“The U.S. Open at Pebble Beach is always memorable,” says the United States Golf Association’s Craig Smith (the USGA oversees the U.S. Open Championship). “There are always tremendous finishing holes that add incredible drama. There’s just a sense that you’re seeing something great.”
The scoring average during the final round was a staggering 78.8 — the highest since World War II. Nicklaus led wire-to-wire, but in howling conditions that dried out the greens, his three-shot lead wasn’t secure until he hit one of the most famous shots in golf — a 1-iron on No. 17 that short-hopped the flag stick for a tap-in birdie.
Nicklaus shot a final-round 74 to finish at 2-over 290, three ahead of Bruce Crampton, and four strokes clear of Arnold Palmer, who had crept to within one shot of the lead as late as the 12th hole on Sunday. The win was Nicklaus’ 11th professional Major (tying Water Hagen), and 13th including his two U.S. Amateur titles (tying Bobby Jones).
Tom Watson was tied for the final-round lead with Nicklaus as he stood over a chip-shot on No. 17 in bushy Kikuyu rough. Caddie Bruce Edwards encouraged Watson to get it close. Watson fired back, “I’m going to sink it.” Watson did, and burst into an impromptu victory lap around the green.
With Nicklaus already in the clubhouse, Watson only needed a par to clinch victory. But for good measure, Watson poured in a 20-foot birdie to win by two. “You’re something else,” Nicklaus told Watson behind the 18th green. “I’m really proud of you.”
It was Watson’s first U.S. Open title, robbing Nicklaus of a record fifth victory.
The scoring average the final round was 77.3, the third highest since World War II. That made Tom Kite’s even-par 72, highlighted by a wind-shaped chip-in birdie on No. 7, all the more impressive. In fact, with Colin Montgomerie holding the clubhouse lead at even-par, and hours of howling golf left to be played, Nicklaus went so far as to congratulate the Scot for winning his first U.S. Open.
But Kite’s steady play through 40 mph gusts of wind gave him a four-shot lead with four holes to go, and he held on for a two-stroke windy win to capture his first Major at 3-under. Overshadowed but equally impressive, Jeff Sluman closed with a 1-under 71 to finish second, two behind Kite.
With the U.S. Open celebrating its 100th playing at Pebble Beach Golf Links, Tiger Woods put on a show for the ages.
Woods was ruthlessly dominant, tying or setting nine U.S. Open records – including the biggest lead after two rounds (six shots), three rounds (10 shots) and four rounds (15 shots). His play transcended eras, as the previous record for margin-of-victory at any Major was set during the American Civil War.
Woods did not three-putt all week, while one-putting 34 of the 72 greens. He played the first 22 holes without a bogey, as well as the final 26. He tied the all-time scoring record at a U.S. Open when nobody else in the field broke par. He also opened the tournament with a 65, the lowest score ever shot at Pebble Beach during a U.S. Open.
As a boy growing up along the rugged Portrush peninsula in Northern Ireland, Graeme McDowell would fantasize that he had two putts to win the U.S. Open Championship. He lived out that dream, two-putting for par to capture the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links, adding his name to the Hall of Fame list of major champions at the legendary course.
Fittingly, in a championship where a score of par is the most meaningful, the 30-year-old McDowell posted a steady even-par 284 for the 72 holes to become the first European winner of the championship since England’s Tony Jacklin in 1970.
“This is just a special golf course to win,” McDowell said. “Pebble Beach, it’s such a special venue. To join the list of names—Tom Kite, Tom Watson, Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus—I can’t believe I’m standing here as a Major champion.”
Pebble Beach Golf Links and the USGA will again celebrate a Centennial together, when the U.S. Open returns for a sixth time in 2019. Opened in 1919, Pebble Beach will be celebrating its own Centennial, as well as hosting its 13th USGA championship.
“Pebble Beach is a magical place,” said Tom O’Toole, President of the USGA. “It is one of our most treasured U.S. Open sites.”