1994 US Open: Ernie Els Arrives on the Scene

Ernie Els celebrates making a putt during the 1994 US Open
Ernie Els sinks a putt during the 1994 US Open. Gary Newkirk/Getty Images

A controversial ruling played a role in the 1994 U.S. Open, a tournament that ended in an 18-hole playoff that stretched to 20 holes. And this tournament, at Oakmont in his home state of Pennsylvania, marked Arnold Palmer's final appearance in this championship.

Quick Bits

  • Winner: Ernie Els, 279 (full scores below)
  • Dates: June 16–20, 1994
  • Golf course: Oakmont Country Club
  • U.S. Open number: This was the 94th time the championship was played.

    The Ruling that Helped Ernie Els at 1994 US Open

    Ernie Els held a two-stroke lead as the final round began, on the strength of a third-round 66. But he badly mishit his first tee shot of the final round, deep into trouble off the first fairway of Oakmont Country Club.

    A large number loomed as a possiblity. But a USGA rules official ruled that a broadcast truck and its extendable arm were in Els' line of play, and that the truck was a temporary immovable obstruction. In fact, the truck was quite movable — it drove away not long after the incident at hand. But because of the ruling, Els was allowed a free drop in an area where escape was far more likely. The rules official later admitted he had been wrong, and Els should have been required to play the ball from the original, horrendous situation.

    Still, it's important to note that the ruling did not win the tournament for Els. Els still bogeyed the hole, and it was the overnight leader's very first hole of the day.

    It's also good to note that Els did nothing wrong in the incident; he asked for a ruling and was give one (which turned out to be incorrect) by a rules official.

    How Els Reached That Point

    The Top 5 golfers after the first round included two legends, two more golfers who became Hall of Famers ... and Frank Nobilo.

    Legend Tom Watson held the first-round lead with a 68, and legend Jack Nicklaus shared second with future Hall of Famers Els and Hale Irwin, plus Nobilo, at 69.

    The two men who wound up in the playoff against Els, Loren Roberts and Colin Montgomerie, shot 76 and 71, respectively, in Round 1.

    Montgomerie moved into first place with a 65 in Round 2; Els shot 71 and traiiled by four strokes.

    It was Round 3 where Roberts made his move with a 64 that got him into a tie for third, with Montgomerie. Els took the lead with a 66. Nicklaus, age 54, fell out of the running after a 77, but Watson was still hanging in, three strokes off the lead.

    Watson wound up tying for fifth place after the final round, in which Els shot 73, Roberts 70 and Mongomerie 70. Those three tied at 5-under 279, forcing an 18-hole playoff.

    The 18-Hole Playoff at the 1994 US Open

    Els started the playoff very shaky, with a bogey and then a triple-bogey. But while Montgomerie faded — he was five behind by the 12th hole — Els and Roberts battled the whole round. A double-bogey by Roberts on No. 5 dropped him into a tie with Els. Roberts took the lead with a birdie at the next, but Els' own birdie on No. 7 tied them again.

    When Els bogeyed the 12th, Roberts went up by one.

    Roberts gave that lead back on the 16th, then both birdied No. 17. A pair of pars on the 18th hole meant that Els and Roberts finished the round still tied, with 74s.

    So on to sudden death those two went (Montgomerie dropped out with a 78). Els and Roberts continued on for two more holes, until Roberts bogeyed the 20th hole of the day and Els parred it for the victory.

    It was Els' first major championship victory — and also his first PGA Tour win.

