• Alistair Tait

Underwhelming? Give me a break!


A popular golf website has listed the top 10 most underwhelming U.S. Open winners of all time. I disagree. All were overwhelming. Any major win is overwhelming.

Ironic that the same Golf Digest website called Sophia Popov’s AIG Women’s Open victory “stunning” yet takes time out to identify the 10 US Open winners

with questionable credentials…. who raised not only their profile, but plenty of eyebrows as well, by capturing the national championship.”

Oh dear. Or, as the Daily Telegraph’s excellent golf correspondent Jamie Corrigan put it so aptly:

"’Underwhelming’ for who? What a crass load of nonsense”

Agreed.

Anyone who wins a major deserves all the credit he or she deserves. Yet, for whatever reason, often times some of these victories are denigrated.

Why is Popov’s win a fairy tale, yet Michael Campbell’s 2005 U.S. Open victory isn’t? Campbell, named number one on this top-10 list of underwhelming U.S. Open winners, came though qualifying at Walton Heath to get into the field. He was no mug: Cambo had six European Tour wins under his belt. He finished third in the 1995 Open Championship at St Andrews. Indeed, he was the 54-hole leader. He didn’t exactly come out of left field.

Nor did the New Zealander get an easy ride at Pinehurst. He began the final day four shots off the lead held by two-time U.S. Open winner Retief Goosen, and held off a charging Tiger Woods to win.

No wonder Lee Westwood tweeted:

“Well I’m just pleased that down the stretch Michael didn’t beat arguably the best player the games seen around one of America’s classic @usopengolf venues!!! Or that would’ve been really underwhelming!!! (That’s English sarcasm FYI) Well done @GolfDigest

Spot on.

Cambo had further pressure: he was trying to become the first Kiwi since Bob Charles in 1963 to win a major.

He more than held his own that week. While he slumped to a closing 76 at St Andrews 10 years earlier, he closed with a 1-under-par 69 for a level par 280, the only player to match par for four rounds. He beat Tiger by two shots.

In short, it was an outstanding victory.

Ditto for Jack Fleck’s 1955 U.S. Open win. Fleck may have been a relative unknown from Iowa, but he won that major championship by birdieing two of the final four holes to shoot a final-round 67 and tie Ben Hogan at the top of the leaderboard. There were probably few at San Francisco’s Olympic Club who gave Fleck a chance against Hogan in the 18-hole playoff. Yet Fleck, who birdied the 9th, 10th and 11th holes to go three ahead of Hogan, shot 69 to win by three.

A no one from anywhere (Davenport) Iowa took down one of the greatest players of all time, a legend. Talk about fairy tale victories?

Orville Moody (1969), Sam Parks Jr (1935), Tony Manero (1936), Cyril Walker (1924), Johnny Goodman (1933), Lucas Glover (2009), Billy Burke (1931) and Ed Furgol (1954) fill out the list of so-called “underwhelming” U.S. Open winners.

Goodman deserves to be singled out for obvious reasons. He’s one of five amateurs to win the U.S Open along with Francis Ouimet (1913), Jerome Travers (1915), Chick Evans (1916) and Bobby Jones (1923, 1926, 1929 and 1930). He’s one of seven amateur major winners. John Ball Jr (1890) and Harold Hilton (1892 and 1897) won the Open Championship. Jones also won three Opens (1926, 1927 and 1930).

Goodman holds the notable distinction among that group of being the last amateur to win a major. If that isn’t overwhelming, then I don’t know what is.

Just as well there’s no Open Championship this year. I fear a fellow Scot might have made a similar list even though he put together one of the best closing rounds, 67, around the hardest layout ever to stage the game’s oldest major. He also hit two fantastic 4-irons to win in a playoff. Paul Lawrie is yet to receive due credit for his outstanding 1999 win at Carnoustie.

Underwhelming? Give me a break!

#JustSaying: “I come to the US Open expecting nothing to be fair. So it’s a test of wills to find out who overcomes adversity the best and who has the most patience.” Lee Janzen

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