If you’re looking for an example of just how tough the US Open is, look no further than Tiger Woods. The three-time winner of the championship has a total PGA Tour career stroke average of 68.9. However, his equivalent score in the US Open is almost three strokes worse, at 71.7.
The first US Open took place on October 4, 1895, at Newport Golf Club in Rhode Island. Ten professionals and one amateur contested the championship over 36 holes on one day. England’s Horace Rawlins shot 91 and 82 to win the title by two strokes from Scotland’s Willie Dunn.
It took 17 attempts for the first US-born golfer to get their hands on the title. John McDermott, from Philadelphia, defeated fellow Americans Mike Brady and George Simpson at Chicago Golf Club in 1911, a year after finishing second to Alex Smith in his home town. Interestingly, whilst the first 16 titles were won by foreign players, only 17 have won the tournament since.
The highest score ever recorded on a single hole at the US Open is an eye-watering 19. Poor Ray Ainsley racked that up on the par-4 16th at Cherry Hills in 1938. The Californian hit his approach into a stream in front of the green. Rather than take a penalty drop, he went full ‘Van de Velde’, climbed into the stream and attempted to play from the water. As the ball drifted with the current, he continue to slash away at it, refusing to take a drop. Ouch!
Dustin Johnson will become just the seventh golfer to successfully defend the championship if he wins the US Open for a second year on the spin this year. Curtis Strange did it most recently, when he won back-to-back in 1988 and 1989. Only one player, Scotland’s Willie Anderson, has won the title three times in a row. He did so in 1903, 1904 and 1905.
The 1979 US Open saw a tree inserted onto the course at the Inverness Club between the first and second rounds. It came about after Lon Hinkle used a gap in the trees to take a shortcut up the adjacent 17th fairway to set up a birdie on the eighth. When the players returned there the next day, they discovered a 15-foot tall Black Hills Spruce blocking their way.
Alex Smith claimed the 1906 US Open with an incredible 33-under-par winning score. However, his aggregate score was 295. How did he do it? Simple - the 1906 event played to a par of 82. That’s right: eighty-two. Interestingly, his younger brother Willie Smith finished second, with his brother-in-law James Maiden finishing in a tie for third.
There have been 44 holes-in-one in US Open history. The first of those came in 1907 when Jack Hobens aced the 147-yard tenth at Philadephia CC. Most recently, Webb Simpson (above) – the 2012 champion – had one at the 172-yard ninth hole at Pinehurst in 2014.
Phil Mickelson isn’t the only high-profile player to be a US Open short of completing the career grand slam. Sam Snead, a major winner on seven occasions, never managed to win his national championship, finishing runner-up four separate times.
Long holes are by no means a recent phenomenon at the US Open. The 1912 championship featured the first (and so far only) par-6 in the event’s history, the tenth hole of the Country Club of Buffalo stretching to 606 yards. John McDermott successfully defended the title that year, playing the monster hole in a combined six-under-par.