2011 US Open Golf: Tiger Woods and the Top 25 Performances in US Open History

Michael DixonAnalyst IIIJune 14, 2011

2011 US Open Golf: Tiger Woods and the Top 25 Performances in US Open History

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    18 Jun 2000:  Tiger Woods kisses his trophy after winning the 100th US Open at the Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, California.Mandatory Credit: Jamie Squire  /Allsport
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    The US Open is the second oldest major. The first one was played in 1895. Factoring in a two year absence in in 1917 and 1918, and a four year absence between 1942 and 1945 and there have been 110 played.

    As is the case with anything that dates back that far, we're somewhat at the mercy of Hollywood and novels when thinking about the older ones.

    It's very hard to look at a final scoreboard from a tournament that happened about 100 years ago and judge just how good the tournament was.

    Some of the older ones have been immortalized, which is what happened with 1913's US Open in the 2005 movie The Greatest Game Ever Played.

    Others may have been just as good if not better, but we just don't know much about them.

    What makes doing a list like this great is that there have been a lot of great US Opens. More importantly, there have been a lot of great US Open performances. Sure, there will always be some discussion, which is fine. Actually, it's encouraged.

    There are only a few other items to note before reading the list.

    One is that this is a top-25 list and there have been 110 US Opens. What that means is that if you didn't win, you don't qualify. Sure, there have been a lot of other great performances, but you need to have won.

    Two is that I am limiting the performances of an individual golfer to two. I just want to spread the wealth out. So while six golfers have won more than two events, nobody is mentioned more than twice.

25. Jim Furyk: 2003

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    HARRISON, NY - JUNE 20:  Jim Furyk tees off on the 13th hole during the second round of the Buick Classic on June 20, 2003 at the Westchester Country Club in Harrison, New York. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Winning Score: -8, 272.

    Winning Margin: Three shots

    Host Course: Olympia Fields

    In terms of score, this is one of the better US Open performances ever. But as we'll see later in the list, that's not the only qualifying factor for a strong performance.

    Furyk's score of -8 was the lowest winning score of any of the four majors that year, which is rare. If his winning score was a few shots more or a few shots fewer, this performance would be higher. Unfortunately, he's stuck in no man's land.

    Stephen Leaney went -5 for the week, which is a pretty good week. He wasn't close enough to Furyk to say that Furyk held off a serious charge. The only problem is that Leaney wasn't far enough back to say that Furyk lapped the field.

    But Furyk went low, was one of only four golfers under par, and won fairly convincingly. This may not be the most memorable US Open of all time, but Furyk's performance belongs on this list.

24. Ernie Els: 1997

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    15 Jun 1997: Ernie Els poses with the Daises Trophy after the U. S. Open at the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland.
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Winning Score: -4, 276.

    Winning Margin: One shot

    Host Course: Congressional 

    Ernie Els was a model of consistency, which won him his second US Open.

    Three of Els' rounds were in the 60's, including back to back 69's over the weekend. That gave him a one-shot margin over Colin Montgomerie and a two-shot margin over Tom Lehman, who both faltered on the 71st hole.

    Montgomerie also had three rounds in the 60's, including a brilliant opening round 65. Unfortunately for him, he followed that with a second round 76.

    Els was much more steady. The opening round was the only round where he failed to break 70, but he did that with a 71.

    This is a tournament that we should all read about, as it was the last US Open to be held at Congressional, which will host this week's event.  

23. Lee Trevino: 1968

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    SAN ANTONIO, TX - OCTOBER 29: Lee Trevino follows through on a tee shot during the first round of the AT&T Championship at Oak Hills Country Club on October 29, 2010 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Darren Carroll/Getty Images)
    Darren Carroll/Getty Images

    Winning Score: -5, 275.

    Winning Margin: Four shots.

    Host Course: Oak Hill

    Trevino is the second of many golfers listed that shot three rounds in the 60's. In 1968, Trevino was one better than all of them, as he bettered 70 in all four rounds.

    This was the first of six majors that Trevino won in his illustrious career and despite eventually matching the US Open scoring record (in terms of strokes, not relation to par); he wasn't even the leader at the beginning of the final round.

