The 2012 US Open Men's Golf Championship is being played at The Olympic Club in San Francisco. As play begins in the final round on Sunday, June 17th, Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell are tied for the 54-hole lead. Both co-leaders are past US Open Champions with Furyk winning the event in 2003 at Olympia FIelds, and McDowell in 2010 at Pebble Beach.
This is the fifth time the US Open has been played at The Olympic Club's Lake Course. In each of the prior four championships, the same as this year, the 54-hole lead has been held by a former US Open champion. In each event, someone else overcame the leader to claim victory and hoist the US Open Championship Trophy.
Let's briefly review the history that has led to The Olympic Club's Lake Course being called the Graveyard of Champions:
1955 US Open: With 64 career wins on the PGA Tour and 9 Major championships (including a record four US Open titles) Ben Hogan is among the greatest golfers to have ever played the game. He held a three-shot lead after 54-holes at The Olympic Club. A relative unknown with no prior PGA Tour victories, Jack Fleck, caught Hogan with birdies on two of the final three holes and forced an 18-hole playoff. Jack Fleck won the playoff by three shots and Ben Hogan never won another major championship. An interesting note is that this event marked the first time Arnold Palmer made the cut in a US Open.
1966 US Open: Remember Arnold Palmer from 1955? By the time the 1966 US Open came around, Palmer had amassed 7 Major championship victories in a career which eventually would include 62 PGA Tour championships. Another of golf's all-time greats, he held the 54-hole lead at The Olympic Club in 1966. In the final round, Billy Casper came from three shots behind to catch Palmer and (like 1955) force an 18-hole playoff to determine the champion. Casper won the playoff and went on to win the 1970 Masters as well. As for Arnold Palmer, just like Ben Hogan before him, he never won a major championship again. The field at the 1966 Open included a 19-year-old amateur, Johnny Miller, who went on to win 25 PGA Tour events and two Major championships of his own.
1987 US Open: Another member of golf's elite champions, Tom Watson won 39 times on the PGA Tour and claimed 8 Major championships, including the 1982 US Open. Scott Simpson came from a shot behind at the start of the day, to shoot a 2-under par score of 68 in the final round, and beat Watson by a single stroke. Simpson's 72-hole total of 277, at 3-under par, is the all-time record for a US Open Championship played at The Olympic Club. This was the only Major championship of Simpson's career. 22 years later, Tom Watson held a one-shot lead after 71 holes at the 2009 British Open, before a bogey at the 72nd hole. He was beaten in a four-hole playoff, by Stewart Cink, and (like Hogan and Palmer before him) Tom Watson never won a major championship after being the 54-hole leader in the US Open at The Olympic Club.
1998 US Open: Payne Stewart led after each of the first three rounds of the tournament. A final round score of 74 was good enough to keep him ahead of everyone else, except for one player who shot a brilliant 2-under par score of 68. Lee Janzen had come from behind to beat Stewart at the 1993 US Open at Baltusrol, and in 1998 he did the same thing at the Lake Course. Payne Stewart may have broken the US Open Curse of The Olympic Club, when he won the 1999 US Open at Pinehurst for his third Major championship. However, his career was cut short a few months later, when he died in a plane crash on October 25, 1999.
Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell are co-leaders after 54 holes at the 2012 US Open, being played at The Olympic Club's Lake Course. Like the all-time greats who have been in this position before, they have prior Major championships in their professional careers. Unlike Hogan, Palmer, Watson and Stewart, Furyk and McDowell are co-leaders. Today, June 17, 2012, we will learn whether or not Furyk or McDowell can pull both feet out of the Graveyard of Champions, or if someone else is going to come from behind again.
The largest comeback in the history of the US Open at The Olympic Club was five shots, by Lee Janzen in 1998. Today there are 15 challengers beginning play within that range, including a 17-year-old amateur (Beau Hossler) and arguably the greatest golfer to have ever played the game (Tiger Woods). It should be another exciting finish.
Harold Andrews has played golf (competitively and recreationally) for nearly 50 years. He considers Jack Nicklaus the greatest golfer of all time.