US OPEN FIVE: Going the distance and then some to win a US Open

  • Article by: DOUG FERGUSON , AP Golf Writer
  • Updated: June 11, 2013 - 3:15 AM

ARDMORE, Pa. — The U.S. Open is known as the toughest test in golf, and it's even more difficult when more than 72 holes are required.

Willie Anderson won the first of 33 playoffs in U.S. Open history with an 85 to win by one shot over Alex Smith in 1901 at Myopia Hunt north of Boston. Tiger Woods won the most recent playoff, a 19-hole thriller over Rocco Mediate on a badly injured left leg.

Arnold Palmer was in three U.S. Open playoffs — and lost them all. The great Bobby Jones twice lost U.S. Open playoffs by a single shot.

There have been a few dull playoffs along the way, such as Jones winning by 23 shots in a 36-hole playoff over Al Espinosa, and Retief Goosen beating Mark Brooks in 2001 at Southern Hills. Both wore khaki pants and a white shirt.

Here are five of the most memorable playoffs in U.S. Open history:

5. BILLY BURKE AND THE LONGEST OPEN

Here's one U.S. Open record that will never be broken — in what amounts to golf's version of a doubleheader, Billy Burke had to play the equivalent of two 72-hole tournaments to win the 1931 U.S. Open at Inverness.

Burke closed with a 73 to make up a two-shot deficit against George Von Elm, setting up a 36-hole playoff the next day. This was one year after Von Elm lost in a 28-hole match in the U.S. Amateur at Merion. He was no stranger to overtime.

In a see-saw battle, Burke finally emerged with a one-shot lead with a birdie on the 15th hole of the second round, only for Von Elm to birdie the 18th hole to match him at 7-over 149. That led to another 36-hole playoff the next day, and Burke started poorly with a bogey and double bogey. He finally caught up to Von Elm on the front nine of the afternoon round, and pulled ahead for good when Von Elm bogeyed the 14th hole. This time, Von Elm was out of heroics. Burke shot 148 to win by one shot.

They had to play 144 holes over five days. The next year, the USGA voted to return playoffs to 18 holes.

___

4. ALL HALE THE THREE-TIME CHAMPION

Hale Irwin was 45 and considered a part-time player on the PGA Tour, winless in more than five years. A two-time U.S. Open champion, his exemption had run out the previous year, so the USGA awarded him a special invitation to the 1990 U.S. Open at Medinah.

Four shots behind going into the final round, Irwin ran off four straight birdies on the back nine and looked like he would come up short when his 7-iron to the 18th was some 50 feet away. He made the putt for a 67, and ran toward the fans and gave them high-fives. It got him into a playoff with Mike Donald at 280.

Irwin again was on the ropes, two shots behind with three holes to play. Irwin hit 2-iron from 210 yards to 6 feet for birdie on the 16th hole. Donald went from the rough to a bunker and blasted out to 15 feet on the 18th hole, giving him a par putt to win the U.S. Open. He missed, leading to the first sudden-death playoff in championship history. Donald missed his 20-foot birdie putt, and Irwin made his 10-footer for birdie.

He remains the oldest U.S. Open champion, and the last player to win after getting a special exemption.

___

3. THE PLAYOFF THAT PUT AMERICAN GOLF ON THE MAP

The 1913 U.S. Open at The Country Club remains the most significant major championship in history. Francis Ouimet, the first amateur to win the U.S. Open, took down British heavyweights Harry Vardon and Ted Ray, a win that put golf on newspaper front pages.

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