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.