OAKMONT, PENNSYLVANIA | When the USGA announced Wednesday morning that Oakmont Country Club and Merion Golf Club will host five U.S. Opens and four U.S. Women’s Opens between them over the next three decades, it raised a larger discussion about the national championship’s identity.
Both facilities are bluebloods, vertebrae in the backbone of American championship golf. Including this week’s U.S. Amateur at Oakmont, the two venues have combined to host 35 USGA championships. Oakmont’s past champions include Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Bobby Jones, Ernie Els and Dustin Johnson. Hogan, Jones, Lee Trevino and Justin Rose have won at Merion.
Making a long-term commitment to these venerable cathedrals, and previously announcing that Pinehurst will also be an anchor site for the U.S. Open, is a doubling down on long-held values. But is it a signal that the era of going to venues like Chambers Bay and Erin Hills is over? Will the U.S. Open exclusively rely on its recognizable hosts, creating a rota similar to the Open Championship?
Not necessarily, says John Bodenhamer, the USGA’s senior managing director of championships.
“We’ve put our stake in the ground,” Bodenhamer said. “But if you look at the future sites, there are open years every other year or every few years. We have ample opportunities to go to a place that only hosts once. Some clubs only want to host once every 15, 20 years. … We may have super-charged some of the ones we go to more frequently, but we can still showcase all of the great courses in our country that can host.”
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