OUR EXPERTS EXPLAIN
The Outward Nine: Great Open Moments at Oakmont May 26, 2016 | FAR HILLS, N.J. By Victoria Student, USGA

Ernie Els picked the right clubs all week when he won the 1994 U.S. Open in the sweltering heat at Oakmont. (USGA/Robert Walker)

As the countdown to the U.S. Open continues, it is a perfect time to look back at the many memorable moments that have taken place during the eight Opens played at Oakmont Country Club. In the first installment of this two-part series, we will review some of the historic events that took place on the outward nine:

No. 1: In 1962, the present and future of golf faced off at the U.S. Open when Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer battled for the championship. After four rounds, the pair was tied at 283, setting up an 18-hole playoff between the 22-year-old Jack Nicklaus and Palmer, the reigning Masters champion. During this era, the money from playoff ticket sales was awarded to the winner. Just before they teed off on the first hole, Palmer shook Nicklaus’ hand and asked him if he wanted to split the purse. Nicklaus, in his first year as a professional, declined, but thought “The King” had made a generous offer. Nicklaus went on to defeat Palmer by three strokes for his first victory in a major championship.

No. 2: In the 1927 U.S. Open, amateur and defending champion Bob Jones was the clear favorite. After an eagle on the opening hole, Jones nearly made a birdie on the par-4 second with a mashie shot to the green and a putt that, according to one newspaper report, “practically rimmed the cup not only faultlessly, but perfectly.” Despite this strong start, Jones would go on to tie for 11th, the only time in his career that he finished outside the top 10 in a U.S. Open.

No. 3: Tiger Woods had to make up considerable ground in the third round of the 2007 U.S. Open to get in contention for a 13th major victory. Woods’ drive on the third hole left him even with the famous Church Pews bunker, 150 yards from the hole. His approach shot left him with a 12-foot right-to-left putt for birdie. He drained the putt and began his charge; his third-round 69 positioned him just two strokes behind the 54-hole leader, Aaron Baddeley.

No. 4: In the third round of the 1994 U.S. Open, South African Ernie Els’ drive on the par-5 fourth hole left him 250 yards from the putting surface. In record-high heat, Els, sweating through his shirt, hit a 2-iron to 25 feet and made his putt for eagle, propelling him to a 6-under-par 30 on the outward nine and the 54-hole lead.

No. 5: At one point on the outward nine of the final round of the 2007 U.S. Open, five different players owned or shared the lead. On the fifth hole, Angel Cabrera hit a 9-iron to within a foot of the hole and tapped in for birdie to catch leaders Tiger Woods and Stephen Ames. Cabrera continued the momentum, eventually winning the U.S. Open by one stroke. 

No. 6: In the 1953 U.S. Open, Ben Hogan set the tone for the rest of the championship by shooting 67 in the first round. On the sixth hole, Hogan hit a 5-iron to the narrow green within 8 feet of the hole. He made the putt for birdie. According to newspaper reports, one impatient observer following Hogan said: “What’s the use in watching him? He never makes a mistake!”

No. 7: In the 1983 championship, Larry Nelson was in 25th place after 36 holes. However, in the third round he began an incredible streak that would result in a 65. On the seventh hole, Nelson sank a 25-foot putt for his third consecutive birdie. Nelson made seven birdies in 11 holes on the way to posting a 65. 

No. 8: Johnny Miller was discouraged going into the final round of the 1973 U.S. Open. He started the day six strokes behind a group atop the leaderboard that included six previous U.S. Open champions (Arnold Palmer, Julius Boros, Lee Trevino, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Gene Littler) ahead of him. Although birdies on the first four holes renewed Miller’s confidence, it was his three-putt bogey on the eighth hole that jumpstarted the rest of his round. After this wakeup call, Miller hit all but one fairway and every green in regulation on his way to his record-breaking 63 and an improbable come-from-behind victory.  

No. 9: Sam Parks Jr. wowed U.S. Open spectators in 1935 when he chipped in for eagle on the ninth hole during the third round. His solid drive and 3-wood left him only 15 yards from the hole on the 477-yard par 5. Newspapers called the shot “as thrilling as Sarazen’s double eagle” that occurred a few months before at the Masters. Parks’ third-round 73 moved him into a tie for the lead with Jimmy Thomson after 54 holes. Parks closed with a 76 and won the championship by two strokes.

Victoria Student is an historian for the USGA. Contact her at vstudent@usga.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

No. 6: In the 1953 U.S. Open, Ben Hogan set the tone for the rest of the championship by shooting 67 in the first round. On the sixth hole, Hogan hit a 5-iron to the narrow green within 8 feet of the hole. He made the putt for birdie. According to newspaper reports, one impatient observer following Hogan said: “What’s the use in watching him? He never makes a mistake!”

No. 7: In the 1983 championship, Larry Nelson was in 25th place after 36 holes. However, in the third round he began an incredible streak that would result in a 65. On the seventh hole, Nelson sank a 25-foot putt for his third consecutive birdie. Nelson made seven birdies in 11 holes on the way to posting a 65. 

No. 8: Johnny Miller was discouraged going into the final round of the 1973 U.S. Open. He started the day six strokes behind a group atop the leaderboard that included six previous U.S. Open champions (Arnold Palmer, Julius Boros, Lee Trevino, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Gene Littler) ahead of him. Although birdies on the first four holes renewed Miller’s confidence, it was his three-putt bogey on the eighth hole that jumpstarted the rest of his round. After this wakeup call, Miller hit all but one fairway and every green in regulation on his way to his record-breaking 63 and an improbable come-from-behind victory.  

No. 9: Sam Parks Jr. wowed U.S. Open spectators in 1935 when he chipped in for eagle on the ninth hole during the third round. His solid drive and 3-wood left him only 15 yards from the hole on the 477-yard par 5. Newspapers called the shot “as thrilling as Sarazen’s double eagle” that occurred a few months before at the Masters. Parks’ third-round 73 moved him into a tie for the lead with Jimmy Thomson after 54 holes. Parks closed with a 76 and won the championship by two strokes.

Victoria Student is an historian for the USGA. Contact her at vstudent@usga.org.

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