The Importance of Oak Hill to Curtis Strange


In June 1989, Curtis Strange made history at Oak Hill Country Club near Rochester, N. Y., the site of the P.G.A. Championship, which starts on Thursday.Trailing Tom Kite by three strokes with one round to go, Strange shot an even-par 70 to become the first player since Ben Hogan in 1951 to win back-to-back United States Opens. Strange had captured the 1988 Open by four shots over Nick Faldo in an 18-hole playoff.“Move over, Ben,” Strange said after the final round in 1989. It was his 17th and final tour victory.Strange, 68, who will be at Oak Hill as an ESPN analyst, reflected recently on his week at Oak Hill and what the top players in the world will likely encounter in this second major of the season.The following conversation has been edited and condensed.What was your mind-set going into the final round?I had everything to gain and nothing to lose. To go out and shoot a solid round of golf and hopefully some putts would fall, and I would shoot one or two under par. That was not a big ask for me. The one big memory was when I got word that [Kite] had made a triple at five. That’s when the adrenaline ran through my body.How did you find out about his triple bogey?I was walking to the eighth tee, the seventh tee maybe. I heard rumors. I asked somebody in the crowd, ‘Is it true?’ They said yes. It got me one back or something at the time.The line, ‘Move over, Ben,’ was that totally spontaneous?Totally spontaneous, made with all due respect for Mr. Hogan. Going into the week, I didn’t know who the last back-to-back champion was.You really didn’t know?When I led after two rounds, I read in the paper the last guy was Ben Hogan.Did you hear from Hogan after your win?No, I didn’t. I wasn’t expecting anything, but I think I was maybe just a little bit disappointed because I had such admiration for him. And for all those guys who paved the way for us. I still admire the guy like I did before.Did you imagine the Open would be your last victory?Not for a long, long time. I had three or four major chances [to win] and got a bit unlucky.Do you place one Open victory over another?The U.S. Open is the U.S. Open. I don’t think you can.What will be the challenges for these guys at Oak Hill?A lot of it is determined by how they decide to set up the golf course, how much rough and how narrow the fairways. There are only two par 5s, and they’re both very long. Par 5s normally are considered catch-up holes where you can make a birdie. Not so much at Oak Hill. They have [two] short par 4s on the back side where you could catch up.They will set it up differently for a P.G.A. than for an Open, right?Last year at Tulsa (the site of the 2022 tournament), it was pretty deep rough. Kerry Haigh, who has done a marvelous job in the P.G.A.; I’m sure he’ll do another one. All depends on how he wants to set it up. He’s always let the players play a little bit.Does the P.G.A., as a major championship, get enough respect?I think they do now with the May date. The August date was late in the year for the viewership and the players. The May date was a home run for them.With your dad having been a club pro, was it especially disappointing that you never won a P.G.A.?It was always at the very top of my list because of that. It’s the P.G.A. of America [an organization of golf professionals].In the 1989 P.G.A., when you tied for second, what do you remember?It’s the one Payne Stewart won, but Mike Reid should have won. I played very, very well on Sunday and didn’t putt as well as I needed to putt to win and had a chance on the last hole. I had a good opportunity.


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