The following is my list of the 10 Greatest (men's golf) U. S. Opens in the last 50 years.
In fairness, I listed at least one Open for each decade, and arranged the list in ascending order.
I enjoyed making this list. I hope you enjoy reading it and, perhaps, reminiscing just a bit.
#10—1969—This particular Open validated the fact that this tournament really is “open”. The winner, Orville Moody, had to go through both local and sectional qualifying to even play, much less win. It was Moody's only PGA Tour win.
#9—1990—Hale Irwin not only won his third U.S. Open title, but he also became the oldest champion at the age of 45. He continued to prove this win was no fluke by later winning more than 40 times on the Champions (Senior) Tour.
#8—1989—Curtis Strange makes my list here simply because he's the only man in the last (almost) 60 years to successfully defend his U.S. Open title. It's only been done six times in the entire history of the Open (trivia bonus—only one man ever won the U.S. Open three years in a row; Willie Anderson in 1903, '04, and '05).
#7—1967—Jack Nicklaus has to be somewhere on my list (as probably the greatest golfer of all time, at least as of now). By shooting a record-tying last round score of 65, Nicklaus established a new 72 hole U.S. Open scoring record. He also bested rival, playing partner, and second place finisher Arnold Palmer by four strokes that Sunday as well.
#6—1973—A seven under-par final round score of 63 propelled Johnny Miller to his win in 1973. It is widely considered to be the greatest final round, as well as perhaps the greatest single round, in Open history. No golfer has yet proven otherwise.
#5—2000—Tiger Woods, plain and simply, destroyed the field in the 2000 U.S. Open.
He became the first player in Open history to win with a “double digit” under-par score. His 72 hole total score of 272 tied the lowest ever Open score set by Jack Nicklaus. And his 15 stroke victory margin is the largest in “major”
championship history. Enough said.
#4—1960—Arnold Palmer simply has to be somewhere on my list, but not just for his win here.
The most tangible reason for this Open to be fourth on my list is that in starting his final round, Palmer “drove” the par four first green, thus jump-starting his final round 65. That drive may well be Arnie's most famous golf shot.
But this tourney was much more than that—some golf historians consider this to be the real beginning of pro golf's modern era.
#3—1999—This U.S. Open is here mainly for sentimental reasons.
Payne Stewart won his second (and last) U.S. Open championship at Pinehurst No. 2, one of the world's greatest golf courses. Some four months later, Payne Stewart, one of the most beloved and respected pro golfers of all time, died in a bizarre and tragic plane crash.
#2—1964—In an incredible display of courage and perseverance, Ken Venturi survived a fainting spell in oppressive heat to play 36 holes on the final day. He won by carding the best 36 hole finish in Open history. Amazing.
#1—2008—I saved the best for last. Tiger Woods' U.S. Open performance last year was indescribable (at least for my marginal writing talent). If you heard about it or saw it, you know what I mean. Read the book. Watch the video.Wait for the movie. Just always remember it as one of the greatest athletic performances of all time.