The 2015 U.S. Open ultimately came down to a five foot putt from Dustin Johnson. While he stood over the ball waiting to make a stroke that would either send him to a playoff or another brutal near miss, Jordan Spieth was in the scorer's tent anxiously watching the finish with his caddie.
The two were at the center of the golf world. They would either head to an 18-hole Monday playoff or Spieth would be the U.S. Open champion. The story of that putt and Spieth's win have been well told, but they have overshadowed what was nearly one of the most improbable comebacks in U.S. Open history. Some 20 minutes before Spieth was watching Johnson putt, Louis Oosthuizen was standing in an interview area watching Spieth putt on No. 18. Oosthuizen had just set the clubhouse lead at 4-under and was primed for a playoff. Spieth birdied, however, ending Oosthuizen's hopes and causing the greatest comeback in U.S. Open history to come up a shot short. The fact he was even in that position at all was incredible considering how he started the tournament.
When Oosthuizen tapped in a bogey putt on No. 18 on Thursday it was a merciful end to what was a brutal round of golf. Oosthuizen didn't hit fairways, didn't hit greens in regulation and didn't make putts. The perfect storm of issues that led to a 7-over 77. Somehow, that was the best round of his group. Billed as the featured tee time, Oosthuizen, Tiger Woods and Rickie Fowler combined to shoot 28-over par on the day. All three had seemingly played their way out of contention and into an early exit from Chambers Bay.
While Woods and Fowler took those early flights home, Oosthuizen did not. Instead, he shot a 66 on Friday to move to 3-under and make the cut by two strokes. Five more birdies on Saturday led to another 66 and suddenly he was in red figures for the tournament. No player had ever come back from more than a nine-stroke deficit over the final 54 holes to win the U.S. Open. Oosthuizen trailed by a whopping 12 strokes heading into the second round.
It didn't seem like Oosthuizen had another round in the 60s in him on Sunday when he opened with three bogeys on his first four holes. He was 3-over on the day through 11 and again a distant afterthought when it came to contenders. Then something clicked on No. 12 and Oosthuizen made a Usain Bolt-like sprint up the leaderboard. He ripped off five straight birdies from Nos. 12 through 16 and added another at No. 18 for good measure. On a course where players struggled to card three or four birdies per round, Oosthuizen racked up five straight and six in seven holes.
That run gave him a temporary share of the lead when Spieth double-bogeyed No. 17. It also earned Oosthuizen a spot in the U.S. Open record books. Thanks to his 29 on the back nine on Sunday, Oosthuizen needed just 199 strokes during his final 54 holes, the best closing 54-hole stretch in U.S. Open history. It topped the previous record of 202 which Kevin Chappell set in 2011. Unlike Chappell, however, Oosthuizen didn't set the mark at that scoring-friendly Congressional Country Club. He did it on the longest -- and one of the more difficult -- U.S. Open courses in history. Rory McIlroy set the 54-hole scoring record at Congressional in 2011 at 199, which Oosthuizen matched.
From 9-over through 20 holes to 4-under at the end of the tournament.
Oosthuizen may have come up a stroke shy of the playoff, but no player in history has ever had a better 54-hole stretch. If it weren't for that pesky first round, we'd be telling a very different story right now.