3. GREG NORMAN
Greg Norman was lucky to get into a playoff at Winged Foot in 1984 when he holed a 40-foot par putt. Back in the fairway, Fuzzy Zoeller assumed it was for birdie and twirled a white towel. Norman’s putt allowed him to get into an 18-hole playoff Monday, and while the Shark was favored, Zoeller put on a clinic. This time, it was Norman waving the white flag in mock surrender. He was runner-up that day, though surely there would be more chances in his bright future.
There were. But he never won a U.S. Open.
Norman was atop the leaderboard going into the final round at Shinnecock Hills in 1986 and in 2005, both times watching someone else (Raymond Floyd, Corey Pavin) hit the shots and hole the putts required of a U.S. Open champion.
Norman only won two majors in his Hall of Fame career, both in the British Open. He won more than 70 tournaments around the world, was No. 1 longer than any other player until Tiger Woods came along and was a dominant figure in golf for a decade.
But only because the U.S. Open doesn’t award the purple heart.
Mickelson might have won at Shinnecock Hills in 1995 if not for playing the par-5 16th in 6 over for the week. He nearly got into a playoff at Pinehurst No. 2 in 1999 until Payne Stewart made a 15-footer for par on the last hole. Five shots behind going into the last day at Bethpage Black, he made Tiger Woods sweat until Woods delivered a key birdie. Mickelson also was runner-up at Bethpage Black in 2009, missing a 3-foot putt on the 15th hole to kill his momentum.
Nothing was more memorable than Winged Foot in 2006, when he had a one-shot lead playing the 18th. After a tee shot into the merchandise tents left him a decent lie, he tried to carve a 3-iron around the tree, didn’t pull it off and made double bogey to finish one shot behind. “What an idiot I am,” he famously said when it was over.
He is the modern day version of the “People’s Champion.” But he is not a U.S. Open champion.
1. SAM SNEAD