US Open countdown: Curtis Strange flexes his major muscles in playoff win over Nick Faldo

88th U.S. Open | June 16-20, 1988

The Country Club, Brookline, Mass.


x-Curtis Strange, United States 70 - 67 - 69 - 72 278
Nick Faldo, England 72 - 67 - 68 - 71 278
Mark O’Meara, United States 71 - 72 - 66 - 71 280
Steve Pate, United States 72 - 69 - 72 - 67 280
D.A. Weibring, United States 71 - 69 - 68 - 72 280
x-won playoff

With all the great international players winning majors — Australia’s Greg Norman, Spain’s Seve Ballesteros, England’s Nick Faldo would top the list — veteran Hale Irwin, a three-time U.S. Open winner, gave the nod to somebody else as the world’s best player.

It was Curtis Strange.

And Irwin made those comments three months before this national open, when Strange was on a winning streak of his own — five tournaments worldwide in an eight-month span.

The Virginia native broke through at one of the historic courses in America — The Country Club — defeating Faldo in a playoff, shooting a 71 to Faldo’s 75.

Strange grabbed the lead for good with a birdie at the fifth playoff the playoff, sinking a 6-foot putt. And after maintaining a one-shot advantage for half the playoff, he extended it to three shots after he birdied the 13th hole (30-footer) and Faldo bogeyed.

After Strange tapped in the final putt on the finishing green, he immediately grabbed his wife, Sarah. His twin brother, Alan, was there, too.

Emotional, Strange, 33, dedicated his victory to his late father, Tom, a former golf professional who taught his sons the game — and eventually died of cancer when Curtis was 12.

“This is the greatest thing I have ever done,” Strange said.

Many could see this winning effort coming, especially because Strange was winning some of the most prestigious tournaments on the PGA Tour (World Series of Golf, Canadian Open, Memorial) on challenging layouts.

Of course, the same was said about Faldo, the reigning British Open champion, who was thought to have the ideal game to win a U.S. Open. But a playoff loss was as close as he came to accomplishing that.

The champions’ purse kept growing, too. After first eclipsing the $100,000 mark in 1985 ($103,000 went to winner Andy North), it increased to $180,000 for this national open.