    That was Bert Yancey, who shot a final round 76 to finish in third place.

    The runner-up in 1968 was Jack Nicklaus, who was the defending champion and already had eight majors to his name.

    Nicklaus shot a final round 67, which bettered Trevino's 69, but the Merry Mex held on to win.

22. Retief Goosen: 2004

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    SOUTHAMPTON, NY - JUNE 20:  Retief Goosen of South Africa celebrates a two-stroke victory on the 18th green during the final round of the 104th U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club on June 20, 2004 in Southampton, New York.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Gett
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Winning Score: -4, 276.

    Winning Margin: Two shots.

    Host Course: Shinnecock Hills

    This is not a top-20 performance on this list, which should tell you anything you need to know about how good the performances ranked ahead of it were.

    I have never been more impressed with one person's putting performance. Truthfully, given the pressure of a US Open, the raucous crowds that were vocally behind his nearest competitor (Phil Mickelson), and the play of Mickelson himself, Goosen's final round total of 24 putts would be impressive on any greens.

    These were not just any greens. The combination of the USGA trying to set the course up tough, the strong winds that dried the course out, and the USGA not watering the greens, and these greens impossibly fast.

    When the USGA stopped watering the greens, it could have hurt Goosen more than anyone. Being in the final group, the greens were drier for him than anyone else.

    This was notably true on the par-three seventh hole, where a lot of golfers were having a hard time finding the green. Goosen didn't have that problem, as he knocked his tee shot in stiff for a birdie.

    Goosen was remarkably steady all day, holding off Mickelson by two shots. He earned his second major and second US Open title.

21. Ben Hogan: 1953

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    FT. WORTH, TX - MAY 19: A view of a statue of Ben Hogan during the first round of the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial Country Club on May 19, 2011 in Ft. Worth, Texas. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
    Hunter Martin/Getty Images

    Winning Score: -5, 283.

    Winning Margin: Six shots.

    Host Course: Oakmont

    In 1953, Ben Hogan had one of the best years in the history of golf. Bobby Jones in 1930 and Tiger Woods in 2000 can both lay claims to that title, but Hogan's 1953 takes a backseat to no season.

    He won every major that he participated in and won five of the six tournaments he entered.

    Still this was not included just so I could mention his season, he also played phenomenally well.

    An opening round 67 was the best round of the tournament and obviously gave him the opening round lead. Sam Snead chipped away at that lead and trailed Hogan by only one shot after 54 holes.

    Hogan held steady in the final round, shooting a 71 to Snead's 76.

    Oakmont is widely viewed as one of the toughest, if not the toughest course in the country. 

    By the time the tournament was over, it played that way to every player but Hogan.

20. Billy Casper: 1966

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    AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 7:  Billy Casper watches his tee shot on the 12th hole during the first round of The Masters at the Augusta National Golf Club on April 7, 2005 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
    David Cannon/Getty Images

    Winning Score: -2, 278

    Winning Margin: Four strokes, in an 18-hole playoff.

    Host Course: Olympic Club

    This can easily be called one of the biggest chokes in US Open history. Heck, it can be called one of the biggest chokes in golf history.

    Arnold Palmer led Billy Casper by seven shots with only nine holes to play. Palmer's aggression got him in trouble, as he allowed Casper back in the tournament.

    They finished the final round tied and Casper trounced Palmer 69 to 73 in the following day's playoff.

    Much like the 1996 Masters, it's easy to look at who lost and how they lost. Still, attention needs to be given to Casper, one of the more underrated golfers of all time.

    In the 1966 US Open, Casper carded four of his regulation rounds better than 70 and did the same thing in the 18-hole playoff.

    Sure, we can look at Palmer's poor play. Any time someone holds a seven-shot lead over their nearest competitor through 63 holes and can't hold that lead through 72 holes, their performance needs to be noted.

    Still, Casper's strong finish put the necessary pressure on Palmer, particularly on the final holes.

