U.S. Open: 5 of the Biggest Scandals & Controversies, Ranked

One of the most prestigious majors in the golf industry, the US Open has achieved many milestone moments since its debut in 1895. However, along with achievements, this tournament also had to deal with several controversial instances that came along the way.

With this year’s tournament just around the corner, here is a list of five of the most notorious controversies that are intertwined with the US Open.

5. Overnight plantation of Hinkle Tree

The winner of the Bing Crosby tournament and the World Series of Golf in 1979, Lon Hinkle, has become part of a historical landmark today. In the 1979 US Open, Hinkle discovered the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio. He found a shortcut from the left of the 8th tee to a launch directly into the 17th fairway, which in turn shortened the par-5 hole.

According to Golf Week, “Hinkle and his caddie decided on a 220-yard shot through a hole in the sparse collection of trees. He hit a 2-iron and found the 17th fairway. Then he hit another 2-iron to the green and two-putted for a birdie. He finished the round with a 70.”

To avoid such a shot, the USGA planted a 15-foot-high Norway spruce at night between the first and second rounds. Since then, the tree has become a historical landmark and now goes by the name, Hinkle Tree.

4. USGA’s tremendous transformation of the winged foot in 1974

Johny Miller had scored the lowest record of all time, that is 63, to win a major tournament back in 1973. His margin of victory was two strokes against Forrest Fezler at the Winged Foot West Course in Mamaroneck, New York. However, Miller’s achievement at the winged foot was taken with a grain of salt by the USGA.

In the 1970s, the Winged Foot was considered one of the most difficult golf courses to score on. The USGA therefore felt insulted to see as remarkable a performance by Miller that year. To tackle the situation, the USGA decided to implement a much harsher golf course in 1974.

Golf Digest described the tremendous elevation of difficulty as something that did not wish to enable any player to score under par. They started the transformation as “fast greens to narrow fairways to obscenely high rough, not only abounded, but were ratcheted up to painful degrees.”

3. 2004 Shinnecock Hills’s dried golf course

In 2004, Shinnecock Hills GC was rapidly drying out from the immense heat and wind. But to maintain the difficulty, many people believed that the USGA pulled up some unfair tactics. It was recorded that the golf course was not watered before the third round on Saturday, making the third round extremely difficult to play. The trend was maintained, and the final round began without a watered golf course yet again.

No player was able to break par in the final round, and the average score for the day was 79, nine over par. Ernie Els who was playing in the final group, shot an 80. It was further reported that The green was double-cut and rolled on Friday evening and was reportedly rolled the next morning. It got worse as the weekend went on.

This move by the USGA, where the course was deliberately not made playable, made the tournament quite infamous for its toughness over the years. 2004, certainly gets a higher rank at that.

2. Tiger Woods’s win against the infamous warning sign at Bethpage State Park

The placard behind the first tee at Bethpage State Park was hung with a warning sign in 2002. It read, “The Black Course Is An Extremely Difficult Course Which We Recommend Only For Highly Skilled Golfers.” Indeed, throughout the event, it was only Tiger Woods who scored under par and ultimately won the event with a 3-stroke margin of victory against Phil Mickelson.

Bethpage State Park featured a 260-yard carry to the fairway. As difficult as it was already, the strong headwind made the situation much worse for the players. On top of that, an additional difficulty arose with soft ground conditions, especially noticed on the par 4-10th hole in 2002.

1. Dustin Johnson’s uncertain penalty in the final round

The placard behind the first tee at Bethpage State Park was hung with a warning sign in 2002. It read, “The Black Course Is An Extremely Difficult Course Which We Recommend Only For Highly Skilled Golfers.” Indeed, throughout the event, it was only Tiger Woods who scored under par and ultimately won the event with a 3-stroke margin of victory against Phil Mickelson.

Bethpage State Park featured a 260-yard carry to the fairway. As difficult as it was already, the strong headwind made the situation much worse for the players. On top of that, an additional difficulty arose with soft ground conditions, especially noticed on the par 4-10th hole in 2002.

1. Dustin Johnson’s uncertain penalty in the final round

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