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California in the spotlight again at this month’s national championship

by Staff on June 10, 2012

Clockwise from bottom left: Jack Nicklaus claimed his 13th major in 1972; Ben Hogan won his first Open in 1948; Tiger’s dramatic birdie on the 72nd hole set the stage for his 2008 playoff victory; Tom Watson’s miracle chip led to the 1982 title; Woods blitzed the field at Pebble Beach in 2000. (Courtesy USGA)

After the 112th U.S. Open is decided this month at The Olympic Club, California courses will have hosted 12 of golf’s national championships since 1948. Here are five of the best held in the Golden State that weren’t contested in San Francisco:

1948 AT RIVIERA: NAMING RIGHTS

Ben Hogan won his first U.S. Open title and became the first golfer in the tournament’s history to shoot three rounds in the 60s. His two-stroke victory over Jimmy Demaret was Hogan’s third triumph in 18 months at Riviera, having won the previous two Los Angeles Opens at the course. His dominance at the famed Pacific Palisades venue led to Demaret’s enduring reference to Riviera Country Club as “Hogan’s Alley.”

1972 AT PEBBLE BEACH: 1 FOR THE AGES

Already a winner at the 1972 Bing Crosby National Pro-Am at Pebble Beach that year, Jack Nicklaus entered the U.S. Open as the man to beat. Leading by three shots on the tee box at the par-3 17th hole, Nicklaus hit a 1-iron into the wind that hit the flag stick and came to rest 2 inches from the hole for a tap-in birdie. One of the best shots in U.S. Open history allowed Nicklaus to walk the 18th fairway knowing he had just won his 13th major championship. The victory also made Nicklaus the first – and still only – player to win the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open on the same course.

1982 AT PEBBLE BEACH: CHIPPING AWAY

Tom Watson was looking over his final-round chip shot from the deep rough at the par-3 17th hole when his caddy, Bruce Edwards, told him to “get it close.” Watson – who boldly responded, “I’m not going to get it close, I’m going to make it” – did just that. Watson’s mini-victory lap on the putting surface carried over to the 18th hole, which he also birdied for a two-shot victory over Jack Nicklaus. Later, playing partner Bill Rogers said Watson couldn’t get that chip shot close again with “a hundred more attempts.” Nicklaus then upped the ante by raising it to “a thousand times.”

2000 AT PEBBLE BEACH: STROKES OF GENIUS

The millennium craze of 2000 moved Pebble Beach up in the rotation as the host site for the 100th U.S. Open. And it could be another 100 years before such a dominating performance is seen again. Entering the final round it was a foregone conclusion that Tiger Woods would earn the third major title of his young career, with the winning margin the only thing in doubt. In the end, a barrage of birdies on the back nine led Woods to a record-setting 15-shot victory over Ernie Els and Miguel Angel Jimenez. Woods rode the momentum to victories in the next three majors for what is respectfully known as the Tiger Slam.

2008 AT TORREY PINES: ON WOUNDED KNEE

It’s hard to pinpoint the many indelible images that Tiger Woods has produced over the years but his reaction after making a birdie putt on the 72nd hole to force a playoff with Rocco Mediate has to be up there. Woods, who had a visible limp, was challenged by the affable Mediate, who rallied from a three-shot deficit in the Monday playoff with birdies on 13, 14 and 15 to send the tournament to a 91st hole, which Woods won with a par. Two days later it was revealed that Woods was playing with a double stress fracture in his left tibia due to complications with the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

– By Jim Dover

If history is any indication, a surprise winner will be crowned at Olympic

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