PEBBLE BEACH, CA. The US Open is the national championship of American golf, but since the start of the 21st century, with the exception of the 2017 championship at Erin Hills in Wisconsin, the premier golf event has been staged only once in the middle portion of America since 2004 and is clearly showing a desire to be hosted at either eastern or western locations.
In fact, no future US Open is planned for a Midwest site through at least 2027. Interestingly, the ’27 event is already slated for a return to Pebble Beach for a 7th time.
The US Open has not been to Chicago — America’s 3rd largest city since 2003 and the time before that was 1990. The Minneapolis area — one of golf’s hotspots for ticket sales — has not hosted the Open since 1991. The Denver area not since 1978.
The USGA has attempted to widen the reach of the Open with different venues — such as Chambers Bay in 2015 and the aforementioend Erin Hills. But, the present calendar clearly shows a bent to classic venues with a preponderance located near major metro areas.
The Midwest has been squeezed out and the reasons are several.
Much of that has happened because of an aggressive effort by the PGA of America to capture heartland locations. But, more importantly, the PGA smartly pushed up its flagship event — the PGA Championship — from the dreary and lackluster August time frame to May. This year’s event also reaped the fanfare attached to the win by Tiger Woods at The Masters.
Moving to May also gives the PGA a wider net to cast its eye for future venues. Take for example, the State fo Texas. The Lone Star State has hosted three PGA Championships but the last coming in 1968. Other States would be in play as well with the likes of the southeast and southwest areas being considered. Amazingly, Texas has only hosted the US Open twice — the last coming in 1969. It’s more than likely with the PGA of America moving its headquarters to Texas one will see a number of their flagship events played there. The USGA, at this moment, does not have roadmap that includes the Lone Star State for the US Open.
The USGA has also smartly used west coast sites — starting with Pebble this year and then heading to Torrey Pines in ’21 and Los Angeles CC in ’23 — because the time zone differential has allowed the event to be played in prime time viewing thereby driving up viewership totals in eastern time zone areas.
8th hole at Pebble.— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) June 13, 2019
Dangerously beautiful. 😳 pic.twitter.com/mnPhPCXO6r
The issue with venues for major championships has clearly placed various golf clubs in making a determination — do they go with the USGA or PGA of America? Herb Kohler, the man behind the creation of The American Club in Wisconsin wanted to have his facility host a US Open but when it became evident that was not likely to happen he opted to develop a long term relationship with the PGA of America. The net result? Whistling Straits has hosted three PGA Championships and will stage the Ryder Cup Matches in ’20.
A long time USGA venue — Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield NJ — remains a club interested in hosting USGA Championships but the US Open was last played there in 1993 and it appears extremely doubtful the 7-time venue for the National Open will see it’s 8th event — soon — if ever again. Given that reality — Baltusrol opened itself up to hosting strictly professional events when serving as the location for the ’05 PGA Championship and doing so again in ’16. The PGA returns for a 3rd time in ’29.
The USGA lost its connection to Bethpage after the ’09 US Open and the Long Island-based club switched to working closely with the PGA. This year’s event won by Brooke Koepka proved successful and the facility will also reap another dividend — a Ryder Cup Match in ’24.
Oak Hill, the storied club in northern New York had been a consistent participant for USGA events. However, the US Open has not been there since 1989. Like Bethpage, Oak Hill moved to a closer relationship with the PGA and over the last 30 years has hosted two PGA Championships in ’03 and ’13, as well as the Ryder Cup in 1995 and will host its 3rd PGA in ’29.
Congressional, the Washington, D.C. venue, had been a US Open site three times — in 1964, 1997 and 2011. But, the USGA has since soured on a layout that failed to adequately test the world’s best players, most notably after Rory McIlroy literally torched the course when winning there eight years ago. Once again, the PGA of America filled the USGA void as the club will stage the ’31 PGA Championship and ’36 Ryder Cup Matches.
What will be most interesting to watch is when Oakland Hills, the renown club in the greater Detroit area, completes its recent upgrading by architect Gil Hanse, and opts to return to the competitive stage. The famed South Course has been a host site for both US Opens and PGA Championships but getting the Open back — the last coming in 1985 — is clearly something the club wishes since it hosted the ’16 US Amateur as a way to court USGA attention.
The USGA does have some clear advantages with such perennial host locations with Pebble Beach, Oakmont, Shinnecock Hills and Pinehurst #2 leading the way. The four aformentioned layouts are easily among America’s elite and keeping them firmly in the USGA’s corner is something the braintrust from Far Hills has done via a big time future commitment. The Open will also be heading to the LA market in ’23 and it’s been a long time desire for the USGA to be in America’s second largest city.
America’s heartland will need to wait and wonder. Will the USGA show a desire to re-estbalish itself there or will the tendency of going strictly east and west coast be the new pattern that’s ethed in ink and not pencil?
We shall see.