19. Lee Janzen: 1998

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    21 Jun 1998:  Lee Janzen of the USA poses with the trophy as Payne Stewart of the USA looks on.  Janzen won the 1998 U.S. Open Championships on the 6,797-yard, par-70 Lake Course at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, California. Mandatory Credit: Craig Jo
    Craig Jones/Getty Images

    Winning Score: E

    Winning Margin: one shot

    Host Course: Olympic Club

    While it didn't go to a playoff, this tournament has a lot of parallels to Casper's win in 1966. 

    For one, both happened at the Olympic Club. More significant, both Casper and Janzen trailed by seven shots in the final round.

    Payne Stewart ended up losing by one shot. While he faced some bad luck, he choked and shot a final round 74.

    Janzen overcame a rough start to shoot a final round 68 to win his second tournament.

    While it didn't make this list, honorable mention needs to be given to Janzen's first US Open championship in 1993. There, he recorded four rounds in the 60's and equaled Nicklaus' scoring record, doing so on the same course.

    By total shots, 1993's US Open would easily qualify him for this list and would certainly get the nod over his 1998 win.

    But in 1998, he had to make a strong comeback and put a lot of pressure on Stewart. For one of a few times in his career, he couldn't handle it.

18. Ralph Guldahl: 1937

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    Winning Score: +1, 281.

    Winning Margin: Two shots.

    Host Course: Oakland Hills

    This might be a confusing addition. It's one of only three inclusions on this list where the winning score was over par.

    So why is it included?

    Well, Guldahl's winning score was only one over par. As a point of reference, while 1936's winning score was -2 and 1938's (also won by Guldahl) was E, the winning score in 1934 was +9 and in 1935 it was +15.

    Still, that alone doesn't mean too much. What is impressive is that this was the first US Open where the course played at over 7,000 yards. Today, that's no big deal, but given the equipment that they were using in 1937, playing a US Open at +1 at that distance is nothing short of phenomenal.

    This was also the first US Open that Sam Snead played in. Guldahl's final round 69 gave him the winning margin, as Snead shot a 71. That gave him the first of four second place finishes in the National Championship.

17. Tony Jacklin: 1970

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    1967:  TONY JACKLIN OF GREAT BRITAIN IN ACTION IN 1967.   Mandatory Credit: ALLSPORT/ALLSPORT
    Getty Images/Getty Images

    Winning Score: -7, 281.

    Winning Margin: Seven shots.

    Host Course: Hazeltine

    Jacklin never broke 70, but he was under par every round, shooting a 71 and three 70's on the par-72 setup.

    Every other golfer in the field had at least round of 75 or worse.

    In the end, the tournament wasn't close. Jacklin's seven-shot victory was the last time that a European would win the US Open until Graeme McDowell in 2010.

    This tournament defined what the US Open is. It's not about who shows the most flash, it's about who grinds better than anyone else.

    Jacklin's performance in 1970 was stellar. When looking at his scores, nothing jumps out on either extreme. The result was a blowout victory.

16. Tom Watson: 1982

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    Winning Score: -6, 282.

    Winning Margin: Two shots

    Host Course: Pebble Beach

    The greatness of golf tournaments can't always be measured by the final scores. If they could, this US Open wouldn't be particularly noteworthy.

    Jack Nicklaus was a few groups ahead of Tom Watson, who was in the final pairing. Nicklaus was in with a 69 and when Watson's tee shot on the par-three 17th missed the green, it looked like he would have a hard time saving par.

    He didn't make a par, he chipped in and made birdie. It was on the same hole ten-years prior where Nicklaus hit his tee-shot off of the flag to inches away, sealing a victory.

    In 1982, his defeat was sealed on the same hole.

    Watson would go on to make a birdie on the par-five 18th hole. On the scorecard, a par-five wouldn't have placed much pressure on Watson.

    He could have made a bogey on 17 and still been in a playoff.

    But the 18th at Pebble Beach is no ordinary par-five. It's generally a three-shot hole and has Monterey Bay to its left. A birdie is a tough task.

    Watson's performance all week was solid, as he never carded a round above par. He held off a charge from the best golfer of all time to claim his only US Open championship.

