It is U.S. Open week!

Four times each year we take a break from the regular PGA TOUR events to enjoy one of the Major Championships.  In modern times this has meant The Masters, The U.S. Open, The British Open and the PGA Championship.  The U.S. Open will be played this week.

The US Open is conducted by the United States Golf Association and has been played since 1895.  This year’s Open will be the 114th playing of the Championship.  It will be played at Pinehurst # 2 at the Pinehurst Resort in Pinehurst, North Carolina.  This site hosted the US Open in 1999 (Payne Stewart) and again in 2005 (Michael Campbell).

Obtaining entry into the US Open is not easy.  Many entrants must qualify.  There are two stages of qualification – Local and Sectional.  There are 15 exemption categories that allow a player to enter the Championship without having to play in either local qualifying or sectional qualifying.  Those 15 exemptions are listed below.

  • Winners of the U.S. Open Championship the last ten years.
  • Winner and runner-up of the 2013 U.S. Amateur Championship (must be an amateur).
  • Winner of the 2013 British Amateur Championship (must be an amateur).
  • Winner of the 2013 Mark H. McCormack Medal (top-ranked in Men’s World Amateur Golf Rankings; must be an amateur)
  • Winners of the Masters Tournament the last five years.
  • Winners of the British Open Championship the last five years.
  • Winners of the PGA of America Championship the last five years.
  • Winners of the Players Championship the last three years.
  • Winner of the 2014 European Tour BMW PGA Championship.
  • Winner of the 2013 U.S. Senior Open Championship.
  • From the 2013 U.S. Open Championship, the 10 lowest scorers and anyone tying for 10th place.
  • Players qualifying for the 2013 Tour Championship.
  • From the current official World Golf Rankings, the top 60 point leaders and ties as of May 26, 2014.
  • From the current official World Golf Rankings, the top 60 point leaders and ties as of June 9, 2014.
  • Special exemptions selected by the USGA.

Just as the name implies the U.S. Open is open to anyone who wants to attempt to qualify.  The USGA requires a competitor to have a USGA Handicap Index of 1.4 or less.  The first stage of qualifying, called Local Qualifying, takes place at 111 different sites in May.  Successful qualifiers in Local Qualifying advance to Sectional Qualifying at 12 different sites.  There are 25 categories allowing a player to be exempt from local qualifying.

The U.S. Open is played a different site each year.  The list of host sites exceeds 20 clubs.  As a comparison the British Open typically rotates among seven or eight clubs in its “Rota”.

Although the site is different each year the set up principles are fairly standard – lengthy golf courses typically with narrow fairways, high rough and firm, fast greens.  In recent years the areas around the green complexes has not always featured high, thick rough.  In often has had closely mown areas that allow the ball to run off of the green and roll some distance away from the intended target.  While still challenging the player to get his approach close to the hole it is the next shot now that now offers more options.  A competitor can now attempt a number of recovery shots like the flop shot or the bump and run.  Naturally, if it is very closely mown, he can putt it as well.  Previously the only option was to take a lofted club, chop it out and hope for the best.  The new setup requires more creativity.

This year Pinehurst Number 2 will play at 7,562 yards / Par 70.  It will feature four par four’s that measure over 500 yards.  All of its four par three’s that will play over 200 yards and one par five will measure 617 yards.  By comparison the 2013 US Open at Merion Golf Club played to 6,996 yards/Par 70.  For you handicap junkies the course rating using the US Open’s setup is 76.0 with a slope rating of 147.

Another new wrinkle for this year is the fact that the US Open and US Women’s Open will be played on the same site on the same course and on consecutive weeks.

Finally some US Open trivia for your 19th hole discussions …

  • Jack Nicklaus’ first professional win was the 1962 US Open.  He went on to win 18 Majors.
  • Bobby Jones won four US Opens – every one as an amateur.
  • Great players who never won a US Open in their entire career include: Sam Snead, Phil Mickelson, Seve Ballesteros, Vijay Singh, Nick Faldo, Greg Norman
  • Orville Moody won exactly one PGA Tour event in his career – the 1969 US Open.
  • Andy North has won three times on the PGA Tour.  Two of those wins were US Opens.
  • The longest reigning US Open Champion was Craig Wood.  He won at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth in 1941.  He was the reigning Champion until 1946 when the Championship was next played.  The U.S. Open was not played from 1942 to 1945 due to WWII.

… and two more good ones.

The USGA awards a gold medal to the winner of the US Open.  Beginning this year the medal will be named for Jack Nicklaus.  Previously the gold medal that was presented to the winner is exactly the same medal design as was given for the past 100 years.  Now the question:

Question: What player has five USGA Gold Medals?

Answer: Ben Hogan won four times and, in 1942, won the Hale American Open.  The USGA presented him with a gold medal identical to the ones they awarded to him for winning his U.S. Opens.  He won four U.S. Opens but he has five USGA Gold Medals.

Question: What player won three consecutive NCAA Individual Championships and two Masters and, yet, never won a U.S. Open?

Answer: Ben Crenshaw