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Past Champions


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Ernie Els

Ernie Els had just won his ninth event in less than three years as a professional and at 24 he was the youngest U.S. Open winner since Jerry Pate in 1975. He defeated Loren Roberts and Colin Montgomerie in a three-way playoff after the trio was tied at 5-under-par 279 through 72 holes. It was the first three-man playoff since 1963 when Julius Boros defeated Arnold Palmer and Jacky Cupit.

But Els didn't need the history lesson on playoff Monday. After a slow start in which he was 4-over after two holes, he needed to regroup and shot 1-under par golf the rest of the way. It was good enough to catch Robes who never trailed in the playoff until the 20th and final hole. Montgomerie was eliminated after shooting 70 for 18 holes, four strokes off the pace, succumbing to terrible chipping in making three double bogeys.

On the decisive 378-yard, par 4 (hole No. 11 of the Oakmont course), Roberts found a grenade bunker with his approach shot, while Els landed his approach on the green, some 18 feet from the hole. Roberts' difficult sandblast came to rest 30 feet beyond the hole, and his long putt touched the lip of the cup but had too much steam. He would settle for a bogey 5, leaving Els to two-putt for the win. Els managed his two-putt but needed to make a nervy four-footer in the end.

"It's great, just unbelievable," Els said. It was a dream come true for Els, who had become only the fourth foreign-born golfer to win the Open in 67 years. Scotland native Tommy Armour won at Oakmont in 1927. No one from overseas had finished on top since Australia's David Graham in 1981. Els earned a record $320,000 for his play.


Starts - 13

Best Finish - Winner 1994, & '97

Rds - 49

Cuts Made - 11

Top 3 - 3

Top 5 - 5

Top 10 - 7

Top 25 - 9

Avg. - 70.08

Scores In 60s - 12

Rds Under Par - 12

Earnings - $1,784,449.75