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  Monday, 10 June, 2002, 16:55 GMT 17:55 UK
Golf's toughest test
Woods earned his place in US Open history at Pebble Beach in 2000
Woods earned his place in US Open history in 2000

If great championships are won by great champions, there can be none greater than golf's US Open.

Take a quick glance at the list of names who have won what is effectively the USA's national golf championship and you see the likes of Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.

In recent years the event has been won by the modern giants of the game: Tiger Woods, Ernie Els and the late Payne Stewart.

As a result, every champion can reflect on their achievement knowing that there is no harder challenge in world golf than a US Open, where 72 pars can be enough to take the prize.

  Facts and figures
Highest hole score: 19, Ray Ainsley in 1938
Consecutive Opens started: 41, Jack Nicklaus (1957-2000)
Most sub-par rounds: 35, Nicklaus
Number of play-offs 31 in 96 ch'ships
Holes-in-one 27
Oldest winner Hale Irwin, at 45 in 1990
But the event has not always been so well regarded, or fiercely contested.

The first US Open took place in 1895 at Rhode Island's Newport Golf and Country Club.

A measure of the tournament's standing at the time is that it was considered a sideshow to the US Amateur Open, which was also taking place at the nine-hole Newport course that week.

Horace Rawlins, a 21-year-old English professional, emerged from the 11-man field to win it that year. He completed the single day's four trips around the course in 173 shots.

The British, in fact, dominated the event's early years - Scotland's Willie Anderson won it three years in a row from 1903 to 1905 - and it was not until 1911 that John J. McDermott became the first American to claim the title.

But McDermott's victory instigated a surge in the event's popularity, and provided early evidence of a shift in power in the world game away from Britain towards America.

By the time the great amateur Jones won his fourth US Open in 1930 - a year in which he completed his "impregnable quadrilateral" of US Open, US Amateur Open, British Open and British Amateur titles - that shift was complete.

  Top 10 finishes
18 J Nicklaus
16 W Hagen
15 B Hogan
14 G Sarazen
13 A Palmer
12 S Snead
In fact, only five foreign players have won the US Open since then - England's Tony Jacklin, Australia's David Graham and the South African trio of Gary Player, Els and Retief Goosen.

Unlike the Masters, there is an unmistakeably American feel to the US Open's history: Hogan's post-war domination, Palmer's seven-shot charge in 1960, Nicklaus' rookie win in 1962 and the multiple victories of Billy Casper, Lee Trevino and Hale Irwin.

And while South Africa's recent showing might suggest otherwise, it is still the Stars and Stripes that usually flies over the US Open.

None more so than in 2000, when Woods put together what many observers considered to be the most awesome display of golf ever seen.

Woods destroyed the field at Pebble Beach, and in the process smashed a number of US Open records, including most strokes under par at any point (12), lowest 36-hole total (134) and biggest winning margin (15).

What price a Woods birdie blitz at Bethpage, I wonder?

BBC Sport Online's US Open 2002 news section

Fourth round

Third round

Second round

First round

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