Jun 7th, 2018
Rolex new guard seek to emulate U.S. Open legend Jack Nicklaus
Words: GolfPunk Photography: Rolex
On 11–17 June 2018, an elite field of golfers from around the world will gather at one of the United States’ most iconic venues, Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, to contest the 118th edition of the U.S. Open, the championship regarded by many as golf’s ultimate test and for which Rolex has been Official Timekeeper since 1980.
During more than 50 years of involvement in golf, Rolex has developed one of the broadest, most enduring relationships between a brand and sport. Through pivotal partnerships with organizations responsible for advancing the game, including the United States Golf Association (USGA), which conducts the U.S. Open, Rolex has become inextricably linked with the many facets of golf.
The Swiss watch manufacturer’s continuing support is highlighted by its recent 10-year partnership extension with the USGA, underpinned by a mutual appreciation for the sport’s heritage and a passion for excellence. The agreement ensures Rolex will remain the Official Timekeeper of the U.S. Open until at least 2028.
“Throughout our long-term partnership, Rolex has been instrumental in supporting our mission and the game of golf, not only at every U.S. Open since 1980, but at every level of the game, from our amateur championships to the rules of golf," said USGA CEO Mike Davis. "Our recent 10-year extension highlights their ongoing commitment to our sport. For more than 50 years Rolex has supported the game’s greatest players and been present for some of the most iconic moments in U.S. Open history. Now, from their support of uninterrupted coverage of USGA Championships on FOX to our innovative U.S. Open History Experience and the inaugural Celebration of Champions event, we look forward to the next decade of signature moments that Rolex will help create and showcase to fans all around the globe.”
Since 2012, only 17 players have recorded an under-par total at the U.S. Open, emphasizing its formidable reputation and the need for precise shot-making from first tee to last. The event has brought remarkable success for several Rolex Testimonees, including Jack Nicklaus, who is one of only four men to raise the trophy on four occasions (1962, 1967, 1972 and 1980). Since 2012, Nicklaus’ legacy, which includes a record 18 Major championships, has been intimately tied to the championship after the USGA renamed the gold medal awarded to the victor the Jack Nicklaus Medal in recognition of his incredible feats at the tournament.
Nicklaus was part of golf’s Big Three alongside fellow Rolex Testimonees Arnold Palmer and Gary Player. Great friends off the course, their rivalry on it was fierce, and together they won a combined six U.S. Opens. When Palmer became Rolex’s first golfing Testimonee in 1967 it was only natural that his two closest rivals and friends should follow suit, and the three helped cement the bond between Rolex and golf. Through precision, reliability and supreme performance, attributes that embody Rolex’s own pioneering spirit, the Big Three left an indelible mark on the sport and inspired the generations coming up behind them, none more so than fellow Testimonees Tom Watson and Curtis Strange, both of whom were victorious at the U.S. Open in the 1980s.
THE ROLEX NEW GUARD
Since the millennium, a new group of golfers has emerged as the game’s vanguard, determined to write their own history and, like the Big Three, spur each other to individual success. With integrity, maturity and respect – and displays of peerless skill – this Rolex New Guard is setting today’s standards of performance. Still in the early years of their careers, they have already tasted success, most notably, three-time Major winner Jordan Spieth, who in 2015, at the age of 21, became one of the youngest players to win the U.S. Open.
Among these modern-day luminaries is 2017 U.S. Open winner Brooks Koepka, who will be seeking to emulate South African Testimonee Retief Goosen, a two-time U.S. Open winner whose second triumph came at Shinnecock Hills, which is hosting the event for the fifth time. In winning last year, Koepka equalled the U.S. Open scoring record, his stunning 16-under par total putting him four shots clear of fellow Testimonee Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, who tied for second place.
Justin Thomas also made history at that 117th U.S. Open, carding the lowest score in relation to par in tournament history with a breathtaking nine-under 63 in the third round. Thomas was later named the Player of the Year after capturing five victories in 2017 including his first Major. The 25-year-old from Kentucky, U.S., has continued this form in 2018 and has risen in the Official World Golf Rankings to World No. 1.
Fellow Americans Rickie Fowler and Spieth, and Spaniard Jon Rahm, will be aiming to draw upon their performances at the first Major of the year, the Masters Tournament, in April, where the trio finished in second, third and fourth place respectively. Fowler, aged 29, has recorded three top-10 finishes at the U.S. Open, including a tie for second in 2014, while World No. 4 Rahm has five career wins, including two Rolex Series victories, at just 23 years of age.
Others vying for this year’s crown, with tour wins already to their name, include Rolex Testimonees Daniel Berger and fellow American Bryson DeChambeau, Matthew Fitzpatrick (United Kingdom) and Haotong Li (China), who finished third at The Open in 2017 in only the second Major of his career.