Winged Foot 2006 - The US Open Nobody Wanted to Win
IF WE get anything like the drama at Winged Foot next week that we saw when the tournament was last held there in 2006, then we are going to be in for a very special few days. It really was the major that nobody seemed to want to win.
One by one they fell when the chips were down. Jim Furyk, Colin Montgomerie, Phil Mickelson and Padraig Harrington all threw away golden opportunities, handing the title to Australia’s Geoff Ogilvy for his one and only major success. Ogilvy chipped in for par at the 17th and parred the final hole to secure the most unlikely of wins.
In the final pairing, and looking to land his third successive major, Mickelson hit his final tee shot into no man’s land (no change there, then) and ended up with a double bogey, to miss out by a shot. He has finished second in this tournament six times without ever managing to win.
Earlier, Montgomerie had split the fairway but then hit a shocking approach and he, too, ran up a six at the par four. Furyk bogeyed the 15th and then missed a six-foot putt on the final green as he also came up one shot short. Harrington dropped shots at each of the last three holes.
For the first time since 1978, not a single player finished the week under par as Winged Foot staged its fifth US Open. It was won in 1929 by Bobby Jones, in 1959 by Billy Casper, in 1974 by Hale Irwin and in 1984 by Fuzzy Zoeller. It also hosted the 1997 US PGA Championship, won by Davis Love III.
Irwin's victory in 1974 was notable because his winning score was seven over par and there were just seven sub-par scores all week. And once again, it presented a truly brutal challenge for the world’s best players.
In the opening round in 2006, Montgomerie was the only man to break par, with a 69, one ahead of Mickelson, with Furyk a further shot adrift. A bereft Tiger Woods, playing in his first major since the death of his father, shot a six-over-par 76, his worst ever start in a major. He later admitted that he made a mistake playing the tournament as he was still grieving.
Steve Stricker led the way after 36 holes after a 69 and was the only man in the field under par as the narrow fairways and thick rough took their toll.
Montgomerie was a shot behind him as Woods missed the cut at a major for the first time as a professional after a second 76. Mickelson was four off the lead after struggling to a 73.
The best rounds of the day came from Arron Oberholser and David Duval, who both shot 68. It was the first cut Duval had made at a major since the US PGA in 2002. The cut fell at nine over par.
Following a one-under 69 in the third round, Mickelson shared the 54-hole lead with England's Kenneth Ferrie, who bogeyed the 18th for 71. Ogilvy finished with a 72 that left him one shot back. Stricker led through much of the front nine but ended up with a 76, three shots behind.
Harrington came to the 18th needing a birdie to catch Mickelson but found the rough and was only able to move the ball about 15 yards. He three-putted for a seven.
The final day was full of drama.
Ogilvy took the lead early on and was two ahead after seven holes but four bogeys in the next seven saw him lose that lead. But, crucially, he finished with four pars, chipping in at the 17th. Ogilvy’s final tee shot found the fairway but finished in a divot and he was unable to find the green. He would eventually hole a six-foot downhill putt for a crucial putt at the 18th as all about him lost their heads.
Mickelson and Montgomerie needed pars on the final hole to win, or bogeys to tie with Ogilvy, but, incredibly, both men double-bogeyed to hand Ogilvy a dramatic win.
For Montgomerie it was particularly hard to take. He holed a huge putt on the 17th to take a share of the lead and then hit a glorious drive at the final hole that split the fairway. He was 170 yards from the hole and took an age over his club selection. He eventually opted for a seven iron but chunked it, finishing short of the putting surface in thick rough. From there he found the green but three putted.
Next up was Mickelson, who dropped a shot at the 16th after finding a greenside bunker before making a miraculous par at the 17th. Standing on the final tee, he needed a par to win or a bogey to force a playoff. His drive went miles left, clattering into trees beside a hospitality tent. Mickelson being Mickelson, he opted to go for the green with his second but hit a tree and advanced his ball less than 30 yards. He then found a greenside bunker and took three more to get down from an impossible lie in the sand.
Furyk needed par to force a playoff and his tee shot was to the left in the intermediate cut; the hooking approach found a greenside bunker and he missed the five-foot putt to save par. Harrington bogeyed the final three holes and finished two strokes behind. Five different players held the lead at one point on Sunday with 15 different lead changes between them.
It was a US Open like none we had ever witnessed before. And Ogilvy was the last man standing.
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