    In the process, he gave us on of golf's lasting images.

15. Payne Stewart: 1999

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    20 Jun 1999:  Payne Stewart of the United States celebrates victory after sinking his final putt during the last day of the 1999 US Open played on the number two course at Pinehurst in North Carolina, USA. \ Mandatory Credit: David Cannon /Allsport
    David Cannon/Getty Images

    Winning Score: -1, 279.

    Winning Margin: One shot

    Host Course: Pinehurst No. 2

    When writing about this tournament in the past, I have given a lot of mention to how surreal these moments are now, given Payne Stewart's death the following October. That's not what we're looking at now though.

    Stewart made a clutch birdie on the 17th hole to give himself a one-stroke lead over Phil Mickelson. On the following hole, he drove his ball in the rough, laid up, and chipped to 15-feet away.

    When Mickelson failed to make his birdie putt, Stewart had that putt to win. When he made it, one of the best US Opens in tournament history was complete.

    In a way, Stewart's winning putt overshadowed the birdie on 17 and a 25-foot bomb that he made on 16. His play down the stretch was just clutch, especially given his poor play down the stretch of the previous year's US Open which cost him the tournament.

    As if that wasn't enough, look at the names that Stewart beat: Mickelson by one shot, Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh by two shots.

    That can be somewhat misleading, as Phil hadn't won any of his four majors yet and Tiger and Vijay had only won one of their career totals of 14 and three, but they were undeniably three of the best golfers in the world in 1999.

    Stewart was also one of the world's best, and he proved it.

14. Ben Hogan: 1948

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    Jul 1953:  Ben Hogan of the USA with the Claret Jug after victory in the British Open at Carnoustie, Scotland.  Mandatory Credit: AllsportUK/Allsport
    Getty Images/Getty Images

    Winning Score: -8, 276.

    Winning Margin: Two shots

    Host Course: Riviera

    Riviera had earned the nickname of "Hogan's Alley" before this tournament, but his performance in 1948's National Championship cemented that nickname, as it was Hogan's third win on the course in less than two years.

    Hogan's winning score of -8 par had at least a score of the US Open scoring record (in relation to par, not total strokes), for more than 50 years. Given the technological advances that were made in that time, that's a very impressive margin.

    While Hogan set US Open scoring records in 1948, this was not a runaway, as he had to hold off Jimmy Demaret to win by those two strokes. Both shot final round 69's.

    Predictably enough, Hogan was also the first golfer in US Open history to break 70 three times.

13. Jack Nicklaus:1980

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    BALTUSROL - JUNE:  Jack Nicklaus of the USA in action during the US Open on the Lower Course of the Baltusrol Golf Club in New Jersey, USA in June 1980. (photo by Getty Images)
    Getty Images/Getty Images

    Winning Score: -8, 272.

    Winning Margin: Two shots.

    Host Course: Baltusrol

    "Jack is back" was what the scoreboard said at the end of the tournament.

    Nicklaus hadn't won a US Open since 1972 and hadn't won any major since the 1978 British Open.

    While the time between the 1978 British Open and the 1980 covered only six majors, Nicklaus had just turned 40 and it appeared as though his best days were behind him.

    His opening round 63 went a long way to silence those critics. Even more impressive is that he missed a short putt on the 18th hole that would have given him the lowest round ever shot in a major.

    He came back a little bit, shooting a 71 and 70 in his middle two rounds. Meanwhile, Isao Aoki shot three 68's to tie Nicklaus after for the 54-hole lead.

    Nicklaus came back strong, shooting a 68 of his own on Sunday, bettering Aoki by two shots. In doing that, he won his fourth and final US Open, which ties him for the most of all time.

    His total of 272 also broke a record (which has since been equaled) by three shots. The record he broke was his own, as he won the 1967 US Open (also at Baltusrol) with a -5 total of 275.

12. Fuzzy Zoeller: 1984

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    1988:  Fuzzy Zoeller hits the ball during a 1988 PGA game. (Mike Powell/Getty Images)
    Mike Powell/Getty Images

    Winning Score: -4, 276.

