Top 10 greatest U.S. Open moments

The Associated Press

Top 10 greatest U.S. Open moments

PGA Tour

Top 10 greatest U.S. Open moments

While it’s too soon to know where to place Dustin Johnson’s epic 18th-hole birdie to cap a turbulent 2016 final round, these time-tested U.S. Opens continue to resonate.

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(Stephen Munday/Getty Images)

10. Irwin takes a victory lap at Medinah in 1990

Playing on a special exemption, the two-time former champion (1974 and 1979) trailed by four strokes entering the final round. A back-nine 31 was capped by a 45-foot birdie putt at the last, followed by Irwin’s infamous victory lap during which he high-fived the gallery even as third round co-leader Mike Donald still had holes to play. Donald, a journeyman who valiantly hung on to force a playoff, lost to Irwin the next day on the 91st hole, the first time a U.S. Open was decided in sudden death following an 18-hole playoff. With the win, Irwin became the oldest U.S. Open winner at 45 years and 15 days, surpassing Ray Floyd’s 1986 title at Shinnecock by 15 months.

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9. Bobby Jones falters before winning Monday playoff by 23 strokes in 1929

While Bobby Jones’ U.S. Open victory at Interlachen was integral to his 1930 Grand Slam, the amateur legend solidified his place as America’s most-beloved sportsman a year prior at Winged Foot. A three-stroke lead after 54-holes vanished with two final-round triple bogeys and another bogey on the par-4 16th. A par save from one of Winged Foot’s deep greenside bunkers followed by a 12-foot putt on No. 18 forced a 36-hole Monday playoff with Al Espinosa. Jones steadied himself in historic fashion, posting 72-69 to Espinosa’s 84-80. The victory marked the first of five memorable U.S. Opens at Winged Foot.

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8. Tom Watson chips in at Pebble Beach in 1982

Jack Nicklaus was tied with Watson and conducting a television interview when Watson hit his 17th-hole tee shot just over Pebble Beach’s par-3 green, leaving a difficult up-and-down recovery. Nicklaus’ prospects for a record fifth Open title seemed bright as Watson surveyed the shot. Caddie Bruce Edwards told Watson to “get it close,” but Watson retorted, “I’m not going to get it close, I’m going to make it.” And he did, setting off a famous running celebration, which was capped by an 18th hole birdie for a two-shot victory over Nicklaus. It was Watson’s first win at the Open and his sixth major title.

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(AP Photo/File)

7. Ben Hogan brings The Monster to its knees in 1951

The Open’s defining characteristics as major golf’s most demanding course setup crystalized at Oakland Hills. Donald Ross’s original design was renovated by Robert Trent Jones ahead of the championship, and the players were presented high rough, narrow fairways and slick greens. Ben Hogan had won the previous two Opens he entered (skipping 1949 due to an automobile accident) and picked apart the grueling test before posting an epic final-round 67. Other than runner-up Clayton Heafner’s closing 69, the South Course did not yield another sub-par round all week. At the trophy presentation Hogan uttered the famous quote: “I’m glad I brought this course – this monster – to its knees.” Hogan would win his fourth U.S. Open in 1953.

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6. Johnny Miller shoots final-round 63 at Oakmont in 1973

A Saturday 76 left Miller six strokes behind the lead on one of the game’s most-demanding courses, and his chances appeared slim until he opened the final round with four birdies. Miller went on another tear with birdies on four of five holes starting at the ninth, then lipped out at the 18th to post the first 63 in a major. The 26-year-old Californian waited an hour before he knew he had bested John Schlee by a shot. Other close pursuers included Tom Weiskopf, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Lee Trevino. While men’s majors have enjoyed 26 rounds of 63 since, Miller’s remains as impressive as any given the difficulty of Oakmont and the circumstances.

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(AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

5. Tiger Woods makes 12-foot putt to force 2008 playoff

There were so many standout moments from this epic at Torrey Pines, the first Open at the San Diego public course. From a wounded Woods competing on a fractured leg to Rocco Mediate matching the best Woods could muster, the week culminated in a Monday playoff that was, at the time, the most-ever streamed sporting event. But it was Woods’ final-round, downhill 12-footer for birdie on No. 18 to force a playoff, struck before a raucous Southern California crowd, that will forever stand out. His bullfighter reaction and the must-make scenario in what was, unbeknownst to anyone at the time, his last major title vaults this high on most lists of classic golf moments.

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(AP Photo/File)

4. Jack Nicklaus hits pin with 1-iron at Pebble Beach in 1972

After winning that year’s Masters, the 32-year-old Nicklaus continued his fine play but faced cold, blustery conditions that yielded a 78.8 final-round scoring average. Nicklaus’ 1-iron at the par-3 17th hit the flagstick and finished just inches from the hole for a tap-in birdie en route to a 2-over-par, final-round 74. The iconic shot is replayed in media to this day and established Pebble Beach’s place as arguably the USGA’s most iconic Open venue. Nicklaus’ third U.S. Open title and 11th professional major was also his most dramatic to that date.

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3. Tiger Woods dominates at Pebble Beach in 2000

At the height of his playing powers, three-time champion Tiger Woods posted a 12-under winning total of 272 and won by a whopping 15 strokes. On a firm, fast course on which other players struggled, Woods played his first 22 holes and last 26 holes without a bogey, carving up the seaside gem with his “stinger” tee shots and solving the fickle Poa annua greens. The win solidified Woods’ place as the world’s most-respected sportsman at the time and is considered among the game’s all-time great performances.

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(AP Photo)

2. Amateur Francis Ouimet takes down legends at The Country Club in 1913

The legendary photo of Ouimet and 10-year-old caddie Eddie Lowery has been turned into logos and a feature film for good reason. Their partnership remains the most cinematic story in American golf history, as the 20-year-old amateur took down two giants of the game: Ouimet defeated British golfing greats Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in an 18-hole playoff. For good measure, in the final round of regulation and in the playoff he birdied the 17th hole, from which he grew up across the street. The greatest upset in golf history propelled the U.S. Open to the front pages of U.S. newspapers.

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(AP Photo)

1. Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan battle in 1960

“The wildest Open ever,” wrote the esteemed Herbert Warren Wind. This convergence of generations at Cherry Hills warranted a documentary and is still talked about as a defining tournament in the U.S. Open’s 117-year year history. Arnold Palmer, motivated by a grill-room conversation with writer Bob Drum, drove the par-4 first green and posted a 65 to complete the greatest final-round comeback in U.S. Open history. This drama was set against the backdrop of 47-year-old Ben Hogan’s attempt for a record fifth title that ended when his ball spun back into the water at the 71st hole, followed by a drive into the same lake at the par-4 18th. Palmer ultimately held off long-driving, 20-year-old amateur Jack Nicklaus by two strokes, who Hogan said “could’ve won this by five, if he knew what he was doing.”

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