4. 1992 – Tom Kite
Tom Kite went into the 1992 U.S. Open with a dreaded label attached to his name that no golfer wants: “best player never to win a major.”
The 42-year-old had first played the U.S. Open in 1970. Over the next two decades, he played in 71 major championships, finishing inside the top-10 19 times. The 1992 tournament at Pebble Beach would be his 21st appearance in the U.S. Open. But, despite 16 PGA Tour victories, a major title had always eluded him.
If he was going to end that drought at Pebble Beach, he would have to overcome some of the worst conditions he had ever played in. Wind gusts up to 40 mph on Sunday sent scores soaring. Gil Morgan, who became the first player in U.S. Open history to reach double-digits under-par on Saturday and who took a one-shot lead into the final round, shot 81 to finish in 13th.
Mark Brooks, tied for second and one shot back at the start of the round, shot 84. Nick Faldo was two back and shot 77. Eight players in the final seven groups failed to break 80 in the final round. Colin Montgomerie shot two-under for the lowest score of the round and jumped from 28th place to third. The scoring average for the day was 77.3, more than five shots over par.
Kite, though, wasn’t distracted by the conditions. Coming into the round a shot behind Morgan, he holed a long birdie putt at the first hole to tie for the lead. He made another lengthy birdie at the par-five sixth, but the best was still to come. At the short par-three seventh hole Kite took out 6-iron and hit his approach well over the green to the left. His chip shot landed just on the edge of the green and sped off down the fast green before hitting the flagstick and dropping in for an unlikely birdie.
After birdies at both the 12th and 14th, Kite held a four-shot lead. He went on to shoot 72 during the round and finished at three-under for the tournament, two shots ahead of runner-up Jeff Sluman. After tapping in on the 18th green, Kite was more relieved that he survived the day than he was excited. “How do you describe your emotions at a time like this,” he said. “We’re talking about dreams that have been around for many, many years.”