlier. The 22-year old Irish lad broke the U.S. Open record by 4 shots with his 268 total at Congressional Country Club. He shot an astonishing 16 under par to win by 8 strokes. He also set the record for the 54-hole record at 199, the 36-hole record at 131 and the most under par at any point at 17 under. Here's what's truly amazing: He finished 8 shots ahead of Australian Jason Day, whose score of 8 under 276 would have been good enough to win 26 of the previous 30 U.S. Opens.

5. 2000--Up until Rory in 2011, this was the gold standard in U.S. Open play. Tiger Woods destroyed the best golfers in the world by shooting 12 under 272 and winning by a whopping 15 strokes over Ernie Els at Pebble Beach Golf Links.

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