    Winning Margin: Eight shots, in an 18-hole playoff.

    Host Course: Winged Foot

    If Oakmont is not the toughest course in the country, that title probably belongs to Winged Foot, which has produced some of the most grueling US Opens of all time.

    Zoeller and Greg Norman were the only golfers to break par for the week.

    This tournament is famous because after Norman holed a 45-foot putt to maintain a tie for the lead, Zoeller, who was in the 18th fairway, waved a white towel to the Australian as a joke.

    Zoeller came through with a par of his own, forcing an 18-hole playoff the following day. Unfortunately for Norman, the 45-foot putt was the highlight of his tournament, as Zoeller shot a three-under 67 to beat Norman's 75 in the playoff.

    Two of his four regulation rounds were in the 60's, as was his playoff round.

    Winged Foot has hosted five US Opens and this was the only time the winning score was under par. Norman deserves as much credit for that as Zoeller, but Zoeller's playoff round gave him a 90-hole total of seven under par, which is incredible.

11. Tiger Woods: 2008

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    SAN DIEGO - JUNE 16:  Tiger Woods celebrates with the trophy after winning on the first sudden death playoff hole during the playoff round of the 108th U.S. Open at the Torrey Pines Golf Course (South Course) on June 16, 2008 in San Diego, California. Run
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Winning Score: -1, 283.

    Winning Margin: One shot, in a sudden death playoff after tying an 18-hole playoff.

    Host Course: Torrey Pines

    This may well be the greatest US Open ever played. Heck, it may be the best golf tournament ever played. Both of those can obviously be debated, but this belongs in any discussion. 

    Tiger Woods has always had a dramatic element. Yes, he has a flare for the dramatic, but that's not what I am talking about here.

    Everything seems to hurt him more than anyone else, like when a piece of sand flies in his eye, or when a photographer snaps a picture. I know, he may have sensitive eyes and he always has more people following him than anyone, but his reactions seem a little dramatic sometimes.

    I knew he was hurt, but I thought there might be an element of that when I saw him limping around. That theory was killed when he announced that he would miss the rest of the season shortly after winning.

    But he won a US Open, essentially on one leg. In addition to that, he beat an opponent in Rocco Mediate that would just not go away.

    Tiger made a clutch birdie putt on the 72nd hole to force a playoff. He then made another birdie on 18 in the playoff to force Mediate to sudden-death. There, he finally put Rocco away, making a par to Mediate's birdie.

    We remember a lot from this tournament. We remember Mediate's tough play, Tiger's injury and clutch birdie on the 18th hole on Sunday.

    What we may not remember is that Tiger made two eagles and a chip-in birdie on Saturday's back-nine that put him in position to win on Sunday.

10. Hubert Green: 1977

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    AKRON, OHIO - JUNE 6:  Hubert Green hits a shot on June 6, 2002 during the first round of the Senior PGA Championship at Firestone CC in Akron.  (Photo By Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    Winning Score: -2, 278.

    Winning Margin: One shot.

    Host Course: Southern Hills

    A one-shot win in the US Open will always be difficult. While I have certainly excluded plenty of them from this list, it's impressive to hold up under that pressure.

    Now, imagine facing the pressure of a one-shot lead at a US Open. Now, picture yourself off of the 14th green and having someone tell you that they received a call saying that three men were on their way to the course to kill you on the 15th hole.

    All of a sudden, the pressure of the golf tournament takes a backseat.

    After deciding to play on, Green hooked his drive into the trees on the 15th hole. He hit his shot on the green, two-putted, and made a birdie on 16, opening a two-shot lead.

    That lead would eventually be cut, but Green held on to win.

    The details of the death threat aren't known. Obviously, no attempt was made on Green's life on 15, or any of the subsequent holes.

    It could have been a hoax, the people coming to kill him could have chickened out, and I guess it doesn't matter.

    Maybe Green had an idea that the threat wasn't real, but he held up in what literally could have been a life-or-death situation.

