Below are what I think are the ten best major championship tournaments in the history of golf.
1977 British Open
In the words of Herbert Warren Wind, "(this) fantastic duel between Nicklaus and Watson, who were paired on
both the third and the fourth day and threw some altogether stupendous golf at each other — neither of them
ever taking a backward step — right down to the seventy-second green." The back and forth took them out to the
Turnberry lighthouse and the picturesque ocean holes. At the turn, Watson trailed by one; going out in 64.
Nicklaus sank a 22-footer for birdie at twelve to lead again by two. But Watson promptly responded with a 12-foot
birdie on thirteen. Watson tied with a 60-foot putt from off the fifteenth green that hit the flag stick and dropped
for a birdie 2. Watson seized the ultimate margin of victory on the par-5 seventeenth, where he reached the
green in two with a 3-iron and two-putted for birdie. Nicklaus, meanwhile, shocked the world by missing a three-
footer and settling for par. The 72nd hole brought the drama to its apex. Watson's tee shot split the fairway of
the par-4 finishing hole, forcing Nicklaus to take a more aggressive line over the left fairway bunkers with his
driver. But Nicklaus blocked his driver and the ball bounded into deep rough and up against a gorse bush.
Watson, playing first, struck a 7-iron and the ball stopped two feet from the hole. That shot seemed to have
decided the tournament, but Nicklaus, despite his bad lie took a whack at his ball and pulled off a beauty. His ball
shot out of the rough and stopped on the right front edge of the green, 35 feet from the hole. Nicklaus proceeded
to hole his birdie putt, touching off a near-riot in the grandstands. Watson to take a couple of brisk practice
strokes and roll his ball squarely into the cup for the win. The crowd was still cheering when Nicklaus, in a
memorable act of sportsmanship, threw his arm around the champion's shoulder and walked
him toward the scorer's tent. This is what it's all about, isn't it?
1913 US Open
"The Greatest Game Ever Played"…featured amateur Francis Ouimet, professional Ted Ray and one of the
greatest players in the history of golf Harry Vardon. The American, Ouimet, was a former caddy from humble
beginnings. He outlasted both Ray and Vardon (top ranking British pros) in a playoff on a rain soaked course,
which is the oldest and one of the most storied golf courses in the U.S.; The Country Club in Brookline, MA.
With Ouimet’s 1913 US Open Golf tournament win, the perception of the game changed. Golf was no longer seen
as just a game for the old and rich. The number of golf players tripled after Ouimet’s 1913 US Open Golf
tournament win. 1913’s US Open Golf tournament led to growth in golf’s popularity and was also seen as a
turning point in the history of golf in America. Francis Ouimet become America's first golf hero.
1960 US Open
Considered by some to be the greatest championship, the 1960 Open was won by Arnold Palmer. Palmer was
eight strokes behind midway through the competition. Then, in the final round, Palmer came out with a charge.
He drove the 313 yard par 4 first, and after missing his eagle putt, settled for birdie. That was the first of six
birdies in seven holes. By the end of the day, he had shot a 65 to win. It’s the Hogan-Nicklaus-Palmer connection
that makes the tournament poignant. There was a remarkable moment at that US Open, when golf’s past, present
and future stood together on a tee. Ben Hogan was being eclipsed by Arnold Palmer, while the future, Jack
Nicklaus waited. Palmer, the present, won the tournament; Nicklaus, the future finished second. And Hogan, the
aging legend, slipped behind.
Jack Nicklaus did not need a career-defining moment when he arrived in Augusta in the spring of 1986, but he
capped his career by recording his sixth Masters under incredible circumstances. In fact one sportswriter said,
"Some things cannot possibly happen, because they are both too improbable and too imperfect. The US hockey
team cannot beat the Russians in the 1980 Olympics. Jack Nicklaus cannot shoot 65 to win The Masters at age
46." The circumstances unfolded as follows…Nicklaus is trailing a group of younger stars, Seve Ballesteros, Greg
Norman, Bernhard Langer Nick Price and Sandy Lyle when he suddenly gets red hot on Sunday on the back nine
posting a six-under 30 for a final round of seven-under 65. The most memorable sequence of shots began when
Nicklaus pulled his drive on the 17th and was left on hard pan, 125 yards from the green. Jack then hit a beautiful
shot right on the green and miraculously stopped it less than twenty feet from the pin. He was left with a 18 foot
birdie putt that he would put right in the center of the cup and raise his putter in celebration of completing an
eagle-birdie-birdie run. Nicklaus made a victory-sealing par-4 at the 72nd hole, and waited for the succeeding
players to falter. Nicklaus became the oldest Masters winner in history, a record which still stands.
