PINEHURST, N.C. — Justin Rose can expect a phone call of congratulations from Curtis Strange if he were to successfully defend his U.S. Open title this week.
It’s just not a phone call Strange wants to make.
This is the 25-year anniversary of Strange winning at Oak Hill to become only the sixth player to win back-to-back in the U.S. Open.
No one has done it since then.
“Do I want to see somebody do it? Not particularly,” Strange said Monday. “But I’m not rooting against somebody.”
Strange won his first U.S. Open in 1988 at The Country Club, beating Nick Faldo in a playoff.
A year later, he was three shots out of the lead going into the final round at Oak Hill when Tom Kite stumbled to a 78 and Strange closed with a 70 to win by one shot.
He doesn’t know why it has taken so long for the next repeat champion. Tiger Woods won back-to-back at the Masters (2001-02), the British Open (2005-06) and twice at the PGA Championship (1999-2000, 2006-07). He is a three-time U.S. Open champion, but never came particularly close to repeating.
Ben Hogan won in 1950-51, so it was 38 years before the next repeat champion in the U.S. Open. Not even Jack Nicklaus won back-to-back. Strange never gave it much thought about winning two in a row until he shot 64 in the second round to take the lead.
“And then I didn’t play well on Saturday, so I was three behind,” he said. “So there wasn’t anything written on Sunday morning. And I played well on Sunday and prevailed, but there wasn’t a lot written that week. And then after the fact, there was a lot written. Then, they thought if I could do it, it can be done a bunch in the future.”