The US Open Golf Championship was first played in 1895 at the Newport Golf and Country Club, and has since then taken on new forms and evolved into one of the most important tournaments on the golfing calendar. The first tournament was a 36-hole event, taking the ten professional entrants and the solitary amateur, 4 times around the nine-hole Newport course. Horace Rawlins was the winner of the event, taking home $150 in prize money and the US Open cup for that year, amost 4 grand in 2008 dollars.
The first decade of the US Open Tournament saw mainly British immigrant golfers to the US taking part, but eventually in 1911, the Open saw its first native American, John J McDermott claim the title, repeating his victory again in 1912. The event became more and more popular and golfers from around the world flocked into the United States to take part in the open. For the golfing fans, the tournament really took off during the time that amateur golfer Bob Jones won the event four times. The USGA had to introduce ticket sales for the public to watch the US Open in 1922, and due to its immense popularity among the golfing community, had to introduce qualifiers in 1924. By 1926 the format was changed from 2 days of 36 holes to 2 days of 18 holes with 36 holes being played over a third day.
The strict examinations provided by the US Open separated the professionals from the amateurs and the last amateur to win the event was John Goodman in 1933. Since then, the Open has highlighted the top golfers in the world including Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan, and Jack Nicklaus who was one of only 4 golfers to win the event 4 times. The other 3 are Hogan, Jones, and Willie Anderson.
With the introduction of television coverage in 1954 as well as a fully roped course from tee to green, the tournament took on yet another dimension. The tournament's current format began in 1965, where 18 holes are played each day for 4 days. The US Open became even more popular from 1977 when ABC Sports decided to broadcast the final 2 rounds of 18 holes live. This coverage increased in 1982, with ESPN’s Cable Network broadcasting the first 2 rounds of 18 holes live. The NBC eventually introduced the full live coverage of the US Open Golf Tournament in 1995.
Evolving more and more as a world class event, the US Open had even more firsts in 2002 when it used a two-tee start for holes 1 and 10. The 2002 event was also held at Bethpage State Park on the Black Course, which was the first US Open to be hosted at a publicly owned facility. The transformation from a small sideline golfing event, to a major international tournament, was perhaps best exemplified when Arnold Palmer stated in 1960 that if he could win the US Masters, the US PGA Championship, The (British) Open, and the US Open, that he would have a Grand Slam Victory to celebrate.
The US Open was last won by a European in 1970, Tony Jacklin. Lee Westwood, an Englishman, almost changed this in 2008, but just missed a birdie putt on the last hole, which resulted in Tiger Woods facing Rocco Mediate in an historic 18 hole playoff the following day.
Today the US Open is such a huge event that there are more than 9000 entrants with various qualifying rules to make sure that only the best of the best get to compete for a share of the now $7,500,000.00 prize money. Looking at how the scoring results have changed over the years, from Rawlins’ 91-82 in the first year of the event totaling 173, to the lowest 4 day tournament score of 272. This score was achieved by Jack Nicklaus in 1980, Lee Janzen in 1993, Tiger Woods (12 Under Par) in 2000, and Jim Furyk in 2003.
The US Open Golf Championship is now one of the top 4 golfing events in the world. It is interesting to see how much it has changed over the last 100 or so years and how it is now an international and online event with sponsors from all over the world jumping at the chance to be involved.