1962 US Open
A funny thing happened in the 1962, the top golfer of the day, The King Arnold Palmer, went into the US Open
having already won the Masters and 5 other tournaments in 1962 and had a 3 shot lead on the final day and
lost! He didn't loose to Ben Hogan, the great but fading star, instead he lost to Jack Nicklaus. In the end, Palmer
3-putted 10 greens, Nicklaus just one. Palmer out-played the kid for 90 holes, but lost it on the greens. Golf had a
new king. Final tally 283-283 (Nicklaus won playoff, 71-74)
2008 US Open
The legend of Tiger Woods may have reached its apex in the summer of 2008. A few months prior to this major
championship Mr. Woods had arthriscopic knee surgery and throughout the tournament he limped noticeably,
grimaced in pain, and at times seem to crumple from the seemingly overwhelming pain. He seemed to struggle in
every round of the tournament, but somehow found a way to stay in contention. Then on the last day of the
tournament, he teed off with a one shot lead. However, he double bogeyed the first hole then bogeyed the
second hole. Once again, struggling and in obvious pain. He came to the 18th needing to hole a 12 footer to
force a playoff with Rocco Mediate. Being Tiger, he holed it in dramatic fashion. Tiger would have to endure
another 18 holes on his wounded knee. During the 18 hole playoff, Rocco and Tiger went back and forth with
Tiger entering the 18th hole one back. Woods birdied the 18th with another dramatic putt. On the 19th (and
sudden death) playoff hole, Woods, once again, hit a clutch putt…this time to win his 14th major. Soon after the
conclusion of the tournament it was revealed that in addition to problems with his arthriscopically repaired knee he
had two stress fractures in his tibia. Given the two injuries, he would miss the remainder of the 2008 season
(including the seasons final two majors). So, Tiger limped around the course with a major knee problem and two
fractures in his leg, had to play an extra 19 holes, and still won in dramatic fashion!!! Surreal and the stuff
legends are made of.
1973 US Open
Something magical happened in Oakmont in the summer of '73. Johnny Miller entered the final round of the
tournament 6 shots behind the leaders. Included in the group leading the tournament was the one and only
Arnold Palmer. To open the final round Mr. Miller hit a three iron to 3 feet and makes birdie. On the third he
holes a 25 footer for bird. On the 4th hole, he blasts out of the bunker and the ball rolls to 6 inches of the cup.
Let's just say…he was in the zone! In fact, he birdied the first four holes and hit all 18 greens in regulation. He
ended up with 9 birdies and one bogey. Hit 29 putts the whole day to end up with a 63 for the day…winning the
US Open by one shot! This round of golf is considered by many to be the finest round of golf ever in the US
1923 PGA Championship
Now I must say this is cool. Back in the day, the PGA Championship was match play. In 1923, Gene Sarazen and
Walter Hagan, two of the greatest players of all-time, breezed through the matches until they met each other in
the finals. The finals was in the format of 36 holes of match play. After the morning 18, the match was even.
After the afternoon front nine, Sarazen was 3 up. Hagen made a charge to tie the match on the 35th hole and the
36th was pushed. On the second playoff hole, Sarazen put his tee shot into HEAVY rough. Then put his next
right next to the hole. This shot has gone down in history as one of the best shots in championship golf. Hagen
parred the hole and lost the title to Sarazen.
The bottom line on this one is that Phil "I am such an idiot" Mickelson finally won a major. We all remember the
leap after he holed his birdie putt. Frankly, I am a Phil fan and it was flat out fantastic to see that monkey leap
right off his back as he lept into the sky. What is remembered is the leap, was is lost is the quality of the
tournament. Mickelson had to hole that putt to win because Ernie Els was right on "Lefty"'s butt. Els put up a 67
on the final day, with two eagles and 3 birdies. Phil had to hole a 20 foot birdie putt on 16 to tie the tournament
and then hole that dramatic putt from 18 feet on the 18th to post his 5th birdie and, more importantly, win his first
major. Dramatic, exciting, and fun to watch.
Obviously, I didn't see the 1935 Masters (the 2nd Masters ever played) live. But I have read all about it. Gene
Sarazen's flair for the dramatic reared its Masters. After his tee shot on the par 5 15th hole at Augusta, Gene
Sarazen laid 234 yards away from the hole. He reached into his bag and pulled out the four wood. He let'er rip.
He holed it! Double eagle!!!! This shot tied the tournament and allowed Mr. Sarazen to reach a playoff with Craig
Wood. Sarazen won the 36 hole playoff and The Masters making him one of the few player to win the career