In his book, "Golf's Greatest Championship", Julian Graubart states that "perhaps the most dramatic, competitive and passionate of all Open Championships" occurred at the 1960 U.S. Open in Cherry Hills, Colorado.
Let us briefly look at what it would take for the 2010 U.S. Open to surpass this highly regarded historic event.
Sam Snead and Ben Hogan, the two top names in golf at the time, were in the field and had the opportunity to win the event. Although Hogan tied for ninth place and Snead T-19th position, there would have to be some major well-known "starpower" in the final round in order for the 2010 U.S. Open to contend for golf's greatest championship.
Sixty-year-old Tom Watson, who hit one of the most memorable shots in golf during the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach to defeat Jack Nicklaus, might do as this type of draw. Ben Hogan was forty-seven at the time and considered the "elder statesman" with four U.S. Open titles under his belt, knowing the Open may have been his last chance to secure the trophy.
Two up and coming golfers, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, were also in the mix.
Whereas Palmer already had twelve victories under his belt and had just risen to leading money winner in the 1958 PGA Tour standings, "in the eyes of golf fans and writers, Palmer didn't particularly stand out," says Graubart. Arnie was formulating his "army" though and was on his way to becoming the Tour's "everyman."
Phil Mickelson would do as the current-day Arnold Palmer as he is considered by some to be "everyman." The "meltdown" which occurred during Palmer's final round at the 1959 Masters was similar in nature to Mickelson's devastating final round defeat at the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot.
Nicklaus, on the other hand, was the new guy on the tour and still an amateur. Five amateurs in the field this week that Golfweek thinks we should keep an eye on are: Byeong-Hun An, Bennett Blakeman, Scott Langley, Kevin Phelan and Hudson Swafford. Who knows which of these five young guns could be in the hunt on Sunday?
What about Tiger Woods? He would most certainly have to be a contender in order to topple the title of Golf's Greatest Championship, wouldn't he? Closing in on yet another major win is extremely important for Woods right now to get back into the mix, to get the fans rooting for him again and to catch up to Nicklaus's record.
There would have to be the excitement of a "meltdown" and a "comeback" with close calls and close numbers during the final round. There would have to be low front nine scores with the excitement of not knowing who will win. The 1960 U.S. Open was won in the last two holes with only two strokes finally separating the winner from second place.
Of course there are certain changes in history that will probably secure the 1960 U.S. Open as Golf's Greatest Championship.
One major difference between the 1960 and 2010 U.S. Open is the mode of telecast. In 1960, there was no reviewing shots through videotape or through digital means. You either watched it live on NBC-TV or missed it or waited until you bought the newspaper the following day. With today's technology you get the option of TIVO, Internet, mobile web, television replays and the like, so you'll know when a golfer takes a breath or sneezes! Some of the excitement of live telecasts will be lost forever.
The final 36 holes of golf would have to be played in the same day. It may be exhausting, but it would separate the men from the boys. But, should golf be considered a game of skill and endurance? That is why the majors are considered the game's ultimate test.
My Tribute to Life in the Blue Ridge - *After thousands of golf stories, I want to share on other topics. This commentary is autobiographical and appeared in the Sunday Roanoke Times a few week...
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