fb-pixel Skip to main content
on golf

The US Open at The Country Club was a smashing success. When can it come back?

Golf fans were treated to stellar entertainment at The Country Club as Matt Fitzpatrick eked out a one-shot victory.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

BROOKLINE — A simple request of the USGA and the members of The Country Club:

Can we please do this more than once every 34 years?

The US Open came to TCC in Brookline this past week for the first time since 1988. And the event was, for pretty much everyone involved, a smashing success.

“I think ‘exceeding expectations’ is a great way to describe it,” Lyman Bullard, president of The Country Club, said Monday. “When we were down on the fairway at the trophy presentation, I think all of us were sort of pinching ourselves. ‘Did this really happen?’ ”


Indeed, much of the week felt almost too good to be true. The comfortable weather alone made it a terrific experience for players and fans alike. It was the USGA’s first “normal” US Open in three years, and just about everything fell into place to make it one of the finest golf majors in recent memory.

“I think ‘epic’ would kind of sum it up,” said John Bodenhamer, chief championships officer for the USGA. “From metrics like attendance and merchandise and partners and how it looked on television and viewers, I just don’t know where we didn’t knock it out of the park on every front.”

It started with the golf itself. The Sunday leaderboard was stacked with seven of the world’s 15 top-ranked players, including Rory McIlroy, Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm, Collin Morikawa, and Hideki Matsuyama. That only the star players could navigate the course was a testament to the difficulty of The Country Club.

The championship came down to a thrilling finish on the 72nd hole, with England’s Matt Fitzpatrick executing a fairway bunker shot for the ages, and Will Zalatoris missing a playoff-forcing putt by mere centimeters.

It produced an historic champion, with Fitzpatrick joining Jack Nicklaus as the only male golfers in 122 years to win a US Open and a US Amateur at the same course.


Matt Fitzpatrick holds the US Open trophy as he walks up the 18th green on the way to the clubhouse Sunday afternoon.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

And The Country Club, a founding member of the USGA, which hadn’t been played by professionals since the 1999 Ryder Cup, was truly magnificent.

It played like a classic US Open course with penalizing rough, tiny greens, and a variety of options to play each shot. The USGA likes to boast that it forces golfers to use “every club in the bag” throughout the week, and The Country Club certainly fulfilled that requirement.

“The Country Club is spectacular. It’s my favorite US Open venue I’ve ever played,” said New England native Keegan Bradley, who appeared in his 10th championship and electrified the local crowd with a run at the top of the leaderboard. “I think it’s one of the best golf courses in the world, and alongside probably the best sports fans in the world. Combine those two, and you get this out here.”

The championship was also a terrific partnership among TCC, the state, the town of Brookline, and local police. The 29 parking lots used for the event were a record for the USGA, Bodenhamer said. It was also the USGA’s most environmentally friendly championship ever. And TCC’s Lee Elder Internship provided 25 minority youths with an opportunity to learn the business of golf and create connections.

“It was a whole community undertaking, for us and the town and the USGA to produce such an amazing championship,” Bullard said.


That’s not to say the golfers always enjoyed themselves. TCC provided challenges from tee to green that aren’t usually seen on the PGA Tour.

McIlroy, who tied for fifth at 2 under par, was flummoxed by the blind tee shots caused by the rocks protruding from the landscape.

“A few tee shots I’m happy to not see again for a few years,” he said. “But, overall, really good setup, great US Open. It was a really good week.”

Rory McIlroy was thrown for a loop by some aspects of The Country Club course. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Morikawa, who also tied for fifth, said TCC required more navigation than most courses, especially when considering driver, wood, or iron off the tee.

“You really have to plot your way around the course. You’ve got to think through it,” Morikawa said. “I thought it was the best place I’ve played in a while.”

The small, sloping greens were also a challenge.

“These greens are brutal,” said Zalatoris, whose 113 putts over four days were fifth-fewest in the field. “I just had a really hard time getting uphillers to the hole this week just because they’re so uphill.”

But the difficulty is what made it fun. The winner came in at 6 under, and only 9 of 156 golfers finished under par — exactly what a US Open should be.

“I think it just goes to show that a golf course doesn’t need to be overly long to play tough,” McIlroy said. “This thing’s 7,200 yards, which is pretty short by today’s standards. But just with good architecture and good setup, the winning score is going to be sort of 5-6 under par, which I think is a fair reflection of how the course played all week.”


“I thought it’s a really good track, and I’d love to see it come back here.”

McIlroy isn’t alone. Bullard said it was an “overwhelming sentiment” among TCC members and USGA officials Sunday night to bring the US Open back sooner than the 34-year hiatus between the last two. Other USGA events like the US Amateur could be in play in the relatively near future. TCC has a relationship with the USGA that dates back more than a century, and it has hosted 17 amateur and professional championships, including four US Opens.

“It’s a special place for us, and I know we’d love to come back,” Bodenhamer said.

But bringing the US Open back is easier said than done. The USGA has already booked out 19 future US Opens, and the only ones available in the next two decades are in 2028, 2031, 2036, and 2038-40.

The Country Club almost certainly won’t become a USGA “anchor” like Pinehurst, Pebble Beach, and Oakmont, three sites on permanent rotation, getting a championship every 5-10 years.

But this past week’s tournament was such a success that it certainly shouldn’t take three decades for it to come back to Brookline.

“I would say right now we are just soaking in the overwhelmingly positive sentiments from the week for everyone involved,” Bullard said. “But we certainly are proud of being a founding USGA member and club, and I think the membership is very interested in exploring more national championships in the future.”


Ben Volin can be reached at ben.volin@globe.com.