3. What was the best U.S. Open you ever attended and why?
ANONYMOUS PRO: At Oakmont in 1994, I happened to be near the 18th green when Arnold Palmer broke down as he walked off at his last Open. There was a thunderous ovation before he got to the green and then again when he left, all the way underneath the stands to the scoring area. There was this white noise around the scoring area, but when he came in, a hush fell over the place, as if a cop walked into a bar and the music stopped. The silence was eerie.
VAN SICKLE: Pebble Beach in 1992 had it all. No-name Andy Dillard set a record by birdieing the first six holes, Dr. Gil Morgan set a record by being the first to get to double digits under par, and then strong winds on the weekend combined with rock-hard greens -- another USGA screwup -- to create more pileups than Talladega. There weren’t many scores under 80 the last day, and Jack Nicklaus prematurely congratulated Colin Montgomerie on winning his first Open. Nope, Tom Kite got that monkey off his back, not Monty.
BAMBERGER: I’ll go with the 1986 Open at Shinnecock Hills. Not only because of the impressive play by Ray Floyd and Greg Norman, but it was also such a wake-up call for -really traditional golfing values in course setup and architecture. It may have contributed to this renaissance of interest in classic American golf courses being presented in a simple way, not all tricked up.
SHIPNUCK: You can make a case that 1999 was the greatest Open ever and losing Payne Stewart the way we did later that year seared it into our memories. David Duval was No. 1, and he burns his fingers on a kettle. Phil and Duval, the best players without a major, are both right there. Tiger had just mastered his swing changes with Butch Harmon and won the Memorial a few weeks before. But it had been two years since his Masters breakthrough, so he had something to prove. It was a dream leader board, and then you had Payne with this wild scorecard of so many birdies and bogeys.
GARRITY: My favorite was 1958 at Southern Hills. You guys were there, weren’t you?
BAMBERGER: Was Oklahoma even a state?
GARRITY: I got to see Ben Hogan up close, and I stood right behind the winner, Tommy Bolt, when he hit his approach shot up the hill to the 72nd hole to win. They had killer ice cream sandwiches on the course, which was a nice commodity because it was about 103° and very humid. It was my first Open, and I watched it with my dad and my brother. So I’ve got warm memories of that event.
SHIPNUCK: John, that’s one of my favorite answers in the history of the roundtable.
4. Tiger isn’t No. 1 anymore. Who will be No. 1 by the end of the year?
GARRITY: I’m tempted to say Jordan Spieth because of his consistency, but I think Adam Scott will hold onto it. The majors count for bonus points, and Adam still has last year’s Masters on the books. Plus his win at Colonial convinced me.
BAMBERGER: After Rory McIlroy wins these next three majors, he will clearly emerge as the No. 1 player in the world.
SHIPNUCK: Whoever has it now is a mere caretaker. Bubba Watson is about to go on a sustained run. The fates are aligned for him. Pine-hurst isn’t a traditional Open venue, which is good for Bubba. Chambers Bay next year is good for him. If John Daly can win on the Old Course, so can Bubba. And next year we go to Whistling Straits for the PGA, where Bubba lost in a playoff in 2010.
VAN SICKLE: I agree with all of that about Watson . . . as long as you meant Tom Watson.
SHIPNUCK: I’ll be amazed if Bubba doesn’t have a couple more majors by the end of next year.
ANONYMOUS PRO: I like Scott, even though I don’t look for him to play great at Pinehurst, because his short game isn’t up for it. But he is putting better, and he’s more comfortable at No. 1 than anyone thinks. Even if Tiger plays the final two majors, Adam keeps the top spot.
VAN SICKLE: I like Alan’s theory, but I’m less optimistic that anybody is going to pile up multiple wins. That’s why Matt Kuchar is going to be No. 1 by top-tenning everyone to death. By the end of next year, though, I won’t be surprised if Tiger is No. 1 again.
SHIPNUCK: Wow, that’s wishful thinking.
VAN SICKLE: Retief Goosen is playing again, and his back feels great after disk surgery. Tiger may bounce back much quicker than you think and win five more times next year, as he did in 2013. There is more Tiger coming your way. Let the shock and awe of that soak in, fellas.