90th United States Open
June 14-17, 1990 (Playoff June 18)
The 1990 U.S. Open at Medinah set some new records. By winning the event in sudden death after an eighteen-hole playoff round, Hale Irwin, at age 45 became the oldest U.S. Open Champion, and the fifth player to win three or more U.S. Opens. Medinah’s Course No.3 was the then longest ever played in the history of the U.S. Open. A record number of 6,198 entrants competed for the 156 player spots.
Two days of rain soaked the par 72 championship course, contributing to a record number of sub-par scores. During the 1949 and 1975 Opens at Medinah, the best scores were two over and three over par. Pressure was on Curtis Strange to win his third consecutive Open Championship, but it was Tim Simpson, Scott Simpson, and Jeff Suliman that tied with 66 for a course record for the first round. Mike Donald, Mark Brooks, Billy Ray Brown, and Hale Irwin also broke par, however, the top five playing in the 1990 PGA Tour, Greg Norman, Payne Stewart, Mark Calcavecchia, Paul Azinger, and Fred Couples could only make par.
At the end of the second round, the leaders were Tim Simpson, Jeff Suliman and Mike Donald. Hale Irwin was tied with Scott Simpson for fifth. David Duval, age eighteen, was even at 144, and Phil Mickelson, twenty years old and two-time defending NCAA Champion, was one over at 145. He would be low amateur for the tournament.
After more light rain at the close of the third round, Mike Donald and Billy Ray Brown, former NCAA Champion playing in his first U.S. Open, were tied for first. Hale Irwin shot a 74 and was then tied for 20th. The rain lasted into the morning of the final round. The field was closely packed. The players to watch were Hale Irwin and Greg Norman. By the time that they reached the 18th hole, Norman had lost his chance to be among the leaders. Hale Irwin was looking at a forty-five foot, uphill, downhill, left breaking birdie putt. He nailed it, to create one of the all time great moments in U.S. Open history. However, he had to wait with his 8 under par for twenty-six other players to finish, in order to learn that he was tied for first with Mike Donald.
Twenty thousand gallery spectators watched the playoff. On the back nine, Irwin made a self-described, "shot of the week," a two-hundred-seven yard iron shot to within six feet of the hole on the 16th. There was a tie at the end of the round. The sudden death round began on the 1st hole, with both players needing to make an approach shot of about one hundred yards. Donald’s approach left him with a thirty-five footer, but Irwin’s approach gave him only an eight to ten foot putt. He holed it, and won the first sudden death playoff in U.S. Open history.
Played on Course No. 3
Overall Par: 288
Overall Purse: $1,200,000
Won by Hale Irwin: 69-70-74-67 = 280, and Playoff Round: 74