Though the U.S. Open has a history of turning previous unknowns into champions, when the best golfers in the World tee it up this week for the U.S. Open Championship at the storied Pebble Beach Golf Links, you can expect that the eventual winner will be a well-known superstar, rather than a previous unknown who came from nowhere to win the title.
This will mark the fifth time that the U.S. Open has been played at the famous Pebble Beach Course. The four previous champions represent a “who’s who” of all-time golf greats.
No golfer has won more major championships than Jack Nicklaus, who claimed his third U.S. Open the first time the tournament was played at Pebble Beach in 1972. Nicklaus finished with a three-stroke victory over Bruce Crampton and four strokes ahead of another all-time great Arnold Palmer.
When the championship returned to Pebble Beach a decade later, Nicklaus was aiming for his fifth U.S. Open title. A final round charge put him in contention, but Tom Watson swiped the title with a chip-in on the 17th hole of the final round to seal his only U.S. Open title and sixth of his eight major titles.
Though the 1992 winner at Pebble Beach earned his first and only major championship, he was by no stretch an unknown. Instead, Tom Kite used the storied course to break free from the label of being the best golfer not to win a major championship. Kite had finished in the top 10 at majors 17 times during his illustrious career, but had never previously been able to kiss the trophy.
He rallied from a one-stroke deficit after 54 holes to defeat Jeff Sluman by one stroke and Colin Montgomerie by two shots.
To mark the millennium celebration in 2000, the U.S. Open returned to Pebble Beach and served as the location for one of the most dominant performances of all-time.
Tiger Woods became the first (and still only) U.S. Open winner to finish the tournament more than 10 strokes under par as he finished the four rounds with a 12-under par score of 272. What made his performance particularly impressive is that no other golfer broke par over the four rounds. Ernie Els and Miguel Angel Jiminez finished tied for second with a score of 287 (+3).
What makes make championships different than your regular tournaments is that the setup and difficulty of the course tend to be much tougher than for regular PGA tournaments. That is why while there are occasional stories like 2009 when Lucas Glover, who had never previously finished higher than 20th in a major tournament, came out of nowhere to win the title, that is generally the exception rather than the rule.
With the tournament being played at Pebble Beach, you can bet that rather than another Lucas Glover, you can expect to see your Sunday leaderboard filled with familiar names.
Whether it is Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson or some other top 25 player, you can generally expect that come Sunday the winner at Pebble Beach will be another all-time great whose name fits right in line with Nicklaus, Watson, Kite and Woods.