US Open Golf 2012: 10 Most Exciting Finishes in Open History

Jeremy Los@@JeremyALosFeatured ColumnistJune 18, 2012

US Open Golf 2012: 10 Most Exciting Finishes in Open History

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    The US Open is known for giving golf fans some of the most iconic, unforgettable and exciting moments in golf. It is none-more evident than on Sunday at the US Open, as players from the back of the field attempt to make a run, while players near the front attempt to hang on.

    The tough layout often leads to huge swings in the leaderboard, as great shots are rewarded heavily, while poor shots could cost a player the tournament.

    Sunday at the Open is often filled with as much misery and sadness as happiness, as those who were so close to winning this prestigious championship relish in the chances missed.

    Presented are some of the most exciting finishes in US Open history. 

1. 2008: Torrey Pines

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    Probably best known for Tiger Woods playing on one leg and coming through with a victory, the 2008 US Open featured one of the greatest finishes in history.

    Going into the final round, a number of players had a shot at the championship, highlighted by Tiger Woods, Lee Westwood and Rocco Mediate.

    The incredible round featured back-and-forth play that saw Tiger fall out of the lead early only to fight back and tie the loveable Rocco on the final hole with what will likely be the best putt of his career.

    The Monday playoff the followed on Monday was downright amazing, as Rocco took Tiger’s best shots only to return with shots of his own. Tiger had to once again birdie the last to force sudden death, and on the 19th hole, Tiger would capitalize on a Mediate mistake, making par to Rocco’s bogey to win his 14th major championship and third US Open. 

2. 1960: Cherry Hills

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    The 60th US Open is best known for featuring the coming together of three generations of golf royalty, as the past—represented by Ben Hogan—the present—Arnold Palmer—and the future—Jack Nicklaus—were all in contention going into the final round.

    Starting the final 18 an insane seven strokes back, Arnold made a statement early by driving the par-4 first at Cherry Hills and eventually made birdie.

    That would kickstart his round, as he would erase that seven stroke deficit by shooting a 65, winning the tournament by two strokes.

    Hogan and Nicklaus put up valiant efforts, but both would falter late, as Nicklaus would have two costly three-putts on the back nine and Hogan would find the water on the final two holes. The Cherry Hills US Open would also be the last time the Great Ben Hogan would challenge for our national championship

3. 2006: Winged Foot

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    The 2006 US Open could very well be seen as the second massacre at Winged Foot, as every player in the field finished over par and the winning score was a respectable +5.

    The championship was highlighted by the monumental collapses and missed chances that would transpire on the 72nd hole.

    Three players came to the 18th hole only needing par to take the lead, win the championship or force a playoff, and neither one could do it. Jim Furyk would miss a five-foot par putt, Colin Montgomery would miss the green horribly from the middle of the fairway on his way to double-bogey and Phil Mickelson would have one of the most gut-wrenching meltdowns in golf history.

    In the end, Geoff Ogilvy would limp out with the trophy after making two improbable pars on the last two holes—a chip-in on 17 and a miraculous up-and-down on 18. 

4. 1966: Olympic Club

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    The '66 US Open was all but in the bag going into the back nine at the famed Olympic Club, as Arnold Palmer was in the process of running away with the tournament.

    Going into the final nine, the King had Ben Hogan’s scoring record squarely in his sights, and in true Arnie fashion, he was going to go hard after it.

    That decision would come back to bite him mightily, as the steady Billy Casper stayed consistent and started to make birdies to Arnie’s bogeys. The seven-stroke lead that Palmer had going into the back nine would be completely gone by the 17th, and the two would meet again for a Monday playoff.

    The next day, Casper would again capitalize on Palmer’s aggressive play and come back from another deficit. This time, Casper erased a two-stroke difference on the back nine to walk away with the title. 

5. 1999: Pinehurst No. 2

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    The 99th US Open featured a back-and-forth battle between Payne Stewart and Phil Mickelson at the famed Pinehurst No. 2. The two exchanged the lead late, with Mickelson claiming the lead on the 12 but falling back into a tie with Payne on the 16th following a costly bogey.

    Payne would regain the lead on the 17th after making a great birdie. What transpired on the 18th would go down as one of the most iconic moments in US Open history.