9. Ken Venturi: 1964

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    22 Oct 2000:  Captain Ken Venturi of the USA reacts to Davis Love III's approach shot on the 15th hole to win 4 up 3 over Ernie Els to seal the USA's win in the Presidents Cup at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Virginia.
    Donald Miralle/Getty Images

    Winning Score: -2

    Winning Margin: Four shots.

    Host Course: Congressional

    Before 1965, the last day of the US Open consisted of 36 holes.

    Facing abnormally hot temperatures, Ken Venturi was dehydrated on the final day. He didn't think he could finish and a doctor advised him to quit.

    Venturi played through the sickness, but was not given good advice. He was given iced tea and salt tablets. No, I am not a doctor, but caffeine and salt are not helpful to people that are dehydrated.

    He fought through the sickness, shooting a 66 in the third round and a 70 in the fourth, giving him his only major championship.

    This is another situation where the scoreboard doesn't tell the entire story. A four-shot win at two-under par isn't too impressive. It's good, but on its own, it probably wouldn't earn him a spot on this list. It certainly wouldn't get him this high on the list.

    But playing 36 holes sick, at four-under par is remarkable.

8.Hale Irwin: 1990

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    MEDINAH - JUNE:  Hale Irwin of the USA birdies the 18th to secure a play-off spot in the US Open at Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Illinois, USA in June 1990. Irwin went on to beat Mike Donald in the play-off. (photo by Stephen Munday/Getty Images)
    Stephen Munday/Getty Images

    Winning Score: -8, 280.

    Winning Margin: One shot, in a sudden death playoff after tying an 18-hole playoff.

    Host Course: Medinah

    A lot is impressive about Hale Irwin's 1990 US Open win. For starters, at 45 years old, he was the oldest champion in the event's history, a record that still stands.

    Second, he tied the US Open scoring record in relation to par, although that has since been broken.

    Third, he shot a final-round five-under 67 to earn a spot in an 18-hole playoff.

    This tournament actually played out very similar to Woods' win in 2008.

    Irwin made a 45-foot putt on the final hole to give himself the clubhouse lead. The crowd went nuts and he took a "victory lap" around the green, giving the fans high-fives.

    The only problem was that it wasn't a real victory lap. He still had to watch other golfers who had a chance to beat him finish. Nobody did, but Mike Donald equaled his total.

    After both shot matching 74's in the 18-hole playoff, Irwin finally put Donald away with a birdie in sudden-death.

    Just to clarify, the oldest US Open champion in history took 91 holes to win that tournament.

7. John McDermott: 1911

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    Winning Score: +3, 307.

    Winning Margin: Two shots, in an 18-hole playoff.

    Host Course: Chicago Golf Club

    We go from the oldest National Champion, to the youngest.

    John McDermott is an overlooked figure in the history of golf. By the time he was 23, his career was over and he spent much of his life institutionalized.

    Francis Ouimet's win in 1913 (more on that later) is often credited with increasing golf's popularity in America. Indeed, shortly thereafter, we saw the likes of Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen dominate the world of golf.

    But it was McDermott, not Ouimet, who was the first American to claim the US Open. Additionally, as stated above, he was the youngest champion in tournament history. 100 years later, that's still the case.

    In 1911, McDermott made a birdie on the final hole to earn a spot in an 18-hole playoff with Mike Brady and George Simpson.

    Simpson shot an 85 and was a virtual non-factor. McDermott and Brady were tied through 14 holes, but McDermott win the final four holes by two shots to claim victory.

    Either one of them would have given the USA its first champion. McDermott won the following year as well, and faded quickly after that.

6. Francis Ouimet: 1913

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    Winning Score: +8, 304.

    Winning Margin: Five shots, in an 18-hole playoff.

    Host Course: The Country Club, Brookline.

    It's fitting that a movie got made from this US Open.

    If a golfer is playing a tournament near his hometown, it's very common to hear the expression that "he's playing in his own backyard."

    That was nearly literally the case with Ouimet, although coming from a working class family, he was far from accepted at The Country Club. Still, he did have knowledge of the course. He was a caddy.

