PINEHURST, N.C. – As the historic Pinehurst No. 2 prepares to host the 2014 U.S. Open starting Thursday, our staff of experts debated the best venues for America’s national championship.
Here are the results of that discussion, with each staffer ranking three courses on his all-time favorite list:
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1. SHINNECOCK HILLS: Sure, it’s darn near impossible to stay out there and getting there is a chore, but it’s all about the competitive stage and this is our best championship test.
2. PEBBLE BEACH: It is to the USGA what St. Andrews is to the R&A: a grand-slam venue, one that provides unforgettable golf moments and breathtaking views.
3. MERION: It was ignored for 31 years, but when she got her chance in 2013, oh, how she did more than hold her own. She flat-out shined. Logistical challenges aside, Merion deserves a few more.
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1. PEBBLE BEACH: For obvious reasons.
2. SHINNECOCK HILLS: Former USGA executive director David Fay used to call Pebble and Shinnecock the two U.S. Open showstopper sites.
3. OAKMONT: Tough call for third.
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1. PEBBLE BEACH: Nicklaus’ 1-iron at 17 in 1972. Watson’s chip-in 10 years later at the same hole. Kite soars in the wind to win at last in 1992. Woods’ utter dominance in 2000. And McDowell in 2010. Greatness seems to rise to the occasion at Pebble. 2019 can’t come soon enough.
2. WINGED FOOT: I grew up 20 minutes from the fabled West Course and love most everything about this fabulous place. Seventy-five years ago, Bobby Jones won the U.S. Open here. Where else has a champion laid up all four days at a par 3 (Billy Casper at the 217-yard third hole in 1959)? There was The Massacre at Winged Foot in 1974 when Hale Irwin won with a total of 7 over. Fuzzy Zoeller over Greg Norman 10 years later. And Geoff Ogilvy hoisting the trophy after Phil Mickelson and Colin Montgomerie squandered opportunities. 2020 can’t come soon enough.
3. BETHPAGE BLACK: Again, personal bias because I used to play here at least once a year. The People’s Open, as the 2002 edition was dubbed, was special to me not so much because Tiger Woods won but rather that the national championship was played on a true muni that your average golfer could afford. The 2009 edition won by Lucas Glover was kind of forgettable and marred by weather and a Monday finish. 2019 can’t come soon enough…but it will be the venue of the PGA Championship, not the U.S. Open that year.
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1. PEBBLE BEACH: This venue is the most breathtaking, and in the age of HDTVs and “golf as entertainment,” that means a lot. What means even more is the lore that pervades the majestic setting. It’s about Jack Nicklaus’ 1-iron to the 17th in 1972 and Tom Watson’s chip-in on the same hole in 1982 and Tiger Woods’ lapping the field in 2000. It’s flipping a wedge at the Pacific Ocean on No. 7, then hitting over the gorge on the eighth as waves break below. Honestly, 2019 can’t come fast enough.
2. OAKMONT: Palmer wanted to win in front of the home crowd in 1962, but a young Nicklaus denied him and grabbed his first U.S. Open title at this Pennsylvania gem. It’s long, the rough is nasty, it’s got variety and it’s got “Church Pew” bunkers. Good thing, because this beast will make you pray for mercy.
3. WINGED FOOT: I’ll concede my Eastern bias here, but the list of winners on the West Course is top-shelf: Bobby Jones (1929), Billy Casper (1959), Hale Irwin (1974), Fuzzy Zoeller (1984) and Geoff Ogilvy (2006). When the U.S. Open comes to New York, the Big Apple buzzes.