U.S. Open: Ranking the 25 Most Dominant Performances in History

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U.S. Open Rory McIlroy

Golf fans cheer as Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland celebrates his eight-stroke victory on the 18th green to win during the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club on June 19, 2011 in Bethesda, Maryland. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

The U.S. Open is known as the toughest test in golf. These 25 players passed the test with flying colors, etching their names in golf history.

America’s national championship has been played since the 1890’s. In that time The U.S. Open has become the leading indicator for greatness in golf; with the exceptions of Sam Snead and Phil Mickelson, every first-rank player in the game’s history has won it.

Some, naturally, have used the U.S. Open stage to make an indelible impression on the game. When we think of these players, we think currently of their memorable Open victories. That’s true of Tiger in 2000, of Arnie’s defining charge in 1960, of Bobby Jones and the Grand Slam in 1930, and of Jack’s unyielding performance at Baltusrol in 1967.

Pebble Beach, site of this season’s championship, has been an especially favorable site for drama. It was where Nicklaus ratified his dominance with a memorable 1-iron off the flag in 1972, where Tom Watson chipped in to beat Jack at the same hole a decade later, and where Woods authored the greatest performance in major tournament history in 2000.

In fact, three of the 25 most dominant Opens ever played were conducted at Pebble Beach. So it’s entirely reasonable to expect more greatness this week.

This list of the 25 most dominant U.S. Open performances of all time is based on the standard deviation of the champion’s performance, with one caveat. In instances where a player finished more than one-half standard deviation worse than all other players in the field, that player’s score is struck as being non-competitive, and the calculation for that tournament is re-figured.

That’s why, for example, Woods’ 2000 performance at Pebble Beach is rated at -4.34 instead of -4.11, as it would be if Robert Damron’s 313 – seven strokes worse than any other competitor – were included.

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