At the turn of the century, the U.S. Open played second fiddle to the Amateur. The Amateur was a prestigious and gentlemanly affair; the problem with the Open was that it was just that -- open to all comers. The professionals, a clan of hardy Scots with a few Englishmen thrown in, had dominated the Open since its inception in 1895. To amateurs of the day, the professionals looked like a "gang of ringers."
Enter Willie Anderson, a Scot indeed - but one who had picked up the game in America after immigrating here as a teenager - and one time Baltusrol professional. After building up a sizable lead going into the fourth round, Anderson nearly collapsed but managed to eke out a place in an 18-hole playoff. He won this on a rain-soaked Baltusrol the next day, and with his victory the following year became the only man to win three successive U.S. Opens.
The 1915 U.S. Open would become the last national Championship to be played on the Old Course at Baltusrol. Going into the Championship, Jerome Travers had won everything an amateur could possibly be expected to win. He was four-time national champion, a three-time New Jersey Amateur champion, and a five-time Metropolitan Champion. But, being an amateur, Travers was naturally not favored to win the U.S. Open.
But win it he did. Surprising everyone, including himself, Travers played with exemplary steadiness, posting a total of 148 for the first two rounds of play. He would go on to shoot a 73 in the third round, and held a one stoke lead going into the fourth and final round of play. Travers knew what he needed to win, and this seemed to settle him throughout the round. He would eventually finish with a four-round total of 297, one stroke better than runner-up Tom McNamara.
In 1936, the Upper Course was the scene of a most unpredictable U.S. Open, one which would see the Championship record broken twice in half an hour. Harry Cooper, nicknamed "Lighthorse" because of the speed at which he played, seemingly had the Open well in hand. Approaching the fourteenth hole in the final round, Cooper was told that all he had to do to win was finish standing up. Cooper would go on to bogey three of the last five holes, one because he hit a spectator and the ball bounced into a bunker. Cooper's total of 284 for the Championship, however, was still enough to break the record by two strokes.
Then came unknown Tony Manero. Starting four strokes behind Cooper, Manero would go out in 33 and finish the round with an extremely impressive 67, finishing at 282 for the Championship and two strokes better than Cooper. To everyone's amazement, Manero had come out of nowhere to claim the championship.
The 1954 U.S. Open, the first Open ever to be nationally televised, was crammed with the absolute greatest players in the game, including Sam Snead, Bobby Locke, and defending champion Ben Hogan. But none was to win. A journeyman pro named Ed Furgol, who had just settled down as a club professional after ten years on the PGA Tour, would shock the work of golf and make Open history.
Somehow, Furgol found himself in the lead after three rounds, shooting a steady 71 in the third round while the leaders, Hogan and Littler, drifted back with 76s. Teeing off on the eighteenth, Furgol sailed the ball to the left and into the trees. Seeing that he had no shot at the fairway on the Lower Course, Furgol decided to use the fairway of eighteen Upper. He was able to save par, and eventually won the championship by a single stroke.
When the U.S. Open returned to Baltusrol in 1967, Jack Nicklaus honestly believed that any one of 30 players could win. At the head of his list was the great Arnold Palmer, who already had two tournaments under his belt that year.
The first day of competition would belong to a long-hitting amateur named Marty Fleckman, but Palmer and Nicklaus would assert themselves on the second day of play. Palmer shot an impressive 68 on this day; Nicklaus shot an even more impressive 67. The two would eventually distance themselves from the rest of the field, leaving them in a duel for the championship.
Nicklaus would win this duel. He performed splendidly in the final round, holding a four-stroke lead going into the final hole. Here, his now-famous perfect 1-iron and clutch 22-foot putt would not only give him the Championship, but also a new Championship record of 275 strokes.
If one was forced to describe the 1980 U.S. Open in three words or less, those words could only be "Jack is Back." Coming off a year when he failed to win a single tournament, he was considered by many to be past his prime.
Not by a long shot. On an opening day where early rainfall had made the greens extremely friendly, allowing 19 players to break par, Nicklaus would shoot a tremendous 63, tying the single-round Open record. Tom Weiskopf also tied the record that afternoon, leaving Nicklaus and himself in a dead heat.
But it would be Isao Aoki of Japan who would present the real challenge to Nicklaus. With the two competitors pulling away from the field, the contest quickly became a match-play situation. The Championship would go right down to the wire, with the two using their entire arsenal to win. In the end, both players would break Nicklaus' 275-stroke record, as Nicklaus shot 272 and Aoki 274 to finish second. Indeed, Jack was back.
For the 1993 U.S. Open, the USGA set up the Lower Course at Baltusrol in a way that put the driver back in the players' hands, a club that had been missing in recent Opens. The pros were ecstatic.
The playing conditions were perfect for this Open at Baltusrol, leading to a record 88 players making the cut. But something more extraordinary would occur before this record was established. In the second round, John Daly became the first player in the history of Baltusrol to reach the green in two strokes on the 630-yard seventeenth. Fittingly, the crowd on hand went absolutely wild as Daly's second shot bounced out of the rough and onto the green.
But the championship itself would be decided between two of Daly's fellow Americans, Lee Janzen and Payne Stewart. Janzen led Stewart by a stroke going into the final round, and would remain that way until the twelfth, when Janzen missed a five-foot putt. He would regain the lead, however, after chipping in for birdie on sixteen, and eventually sealed the victory with a birdie on eighteen.