Olympic Club Golf
At The U.S. Open
BY BRIAN HEWITT
Fans surround the 18th green at the 1955 U.S. Open at Olympic Club where (inset) Jack Fleck defeated Ben Hogan in a playoff.
The fastest and most appropriate way
to launch a full inspection of how the
historic Olympic Club will play at this
year’s U.S. Open (June 14-17) starts by
taking a peek at the course’s rich history
in our national championship.
Or as former USGA executive director
Frank Hannigan used to say, “Some-
thing magical always seems to happen
In 1955, relatively-unknown Iowa muni
pro Jack Fleck famously defeated the
great Ben Hogan in an 18-hole playoff.
There were only seven under-par rounds
from the entire field and Fleck posted
three of them.
Legend has it that Fleck was shaving
at his hotel room early in the week when a
man appeared in his mirror and told him
he was going to win. No way to confirm
that story, but it still gets told to this day.
Eleven years later, Arnold Palmer was
at the peak of his estimable powers, hav-
ing won The Masters in 1958, 1960, 1962
and 1964. Palmer built what appeared to
be an insurmountable seven-shot lead
with nine holes to play at Olympic. But
streaking Billy Casper caught him and
beat him the next day in another 18-hole
playoff. This time, Palmer led by two after
nine in overtime. But Casper’s rallying 69
topped Palmer by four on Monday.
Meanwhile, in 1998, one of those early
breaks for Janzen occurred on the par- 4
fifth hole and sharply illustrated what
distinguishes Olympic from other U.S.
Open venues. For starters, there are no
water hazards on the course and just one
However, the towering cypress and
pine trees that line the fairways are never
far from the players’ minds. Former U.S.
Open champion Hale Irwin once called
them “big catcher’s gloves.”
“Trees affect this venue more than
any we go to,” says USGA executive
director Mike Davis.
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