In sports we love seeing the greatest stars challenged on the biggest stages, pushed to the limits of their athletic skill and mental capabilities.
No tournament in golf does this better than the annual U.S. Open held every Father’s Day weekend.
As the second major championship of the calendar year, the U.S. Open presents challenges that no other tournament can even compare to. Hosted by the United States Golf Association (USGA), the organization does everything in its power to make the course so difficult that every golfer from Tiger Woods to the amateurs question their golfing abilities.
Unlike The Masters, the first major championship in the calendar year, the U.S. Open is played on a different course each year. With exception to iconic venues such as Pebble Beach Golf Links, almost all the golfers have little familiarity with the course selected in a given year.
Along with the unfamiliarity, the USGA then lets the roughs grow high and mows the fairways narrow on each hole. Nothing but a perfect shot from the tees will leave the ball in three feet tall grass for the second shot, all but assuring saving par will be a noble feat. Landing on the green, much less the fringe (also grown higher than most golf courses), is an accomplishment itself.
Reaching the putting surface is only half the battle. The greens are so rough and dry that three-putts from the world’s greatest golfers become commonplace. Just when golfers think they have made the correct read, the ball will bounce (literally, the greens are this rough) in a different direction away from the hole. For example, hall of fame golfer Gary Player said the greens at Chambers Bay, the site of the 2015 U.S. Open, was like, “Putting on broccoli.”
Some of the greatest recent meltdowns in golf history have occurred during the closing stretches of the U.S. Open. Phil Mickelson, who has never won but finished second six times at the U.S. Open, held a one-stroke lead on the 18th tee-box at the 2006 U.S. Open in Winged Foot Golf Club. After a double-bogey six shots later, Mickelson was left to wonder what had gone wrong.
Speaking of Winged Foot in 2006, the winner (Geoff Ogilvy) had a final score of five-over par (+5). These scores are the best part about the U.S. Open, at least in my opinion. In a sport that sees winners consistently shoot low rounds such as 17-under par at courses that we, the average joe golfers, can’t even think about making bogey, it’s nice to see the best in the world squirm on every hole like they forgot how to play the game.
Yes, it is mean and possibly unprofessional to root for such carnage in golf, but these adverse circumstances are what bring the memorable moments out of the world’s best golfers (see Tiger Woods in 2008 at Torrey Pines). It makes the tournament unique and is why so many like myself love this annual major championship.