The simplest way to put a bow on this discussion is to award points to each course based on its ordinal rank in each of the five categories, and see which comes out with the lowest average ordinal rank. When we do that, here’s the result:
Winged Foot 1-2-2-2-1 1.6
Oakmont 6-4-1-1-6 3.6
Merion 4-1-5-6-3 3.8
Oakland Hills 5-3-3-3-5 3.8
Olympic 3-7-6-5-2 4.6
Shinnecock 2-5-8-7-4 5.2
Baltusrol 8-6-7-4-8 6.6
Pebble Beach 7-8-4-8-7 6.8
Winged Foot ranks toughest in two of the categories, and it is second in each of the other three. No other course ranks among the top two in more than two categories.
The ordering suggests to me that while Winged Foot, Oakmont, Oakland Hills and Merion all rank solidly on the US Open course Mt. Rushmore, there’s a solid argument to be made for Winged Foot’s claim to be viewed as first among equals.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that Oglivy’s winning score of five over at Winged Foot in 2006 is the highest winning score since Hale Irwin won at seven over in 1974…also at Winged Foot.
Whether this methodology is valid is something the game’s best players can validate – or undermine – via their play this week.
There is one footnote to this discussion that cannot be entirely ignored. At the outset, we noted that nine courses have hosted at least four US Opens. Our ranking has dealt with only eight of them. What about the ninth?