With some many incredible courses dotting the Southern California landscape, it’s no surprise that the area has hosted a handful of golf’s major championships.
Be it the U.S. Open or PGA Championship, Southern California is no stranger to hosting to golf’s greatest talents and being the setting of the sports grandest stages.
Here’s a look at the 1o greatest “major moments” in Southern California:
The 1948 U.S. Open at Riviera Country Club is almost always associated with Ben Hogan — and rightfully so. But for the African American community, it’s also associated with Ted Rhodes.
For the first time in U.S. Open history, an African American played in the event when Rhodes teed it up against the likes of Jimmy Demaret, Sam Snead and Ralph Guldahl.
Unfortunately, due to race relations of the time, Rhodes never did end up getting his due as a golfer. Despite winning a suit against the PGA Tour (with fellow golfer Bill Spiller), Rhodes never got to play in many events. Most of his career played out on United Golf Association tour.
Rhodes also played a large roll as a mentor in the careers of other African American pioneers Lee Elder and Charlie Sifford.
In 1948, Rhodes made the cut and finished in a tie for 51st — but his legacy off the course is far more important than his results on it.
Played at Hillcrest Country Club in Los Angeles California, the 1929 PGA Championship was the first professional major tournament to be held in the Western United States. For the second straight year it was Leo Diegel who was victorious.
With the country expanding to the west coast and L.A. and Southern California becoming a more and more important part of the United States, the PGA Tour headed west as well.
Diegel, who had won the 11th PGA Championship in 1928 — ending Walter Hagen’s four-year run of dominance in the event — took down two of the games biggest names in L.A. in ’29, besting Gene Sarazen and Walter Hagen in the quarter and semi-finals respectively.
Eventually, Diegel would beat Johnny Farrell in the finals 6&4 to claim his second major title.
Jack Nicklaus is one of the most prolific winners in PGA Tour history. His 73 PGA Tour wins ranks third all-time and his 18 major championship titles is a record many believe will never be broken.
For all the winning he did, Jack sure did come up short quite a bit — a record 19 times in major championships, in fact. The 19th and final major runner-up for Jack came in 1983 at the PGA Championship at Riviera Country Club.
At 43, Nicklaus played well all week and found himself in contention. Unfortunately, his brilliant Sunday-66 wasn’t enough to catch Hal Sutton who finished the week one shot better than Nicklaus at 1o-under par.
Southern California has played host to five major championships since 1929 — and in 2021 and 2023, two more will be added to the legacy.
In 2021, the U.S. Open will return to Torrey Pines in La Jolla, California for the 121st edition of the tournament and in 2023, it returns to So Cal and Riviera Country Club.
It will be the second time the U.S. Open is hosted by these two tracks — Torrey Pines was the site of Tiger Woods’ 14th major title in 2008 and Riviera hosted Ben Hogan’s first U.S. Open title in 1948.
With the final showdown between Steve Elkington and Colin Montgomerie, it’s easy to forget how great a week Ernie Els had at the 1995 PGA Championship at Riviera Country Club.
After opening the week with rounds of 66-65-66, Els slept on the 54-hole lead — and set a record in the process. His three-round total of 197 was the lowest first three rounds in major history.
Unfortunately for Els, his 1-over 72 on Sunday kept him from collecting his second major championship in two years.
In 1983, the 65th edition of the PGA Championship was held at Riviera Country Club, marking the third time a major had been held in Southern California.
Hal Sutton was already one of the games bigger names in 1983, having collected two wins in his then-young career. He opened with round of 65 and 66 to pace the field heading into Saturday. Despite a 72 in the third round and a 71 on Sunday, it was still enough for Sutton to hang on and collect his first major title.
Sutton never did win another major, but had some big moments late in his career — most notably at the 2000 PLAYERS Championship where he bested Tiger Woods for the 12th of his 14 career PGA Tour wins.
No player in history has ever finished runner-up in more majors without winning one than Colin Montgomerie. The Scottish star has five career runner-ups in majors — the second of them came in Southern California at the 1995 PGA Championship.
For the third time, Riviera Country Club played host to a major championship — and for the third time, the event didn’t disappoint.
Australian pro Steve Elkington enjoyed the week of his young career that at Riviera and found himself in a sudden-death playoff. With both players eyeing birdie putts on the 18th green, Elkington had the honor:
For Monty, the loss was tough — but he had plenty more chances to claim major glory. For Elkington, it was his first and only major title.
It looked like Rocco Mediate was going to play the role of Cinderella at Torrey Pines in 2008 and sneak away from Southern California with the first major championship of his career. Unfortunately for Rocco, Tiger Woods had other ideas.
Needing a birdie at 18 to tie and force a playoff, Woods did what everyone — including Rocco Mediate and Dan Hicks — knew he was going to do:
That epic putt on the 18th hole forced an 18-hole playoff on Monday with Mediate.
That playoff would not disappoint.
Before there was Tiger and before there was Jack, there was Ben Hogan — the driven Texan who first made the game and the golf swing look like works of art. When the U.S. Open came to Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades in 1948, Hogan was at the height of his powers.
Hogan played great golf all week, but was especially good over the weekend with rounds of 68 and 69 to win by two over runner-up Jimmy Demaret. Hogan finished the week at a then-record 8-under par.
For Hogan, it was also his third win in 18 months at Riviera Country Club, leading to the nickname, “Hogan’s Alley,” after he won the Los Angeles Open in 1947 and 1948.
Hogan, however, wasn’t able to defend his title the following year. His famous car crash cost him that opportunity — though he would go on to collect three more U.S. Open titles in 1950, 1951 and 1953.
There may be more famous venues other great major moments, but when it comes to the U.S. Open, it’s quite possible that the greatest one ever played took place in Southern California at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, California.
The 2008 U.S. Open was epic for a number of reasons. First off, you’ve got to consider the pain through which Woods was fighting. Despite having to double-over and collecting himself on multiple occasions, Woods turned in one of the more gutsy performances in sports history.
In case you have an afternoon to kill, here’s a look at that epic playoff:
Second, there’s the story of Rocco Mediate. A fan favorite thanks to his child-like demeanor that has led him to be described as “half man, half cappuccino,” Mediate was the perfect “David” to the “Goliath” that was Tiger Woods.
For 90 holes, it looked like his story would have a similar outcome to that of David’s — but Woods was no clumsy giant riddled with weaknesses: He was the greatest player golf has ever seen, and he proved why for the 14th time that day.