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Memorable US Open moments

Alex Perry
June 14, 2013
Tiger Woods defied injury (and logic) to win the 2008 US Open © AP

ESPN has all the news, views and features from the US Open this week - along with an in-depth GolfCast

The US Open is in full swing and, if you're anything like us here at ESPN Towers, you will be glued to the action from Merion right to its conclusion on Sunday afternoon. As with every major, we will be hoping for something interesting to talk about - maybe a piece of history or a fun anecdote or two.

So while you kick back and enjoy the weekend's action, here are ten stories from US Open history that we really quite enjoyed…


Not only was John McDermott the first American to win his country's national championship at the 17th attempt, he was also the youngest to do so at the tender age of 19 years, 10 months and 14 days - a record which still stands to this day.

Sadly, McDermott's career was effectively over by the time he turned 23 after suffering from mental illness apparently triggered by his involvement in a collision between the ship carrying him home from the 1914 Open Championship and another vessel on the English Channel.


US Open venues are traditionally set up to reward the more accurate golfer, with high-cut rough flanking narrower-than-standard fairways and deceptively undulating greens.

No surprises then, that scoring is a lot more modest in the second major of the year. In fact, the top six highest winning scores in any of the four major championships are all from US Opens - including Sam Parks Jr, who won by two strokes in 1935 with a whopping 11-over par total of 299.

Tiger Woods, of course, made a mockery of the tradition when he shot 12-under at Pebble Beach to win by 15 - the largest winning margin in major championship history. The big show off.

Ben Hogan wins the US Open just 16 months after a near-fatal car accident © AP


Slammin' Sam Snead won 82 PGA Tour events and seven majors in his illustrious career - but the US Open eluded him.

In 1939, Snead needed to par the 18th to win. He tripled-bogeyed. Ouch. But what happened eight years later hurt a lot more.

On the final green in a play-off with Lew Worsham, Snead addressed his two-foot putt and was about to play it when Worsham interrupted his opponent and stopped play, demanding the two putts measured to see who should play first. Officials pulled out the tape measure and it was proved Snead should have played first. Visibly shaken, Snead missed it and Worsham went on to win.

Gamesmanship, or a genuine consideration for the order of play? You decide.


When Ben Hogan was in a head-on collision with a bus, the golf uber-legend flung himself across wife Valerie in an act to save her life. It ended up saving his own, as the steering column will have undoubtedly killed him. Still, a fractured pelvis, collar bone and ankle - not to mention the blood clots - will keep you off the course for a while.

Just 16 months later, Hogan won the US Open at Merion despite still undergoing treatment and suffering from sickness as a result.

A remarkable feat in sporting history.


There have been some astonishing collapses in golf history (Jean van de Velde, anyone?) but this is most surprising because it was the ever-reliable Arnold Palmer.

It is often recorded that Palmer lost a seven-shot lead in the final round. Technically true, but dig a bit deeper and you'll find Palmer actually conceded his whopping advantage in just nine holes. While rival Billy Casper tore up the back-nine, shooting 32, Palmer dropped shots at 10 and 13, then two at 15 and another two at 16. When he bogeyed the 17th, his lead was gone.

Palmer went to lose in the play-off which, you guessed it, he led with six holes to go.

Jack Nicklaus jokes around during his record 44th consecutive - and last ever - US Open © AP


The 100th edition would be the last for a certain Jack Nicklaus, who was teeing up in his 44th consecutive US Open - a record matched by no other.

The Golden Bear won four US Opens in his career, a title only equalled by three others, and he also holds the records for most top-five finishes (11), most top-ten finishes (18) and most top-25 finishes (22). He also recorded the lowest 72-hole score by an amateur in 1960 when he finished second.

The 2000 US Open was somewhat dominated by Tiger Woods winning his maiden national championship and the first of a run that would see him hold all four major titles at the same time. But don't you forget who the master is.


The US Open record of New Zealander Michael Campbell makes interesting reading: Cut, Cut, Cut, Cut, Winner, Cut, Tied 58th, Cut, Cut, Cut, Cut, Cut.

A truly astonishing tale, Campbell missed the cut in the first five tournaments of the 2005 season before sneaking in the back door for the US Open at the European qualifier at Walton Heath.

Buoyed by the victory, Campbell went on to win the Match Play Championship. Surely world domination was imminent? Not quite. He had a grand total of zero top-ten finishes between 2009 and 2012 and even contemplated quitting the game.


The best-golfer-who-never-won-a-major debate is one that will run and run. One name that is right up there is that of Colin Montgomerie.

The eight-time Order of Merit champion and Ryder Cup legend never came closer than at Winged Foot, in what will go down as one of the most bizarre finishes in major history.

Montgomerie, Jim Furyk and Phil Mickelson all failed to par the 18th allowing Geoff Ogilvy to snatch his maiden major.

But it hurt Our Monty the most. Stood in the middle of the 18th fairway, the Scot switched his six-iron for a seven-iron, assuming adrenaline would kick in. It didn't. He fluffed his lines and the rest (a chip and a three-putt) is history.

Robert Rock had a remarkable journey to make his US Open debut © AP


Not only did Tiger Woods win to become just the second player after Jack Nicklaus to win all of the majors on at least three occasions, he also did it on one leg. (Not literally, of course.)

Woods defied logic - and, probably, his mother's orders - to play on despite sustaining a serious knee injury during the tournament. He went on to beat Rocco Mediate in a play-off before almost immediately announcing he would miss the rest of the season to have surgery.


When Robert Rock qualified for his first US Open via Walton Heath, he didn't envisage it would be such a hindrance.

We are very fond of our American cousins, but they don't look too kindly on us foreign folk trying to get into their sacred land with criminal offences to our name, so when Rock tried to obtain a visa to play at Congressional they found out about a drink-driving charge from when the Englishman was but a foolish teenager.

He managed to get the visa fast-tracked and the only flight that would get him anywhere near Washington was to Newark, some 250 miles away. Rock then hopped in a cab, to the tune of $1,000 (plus tip, of course) and rolled into the Bethesda country club just hours before his first round tee-time.

He respectably finished tied-23rd at three-under par - though that was still 13 shots off champion Rory McIlroy.

Alex Perry is assistant editor of ESPN.co.uk and can be found tweeting here

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