    Final Scores at the 1994 US Open

    Results from the 1994 U.S. Open golf tournament played at the par-71 Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa. (x-won playoff; a-amateur):

    x-Ernie Els69-71-66-73--279$320,000
    Colin Montgomerie71-65-73-70--279$141,827
    Loren Roberts76-69-64-70--279$141,827
    Curtis Strange70-70-70-70--280$75,728
    John Cook73-65-73-71--282$61,318
    Clark Dennis71-71-70-71--283$49,485
    Greg Norman71-71-69-72--283$49,485
    Tom Watson68-73-68-74--283$49,485
    Jeff Maggert71-68-75-70--284$37,179
    Frank Nobilo69-71-68-76--284$37,179
    Jeff Sluman72-69-72-71--284$37,179
    Duffy Waldorf74-68-73-69--284$37,179
    David Edwards73-65-75-72--285$29,767
    Scott Hoch72-72-70-71--285$29,767
    Jim McGovern73-69-74-69--285$29,767
    Fred Couples72-71-69-74--286$25,899
    Steve Lowery71-71-68-76--286$25,899
    Seve Ballesteros72-72-70-73--287$22,477
    Hale Irwin69-69-71-78--287$22,477
    Scott Verplank70-72-75-70--287$22,477
    Steve Pate74-66-71-77--288$19,464
    Sam Torrance72-71-76-69--288$19,464
    Bernhard Langer72-72-73-72--289$17,223
    Kirk Triplett70-71-71-77--289$17,223
    Chip Beck73-73-70-74--290$14,705
    Craig Parry78-68-71-73--290$14,705
    Mike Springer74-72-73-71--290$14,705
    Lennie Clements73-71-73-75--292$11,514
    Jim Furyk74-69-74-75--292$11,514
    Davis Love III74-72-74-72--292$11,514
    Jack Nicklaus69-70-77-76--292$11,514
    Jumbo Ozaki70-73-69-80--292$11,514
    Fulton Allem73-70-74-76--293$9,578
    Mark Carnevale75-72-76-70--293$9,578
    Ben Crenshaw71-74-70-78--293$9,578
    Brad Faxon73-69-71-80--293$9,578
    Tom Kite73-71-72-77--293$9,578
    Tom Lehman77-68-73-75--293$9,578
    Peter Baker73-73-73-75--294$8,005
    Bradley Hughes71-72-77-74--294$8,005
    Gordon J. Brand73-71-73-77--294$8,005
    Brandt Jobe72-74-68-80--294$8,005
    Fran Quinn75-72-73-75--295$7,222
    Fred Funk74-71-74-77--296$6,595
    Paul Goydos74-72-79-71--296$6,595
    Don Walsworth71-75-73-77--296$6,595
    David Berganio Jr.73-72-76-76--297$5,105
    Olin Browne74-73-77-73--297$5,105
    Tim Dunlavey76-70-78-73--297$5,105
    Mike Emery Jr.74-73-75-75--297$5,105
    Jim Gallagher Jr.74-68-77-78--297$5,105
    Barry Lane77-70-76-74--297$5,105
    Wayne Levi76-70-73-78--297$5,105
    Phil Mickelson75-70-73-79--297$5,105
    Tommy Armour III73-73-79-73--298$4,324
    Hugh Royer III72-71-77-78--298$4,324
    Scott Simpson74-73-73-78--298$4,324
    Steven Richardson74-73-76-76--299$4,105
    Fuzzy Zoeller76-70-76-77--299$4,105
    Doug Martin76-70-74-81--301$3,967
    Dave Rummells71-74-82-74--301$3,967
    Emlyn Aubrey72-69-81-80--302$3,800
    Ed Humenik74-72-81-75--302$3,800
    Mike Smith74-73-78-77--302$3,800


    Arnold Palmer's Final US Open and Other Notes

    • The 1994 U.S. Open was the last played by Arnold Palmer. Palmer hadn't played a U.S. Open since 1983 — the most recent previous time the U.S. Open visited Oakmont — but was granted a special exemption by the USGA because Oakmont was again the host course. Palmer grew up in Latrobe, Pa., and Oakmont was always a special place to Palmer. His very first U.S. Open in 1953 was also at Oakmont. Palmer shot 77-81 here and missed the cut.
    • It was also Johnny Miller's final time playing the U.S. Open, and his last time playing in any of the four major championships. Miller was the 1973 champion, also at Oakmont. He missed the cut with scores of 81-76.
    • Two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange finished one stroke out of the playoff after posting four straight rounds of even-par 70.