Curtis Strange isn’t rooting against Justin Rose, not exactly. But Strange, a former Wake Forest golfer and Morehead City fisherman, remains the only back-to-back U.S. Open champion since Ben Hogan. He wouldn’t mind holding onto that title a little longer.
Twenty-five years ago, Strange followed his 1988 win at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., with victory at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y., proclaiming “Move over, Ben,” on television afterward. He even had a shot at the triple in 1990 at Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill., before a final-round 75 left him six shots back.
“The longer it goes, the more fortunate I realize I was,” Strange said. “I’d say you can play well and still not win, and I was a bit fortunate the second time, with Tom Kite not playing well on Sunday. The longer it goes, I’m not a Miami Dolphins-type person. I’m not rooting against him. I’m not drinking Champagne Sunday night.”
Two of the closest since then were at Pinehurst No. 2, Tiger Woods missing by four strokes in 2009 and Retief Goosen by eight strokes in 2005, which might give 2013 champion Rose some hope. Certainly, Strange didn’t expect to hold onto the title this long.
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“Then they thought, if I could do it, it can be done a bunch in the future,” Strange said, chuckling. “I don’t know. Do I want to see somebody do it? Not particularly. But I’m not rooting against somebody.”
Long time coming: David Gossett waited 14 years between U.S. Open appearances. He was exempt as the 2000 U.S. Amateur champion but hasn’t been back since, winning on the PGA Tour in 2001 but not since, bouncing around between the Web.com Tour and some satellite mini-tours.
“It never got to a point where I chose not to play or was going to quit, never took any job interviews or anything,” Gossett said. “Certainly there were times of disappointment and question marks, gosh, I mean, maybe I should pursue something else. But I never really went there long.”
He had to survive 54 holes of local and sectional qualifying to make it to Pinehurst, and only made it into his sectional qualifier as an alternate. Gossett might be the longest of shots, but he’s not short on optimism.
“I wouldn’t throw down a $150 entry fee if I didn’t think I could win,” Gossett said.
Triangulated: The Triangle has pumped out three PGA Tour winners lately, most notably U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson (Raleigh) but also Brendon Todd (Cary) and Chesson Hadley (Raleigh). Simpson and Todd are at Pinehurst this week.
“I think we have a community among the three of us,” Todd said. “We all come from great families. We grew up competing against each other, really have a respect for each other. And I think we have a good bond. It’s been kind of exciting to see everybody do well.”