US Open Preview: Will Olympic Club Golf Course’s History of Underdog Champions Continue?

Tiger and RoryThe Olympic Club has a tendency to dethrone heroes, unseat the favorites, and pretty much dash the hopes of gallery-goers and golfers alike. This here caveman has seen more than one would-be champ falter at the US Open. With everythin’ you have to contend with at the Olympic Club course, it’s no wonder those greens have seen more than one golfer fall from grace.

Designed by Wilfred A. Reid and Robert Trent Jones, the Olympic Club Golf Course first opened in 1924. Featurin’ 6,842 yards from the longest tees for a par of 71, this course can be a monster for even the greats. Even though there’s only one fairway bunker and no water hazards, this course remains one of the great tests of golf. The running fast greens make this course extremely taxing and hard to predict. With fairways narrowed and rough grown out for the Open, this course has teeth that the casual player would never encounter. Plus, the elevation changes, sloping fairways, small greens, unseasonable fog, and cool air all make this course a true wildcard – you never know who’s gonna walk away with the win. The one thing that’s for sure: the guy that you want to win most at the Olympic never comes through. Let’s just take a look at the history of the place.

Y’all may not remember this but I sure do. Way back in 1955, it looked like Ben Hogan was all set up to win his fifth US Open Title. Hogan had made it back to the clubhouse well ahead of everyone else when Jack Fleck, still on the course, birdied on the 16th and 18th to tie Hogan. In the 18-hole playoff, Fleck beat Hogan to much awe – but more shock – from the golfin’ world.

The top was toppled again in 1966 when Arnold Palmer found himself seven shots ahead of nearest competitor, Billy Casper. Then, the unthinkable happened. Palmer lost a stroke on the 10th and 13th. But still, I mean come on – Palmer maintained a five stroke lead with four to play! No way this guy was goin’ down… until he did. Casper shot 32 on the back while Palmer continued to slip. They ended the day tied. The next day there was an 18-hole playoff. Again, Palmer led through the front nine – he was on fire! On the back nine, however, Palmer was outmatched for the second day in a row; he lost six strokes to Casper on those final nine holes and posted a 73 to Casper’s 69.

Those are just two of the many stories of the US Open turnin’ tables on the top players. Other victims to the topsy-turvy luck of the Open include: Tom Watson, Tiger Woods, and Payne Stewart.

If history is to repeat itself this year, then the victory of the US Open should go to an underdog. The question then is, who’s the underdog this year? Will Bubba Watson take the trophy after takin’ a few weeks off since his Masters win. With 40-to-1 odds against him, probably not – but that’s part of the magic of this event! Maybe young Rickie Fowler, with odds 33-to-1 will end up showin’ everyone up. One thing’s for sure: the top dogs of this tournament, Rory McIlroy (odds 12-to-1) and Tiger Woods (odds 6-to-1) better watch out. I guess only time’ll tell whether or not we get another Cinderella Story at this year’s Tournament, so stay tuned with Scratch. Got a prediction of your own for the US Open? Leave it in the comment section!

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