    He earned his way into an 18-hole playoff with Englishmen Harry Vardon and Ted Ray, the two best golfers in the world. Vardon was Ouimet's idol.

    Being a caddy and going up against the two best golfers in the world is tough enough. Adding to the challenge was the Ouimet's caddy, Eddie Lowey, was only 10 years old.

    Whether the movie is entirely accurate or not can be debated. The movie portrayed Lowery as the sharpest person on the course. Regardless of whether or not that's true, Lowery certainly didn't hurt Ouimet's chances.

    One area where the movie is wrong is that the 18-hole playoff wasn't that close. Ouimet shot a 72, which beat Vardon by five and Ray by six.

5. Arnold Palmer: 1960

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    AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 06:  Arnold Palmer walks across a green during the Par 3 Contest prior to the 2011 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 6, 2011 in Augusta, Georgia.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Winning Score: -4, 280.

    Winning Margin: Two shots

    Host Course: Cherry Hills

    I can talk about this US Open for 10 pages and not do it justice.

    Palmer trailed by seven shots at the beginning of his round. He overcame that deficit to win his only US Open. That alone is significant.

    This was right in the middle of Palmer's prime and popularity. This was also the last US Open (and for all intents and purposes, the last major) that Ben Hogan seriously contended in. On the opposite note, it was the first US Open that Jack Nicklaus seriously contended in.

    You had the game's past, present, and future, all in contention, all within one shot of each other with two holes to play.

    Palmer drove the opening green to make a birdie. He went on to shoot a 65.

    This tournament has been called the greatest US Open ever played. I wasn't alive; I can't confirm or deny that. I have seen some phenomenal US Opens, but it's hard to argue too much against this one.

    The most popular golfer the game has ever seen electrified the fans in a way that nobody else could.

    Historically speaking, he probably wasn't as good as Hogan and certainly wasn't as good as Nicklaus, but this day and this tournament belonged to him.

    Did I do it enough justice? If you experienced, you would probably say no, and I honestly couldn’t argue.

4. Bobby Jones: 1929

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    ORLANDO, FL - JANUARY 30:  Apparel on display at the Bobby Jones booth at the 2010 PGA Merchandise Show at the Orange County Convention Center on January 30, 2010 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    Winning Score: +6, 294.

    Winning Margin: 23 shots, in a 36-hole playoff.

    Host Course: Winged Foot

    Bobby Jones is somewhat a victim of circumstance. While the 1920's were big in terms of sports coverage, we have very little in terms of media to go off of. So, unfortunately, this is the only one of Jones' four US Opens that makes the list. 

    Before I talk about this performance, I do need to give special mention to two other US Opens of Jones. One was in 1930, where he won the US Open on his way to a Grand Slam.

    The other is in 1925, when he called a penalty on himself after his ball fractionally moved. After being praised for calling that penalty, which would keep him out of a playoff, Jones said, "You may as well praise a man for not robbing a bank."

    Back to 1929, Jones struggled coming in, shooting a final round 79 that included two triple-bogeys.

    On the last hole, Jones needed to make a 12-foot par putt to force a 36-hole playoff with Al Espinosa. Jones did make his putt and unfortunately for Espinosa, the subsequent playoff did not have a mercy rule.

    That is not a typo, Jones won by 23 shots, 141 to 164. No, Espinosa did not play great, but Jones didn't exactly let up on him.

3. Jack Nicklaus: 1962

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    1993:  Jack Nicklaus of the USA points to Arnold Palmer also of the USA during the US Open at Oakmont Country Club in Pennsylvania, USA. \ Mandatory Credit: Gary  Newkirk/Allsport
    Gary Newkirk/Getty Images

    Winning Score: -1, 283.

    Winning Margin: Three shots, in an 18-hole playoff.

    Host Course: Oakmont

    In 1962, Arnold Palmer was the most popular golfer in the world, period. When the tournament was played in Western Pennsylvania, that love affair took on a new extreme.

    Jack Nicklaus was an accomplished amateur and performed well in a few US Opens, but he hadn't won any professional majors.

