The US Open Golf Championship

us open trophyThe US Open, instituted by the USGA in 1895, is one of golf's four major championships. It is an annual event and has been hosted by numerous clubs around the United States. While heavy promotion of the Masters has catapulted it above the US Open in the minds of the US public, there can be little doubt that from a golfing perspective, the US Open is the greater challenge. Furthermore, given that its an Open rather than invitational event, the field is comprised of the best golfers from all corners of the globe.

The championship is played each year starting on the Thursday following the second Sunday in June. The original stroke play format of 36 holes in a single day was extended to 72 holes over two days in 1899. Only since 1965 has it been played over four days. Qualifying was introduced in 1924.

The first US Open was played at Newport, Rhode Island and saw a field of 11 contest four rounds of 9 holes in a single day. Perhaps not surprisingly, the club professional, Horace Rawlins (an English immigrant) won. Throughout the early years, British professionals won the championship, most notably Wille Anderson in 1901 and consecutively for three years from 1903. This is a record which hasn't been beaten and only equalled by Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus.

The British monopoly was broken in 1911 by Johnny McDermott of Chicago, who at 19 is the youngest ever winner. He also successfully defended the title. In 1913, the amateur Francis Quimet (later captain of R&A) defeated Ted Ray and Harry Vardon in a playoff which is perhaps the most dramatic victory in the event's history. These American victories greatly helped to increase the popularity of the US Open.

During the inter-war years, Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen established the Americans as the best golfers in the world. Golf in the United States as a whole enjoyed a tremendous increase in popularity with thousands of courses built across the country. That belief was confirmed when Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus dominated world golf in the post war years. There was a general belief amongst US professionals that the British Open was second rate which endured largely because of nostalgic sentiments. They saw the US Open as the most prestigious of the Majors. This view was further endorsed when television coverage in 1954 allowed millions of Americans to follow the action closely.

In response to this, the R&A substantially increased the Open's prize money to attract more professionals. The event and golf as a whole has also been better promoted. Added to this Europe has produced some excellent golfers such as Bernhard Langer, Sandy Lyle, Nick Faldo and of course, Severiano Ballesteros. Recent European Ryder Cup victories have also helped to redress American domination of the game. The Masters has also been heavily promoted by the Augusta National GC causing a split in the American consciousness as to which of the three Majors hosted in their country is the most prestigious. It must be said, that the USGA has not responded well to the decline in the popularity of the US Open

The US Open is indeed a great championship. It has been hosted by many clubs which are always meticulously prepared. Fairways are usually narrow and the rough heavy. Stimpmeters are employed to ensure that the greens are fast and consistent with one another. Accuracy and courage are required to win with most contestants taking a cautious approach. Testament to the difficulty of the courses is that to finish a round on par is considered very good. More than any other Major, victories have been determined by a playoff.

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