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6 Reasons Why I Love The US Open

By: | Tue 11 Jun 2024

Ah, yes, the United States Open Championship. It's like Marmite or Love Island. You either hate it or, well, love it. Detractors would convincingly argue their case that the USGA's chosen philosophy of testing the world's best golfers occasionally crosses the line into farce and might not even be the most effective method of identifying a champion, and they're probably right, but that's exactly why I like it.

Each of the game's four men's majors should feel distinct from each other. The Masters has the iconography and thrills of Augusta National, the Open showcases the unique test of links golf and the richest history in the sport, while the PGA Championship can be whatever you desire it to be.

But the US Open, that's got a whole identity of its own, some of it uncompromising and even ugly, but that brutality should satisfy the golfing masochist in you - and you know it's there.

Here are some reasons why I relish America's national championship when it comes around each year.

The Qualifying Process

Exemptions and invitations compile the majority of the fields in the majors these days, but the US Open has refreshingly retained its qualifying process to a great degree, sadly far beyond what you see in our Open Championship.

Close to half of those gathered at Pinehurst this week made it through Sectional Qualifying, where players competed at sites across the country and around the world for a coveted spot in the championship. The USGA accepted 10,052 entries for the 2024 US Open - which consisted of professionals and amateurs with a handicap not exceeding 1.4.

Essentially, if you are good enough and play well on the day, you could qualify for the US Open. That's a hugely appealing characteristic and it's why this week we have stories like Robert Rock, who essentially retired from competing two years ago, making it through with someone like Colin Prater, a 29-year-old high school science teacher with a dream.

The Course Setups

Historically, we all know that US Opens are generally tough. With narrow fairways, thick rough, and unreceptive greens, par is never a bad score in this particular major. Level par would have won you nine championships in the past 30 years, but the severity of these setups has drawn criticism, which is partly why we've seen a softening of the examination in recent times as opposed to the routine carnage of yesteryear.

There is merit to the argument that such a restrictive or severe course setup isn't the most engaging way to test the leading players on the planet, and I would agree with that if that was on the menu each week, but why shouldn't one of the game's majors push the envelope when it comes to fairness and the mental acumen required to succeed?

Since it was renovated by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, Pinehurst is a dynamic venue, but it's a difficult one that could be pushed close to the edge. And I'm all for it.

The History of Upsets

First contested in 1895, the US Open has a deep history, and it has often delivered compelling upset stories, as those considered outsiders shocked the favourites and went home with the trophy. 

Yes, we love to see the stars define themselves in this era by claiming major titles, but how can you not appreciate tales like 20-year-old amateur Francis Ouimet defeating legendary figures Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in 1913?

What about municipal course pro Jack Fleck overcoming Ben Hogan in an 18-hole playoff in 1955, or the unlikely Orville Moody who came through local and sectional qualifying to triumph in 1969?

More recently, few would have seen Andy North or Lee Janzen as two-time champions of this event, and what about the mercurial Michael Campbell, who made his way through qualifying to fend off Tiger Woods and win at Pinehurst in 2005?

The US Open

The Classic Venues

Venues make major championships. It's why we love the Masters, returning to Augusta National each year, and eagerly anticipate the course we're about to see when the Open makes its way around those seaside towns of Great Britain & Northern Ireland.

The US Open has some great ones that it routinely visits, especially now after establishing its "anchor sites" that will serve as a rotation of sorts for decades to come.

Look at these places that we have coming up; Pinehurst, Oakmont, Shinnecock Hills, Pebble Beach, Winged Foot, and Merion. It doesn't get better than that.

The Occasional Bout of Madness

Yes, there is no doubt that we've seen some silly scenes and spectacular meltdowns of all kinds at the US Open through the years, with the setups pushing both the players and the courses themselves beyond the edge, but if, like me, you appreciate a touch of absurdity and don't take everything too seriously (it's only golf, right?), you can't help but sit back and enjoy the spectacle of impossibly wealthy and successful golfers losing the plot just a little.

The Unpretentious Nature

I look forward to the Masters each spring as much as anyone, but I find much of the chatter around it tiresome, namely the waffling on about traditions, sandwiches, patrons, and just what is going on with the Butler Cabin ceremony each year? There is a pomposity and pretentiousness to the Masters, and that reverence unfortunately slides into the Open Championship too.

But the US Open is not like that. It's rough and ready, a pub lunch in a universe of à la carte fine dining, and while it might not paint as pretty a picture, and certainly qualifies as a guilty pleasure, it tastes unreasonably good.

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