    Palmer and Nicklaus were paired together for the first two rounds. While Nicklaus was routinely out-driving Palmer, Arnold was three shots better than Jack on those two days.

    In those rounds, Nicklaus endured heckling, which annoyed Palmer more than anyone else.

    They were not paired together for the final 36 holes of regulation. Nicklaus began to chip away at Palmer's lead and when the King missed a putt on the 72nd hole, an 18-hole playoff between Nicklaus and Palmer was set.

    The crowd was again decidedly behind Palmer. Reporter Jerry Izenberg once wrote that "every time Nicklaus was ready to line up a putt they started to stamp their feet. The freaking ground was shaking."

    If Nicklaus was bothered, he didn't show it. He opened a four-shot lead early in the playoff. Palmer did charge back, cutting the deficit to one shot early in the back nine.

    Nicklaus built a two-shot cushion by the 18th hole, and ended up winning by three.

    Palmer would win two more majors in his career, including that year's British Open, but the torch was passed.

    This is the link to Izenberg's quote.

2. Johnny Miller: 1973

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    ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 26:  Johnny Miller of NBC Sports watches the action prior to the third round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge on March 26, 2011 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty
    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    Winning Score: -5, 279.

    Winning Margin: one shot.

    Host Course: Oakmont

    Johnny Miller's final round 63 may very well be the single greatest round in major championship history.

    He didn't lap the field, not at all. A 64 would have put him in a playoff and a 65 wouldn't have done him any good.

    On that Sunday, Miller passed a list of hall of fame golfers that included every one of golf's "Big Three," in Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, and Arnold Palmer.

    Palmer was one of the 54-hole leaders but much like 1962, his hometown fans were forced to watch a younger golfer steal the show.

    Miller made only one bogey in his final round. That came on the eighth hole. He responded by making birdie on four of the next five holes.

    His birdie on 15 gave him the lead outright and he lipped out a birdie putt on the 18th hole that would have given him the lowest single round in major history.

    As it is, he had to settle for a tie. Still, it was the best final round in major history, and good enough to win him his first major and only National Championship.

    The rumor is that his performance angered the USGA so much that they set up the following year's US Open to be especially challenging, even for a US Open at Winged Foot. Hale Irwin won "The Massacre at Winged Foot" with a winning score of seven-over par.

1. Tiger Woods: 2000

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    18 Jun 2000:  Tiger Woods walks up to the 18th hole during the 100th US Open at the Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, California.Mandatory Credit: Jamie Squire  /Allsport
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Winning Score: -12, 272.

    Winning Margin: 15 shots.

    Host Course: Pebble Beach

    With the possible exception of the 1997 Masters, no tournament better defines Tiger Woods' dominance.

    In relation to par, Tiger holds the US Open scoring record by four shots. He won this tournament by 15 shots, which is not only a US Open record, but also a major record.

    Note that Bobby Jones 23-shot win over Al Espinosa was in a playoff, so it does not count in offical margin of victory statistics.

    This was a race for second, and everyone knew it before the tournament even started. He could have shot an 80 in the final round and won by two shots.

    He could have, but he didn't. Just for good measure, he shot a final round 67. Three of his four rounds were better than 70. He went wire-to wire to win what is probably the worst US Open of all time.

    That's not Tiger-bashing. No, it's far from it. Tiger was just so good this week, and really, for all of 2000. Tiger's goal at the beginning of this week was probably to have it be the worst US Open of all time.

    No other golfer was better than par at Pebble Beach that week. As a matter of fact, the next best score was three-over.

    Woods led after the first round, but it was close. Miguel Ángel Jiménez shot a 66, which trailed Woods by one shot.

    After round two, Woods began to pull away. By the time the third round was complete, Pebble Beach had victimized every golfer in the field other than Woods. Nobody else was at even par or better after three.

    This was the first tournament of the "Tiger Slam." Woods became the first, and to date only, golfer to finish a US Open at -10 or better. Anything's possible, but don't look for that to change any time soon.

    This is the best US Open performance ever and likely the best major performance ever. Again, don't look for that to change any time soon.