    Needing a par to win his second open championship, Payne buried a 15-foot par putt on the treacherous Pinehurst greens to beat Mickelson by one. The moving image of Stewart after making his putt would take on new meaning five months later, when he would die in a plane crash. 

6. 1950: Merion

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    Taking place at the home of next year’s US Open, Merion Golf Club, the 1950 US Open featured the return of Ben Hogan, who was playing in only his seventh tournament since his near-fatal car accident 16 months prior.

    Hogan played wonderful golf throughout the tournament, but following a tiresome 36-hole Sunday, Hogan started to falter down the stretch. With bogeys on 15 and 17, Hogan found himself in a three-way tie for the lead heading into 18.

    On 18, Hogan would hit one of the greatest shots in golf history when he nailed a 1-iron, or 2-iron, depending on whom you ask, on the green in two. He would go on to two-putt and force a three-way playoff.

    In the playoff, the rejuvenated Hogan would run away from Lloyd Mangrum and George Fazio, besting them by 4 and 6 strokes respectively. The tournament would go down as one of the greatest injury comebacks of all-time. 

7. 1982: Pebble Beach

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    Played at the famed Pebble Beach Golf Links, the 1982 US Open once again played host to a fantastic duel between two of the greatest players ever, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson.

    Nicklaus made an early charge for five straight birdies on the front nine and eventually found himself in a tie for the lead with Watson. Tom would come back to take a two shot lead early on the back nine, only to see it erased by the 13th hole.

    Heading into the 17th, the two remained tied for the lead, and after Watson’s tee shot found the thick rough on the side of the green, many thought that Nicklaus had a shot at going to a playoff, if not winning. However, Watson had different plans and holed his miraculous chip shot.

    Watson would birdie the challenging 18th for a two-shot victory over the Golden Bear, walking away with his only US Open title.

8. 1964: Congressional

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    The '64 Open will be remembered for the perseverance showed by eventual champ Ken Venturi. Entering the 36-hole final round—back then, the US Open played 36 on Sunday—Venturi trailed by six strokes, but after the first 18, he had trimmed that to two.

    However, many did not think Venturi would be able to finish in the afternoon after the oppressive heat wave riddled him with dehydration to the point that the doctors advised him not to play.

    Ken persisted that he continue to play, and after some tea and salt tablets to help combat the symptoms, he headed back on the course. Venturi made his way through the final 18 with the doctor in tow, as the doctor provided ice packs to the ailing player.

    Venturi’s tenacity and strong play continued through the last round, as he was able to will his way to a four-shot victory.

9. 1990: Medinah

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    Age and experience won out at the 1990 US Open held at Medinah Country Club, as Hale Irwin turned back the clock to win his third and final US Open trophy.

    Entering the final round Irwin trailed co-leaders Billy Ray Brown and Mike Donald by four strokes, and made little ground through the front nine. However, on the back nine, the 45-year-old wonder carded a 5-under 31, including an improbable 45-foot birdie putt on the 18th, which prompted Irwin to take a "victory lap" around the green even though he had yet to win the championship.

    Irwin would wait in the clubhouse as challenges fell by the wayside, but third-round co-leader Mike Donald would hold on to tie Irwin and force a Monday playoff. During the playoff, the two would go back-and-forth and eventually go to sudden death, where Irwin would win with a birdie on the 19th hole. 

10. 2001: Southern Hills

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    The 2001 US Open, which was held at Southern Hills Country Club, was exciting for all the wrong reasons. Unlike other exciting championships, where someone has stormed from behind to capture the title, 2001 featured numerous players fail to grasp the moment and collapse late.

    The first to fail was Mark Brooks, who three-putted the treacherous 18th green to fall out of a tie for the lead. Lucky for him, the final pairing a few groups behind him—Retief Goosen and Stewart Cink—both three-putted as well. Goosen had the lead by himself and only needed to make a two-foot par to win the championship; the putt would lip out and force an 18-hole Monday playoff.

    Cink’s three-putt would be even more painful after he rushed his comeback putt and missed it, missing a chance at the playoff by one-stroke.

    During the Monday playoff, Goosen would run away from Brooks and win his first of two US Open championships.