Top 8 Quotes Explaining Just How Tough the US Open Is

When you think of the U.S. Open golf tournament, what things first come to mind? Tough golf courses. Tough set-ups. Tough scoring.


None of the majors - no other golf tournaments of any kind - are more associated with a high degree of difficulty than the U.S. Open. Some golfers welcome that and thrive on it; others are intimidated by it.

But every golfer, even those who've experienced the ecstasy of victory, experiences at least a little agony at the U.S. Open.

Over the following pages, we'll share our favorite quotes, including some from superstars of the game, about just how hard the U.S. Open is and what a nerve-jangling experience it can be playing in it. And there are actually more than eight quotes over the following pages - we threw in a few bonus quotes along the way.

of 08

Bobby Jones

Bobby Jones practicing golf
Bettman/Getty Images

"Nobody ever wins the National Open. Somebody else just loses it."

- Bobby Jones

Hold that thought, Bobby (and readers), because we'll see this sentiment expressed again later on. But (in our opinion), in a better and more forceful way.

of 08

Jack Nicklaus

Jack Nicklaus strides onto the 18th green during the final round of the 1982 US Open on June 20, 1982 in Pebble Beach, California
David Madison/Getty Images

"A difficult golf course eliminates a lot of players. The U.S. Open flag eliminates a lot of players. Some players just weren't meant to win the U.S. Open. Quite often, a lot of them know it."

- Jack Nicklaus

Nicklaus has spoken often about his simple strategy in majors: Hang around. Keep yourself in it. Don't play yourself out of it with dumb mistakes early. Which brings to mind this bonus quote by the Bear:

“You can’t win the Open on Thursday and Friday, but you can lose it.”

And Nicklaus has often talked about how much he liked hearing other golfers complain about the toughness of the U.S. Open. That, to Nicklaus, was the sound of golfers talking themselves out of contending - making it better for him.

of 08

Seve Ballesteros

Seve Ballesteros of Spain watches his putt during the 1987 United States Open Championship
David Madison/Getty Images

"The U.S. Open has never been exciting to watch. It has always been a sad tournament. There is no excitement, no enjoyment. It is all defensive golf, from the first tee to the last putt."

- Seve Ballesteros

Tell us you really feel, Seve! I wouldn't call the U.S. Open "sad," but I think we all know what Ballesteros meant: When there aren't a lot of birdies to be had, the U.S. Open feels more like a grind compared to the other majors.

Seve, by the way, never won a U.S. Open and had more missed cuts (5) than Top 10s (3) in the tournament.

of 08

Sam Snead

Sam Snead
Getty Images Credit: Stephen Munday / Staff

"You gotta sneak up on these holes. If you clamber and clank up on them, they're liable to turn around and bite you."

- Sam Snead

Snead never won a U.S. Open, so he knew a thing or two about getting bit in the tournament. (For the best - or is that worst? - example of Snead's USGA woes, see the 1939 U.S. Open.)

The above quote - uttered at the 1953 U.S. Open at Oakmont - is an "in other words" way of saying: Play smart and safe in a U.S. Open and choose carefully the moments when you go for the big shot. There are many examples of great golfers employing just such a strategy. Perhaps most famously, there's Billy Casper laying up all four rounds on a par-3 hole at the 1959 U.S. Open.

Bonus quote: Nick Faldo expressed similar sentiments to Snead's but in much less colorful language when he said of U.S. Opens, "You have a fairly good idea of what the questions are going to be, but how to record the best answer is another matter."

of 08

Tom Weiskopf

Tom Weiskopf hits a shot during the 1993 PGA Seniors'' Championship
Gary Newkirk/Getty Images

"When people say they dream of playing in the U.S. Open someday, what they're really saying is, they'd like to be good enough to play. Trust me, the U.S. Open is not fun."

- Tom Weiskopf

"The U.S. Open is not fun" might be the second-most-common thing said by participants about the championship in its modern era, just behind, "I'd sure love to win the U.S. Open."

Weiskopf (echoing the Seve quote we saw earlier) never won a U.S. Open. But he did win the U.S. Senior Open - and when he did that, Weiskopf essentially gave up tournament golf. Once he had that elusive USGA championship, that was enough for him.

of 08

Jerry McGee

Jerry McGee of the USA during the final day of the 1977 Ryder Cup Matches at Royal Lytham and St Annes Golf Club on September 29, 1977
Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

"Playing in the US Open is like tippy-toeing through hell."

- Jerry McGee

McGee had a fine career: 4 PGA Tour wins between 1975 and 1979, member of the USA's 1977 Ryder Cup team. He played in 10 U.S. Opens with a best finish of 13th in 1971.

But you might feel the same way he did about the U.S. Open if you had three times as many rounds of 78 and higher (nine) as rounds in the 60s (three) over your career in that tournament.

of 08

Sandy Tatum

Former USGA president Sandy Tatum, photographed in 2014
Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

"We're not trying to embarrass the best players in the world. We're trying to identify them."

- Sandy Tatum

Frank "Sandy" Tatum is one of the major figures in the USGA's history. That includes serving on the executive committee from 1972-80 and serving as USGA president from 1978-80.

In 1974, Tatum was the chairman of the championship committee. And that year's U.S. Open has gone down in history as "The Massacre at Winged Foot."

The winning score, by Hale Irwin, was 287 - 7-over par. And that +7 score in relation to par is the highest since 1963. Pinched fairways, crazy thick rough, severe greens. Tatum pulled out all the stops at the 1974 U.S. Open.

Some players believed it was a reaction by the USGA to Johnny Miller's final-round 63 to win at Oakmont the previous year. Tatum and the USGA always denied that. (Winged Foot is just a very tough course, after all.)

But the conditions and the scores at Winged Foot in 1974 led some golfers there to complain that the USGA was trying to embarrass them.

And that charge led to Tatum's famous retort, quoted above, which since then has become something of an unofficial credo for the USGA.

One of Tatum's successors as USGA president, David Fay, later confirmed that the USGA wants the U.S. Open to "always (be) regarded as the world's toughest golf tournament."

of 08

Cary Middlecoff

It's a painful moment for ex-painless dentist Cary Middlecoff, as he narrowly misses a long putt on the 34th hole in his match with Jack Burke in the 1955 PGA Championship
Bettmann/Getty Images

"Nobody wins the Open. It wins you."

- Cary Middlecoff

Remember our first quote from Bobby Jones?

This restatement of Jones' sentiment by Middlecoff is the perfect ending for this feature. (And the U.S. Open, by the way, "won" Middlecoff twice, in 1949 and 1956.)