In June 1989, Curtis Strange made history at Oakhill Country Club near Rochester, New York, the venue for the PGA Championship, which starts Thursday.
With one round to go, Strange trailed Tom Kite by three strokes and hit an even par 70 to become the first player to win back-to-back U.S. Open titles since Ben Hogan in 1951. Strange won the 1988 Open by beating Nick Faldo by four strokes in the 18-hole playoff.
After the final round in 1989, Strange said, “Go on, Ben.” It was his 17th and final tour victory.
Coming to Oak Hill as an ESPN analyst, Strange, 68, recently reflected on his week at Oak Hill and what the world’s top players will encounter in his second major of the season.
The conversation below has been edited and condensed.
How did you prepare for the final round?
I had everything to gain and nothing to lose. A good round of golf, hopefully some putts will fall and you’ll hit 1 or 2 under par. It wasn’t much of a request for me. One big memory is when I received that call. [Kite] I had a triple at 5:00. At that moment, adrenaline rushed through my body.
How did you find out about his triple bogey?
I was walking to the 8th and 7th tees. I heard rumors. I asked someone in the crowd, “Is that true?” They said yes. At that time, I returned about one.
Was the line “Ben move away” completely spontaneous?
It was made entirely spontaneously in honor of Mr. Hogan. Even into that week, I had no idea who the previous back-to-back champions were.
Didn’t you really know?
When I was leading after two rounds, I read in the newspaper that the last player was Ben Hogan.
Did Hogan contact you after the win?
No, it wasn’t. She wasn’t expecting anything, but maybe she was a little disappointed because she was someone she looked up to. And to all those who paved the way for us. I still respect him as much as I used to.
Did you imagine that the British Open would be your last win?
Not for long.I had 3 or 4 big chances [to win] And I had a bit of bad luck.
Do you prefer wins in open battles over other wins?
The US Open is the US Open. I don’t think so.
What are the challenges for them in Oak Hill?
A lot of it comes down to how you decide to set up your golf course, how rough it is and how narrow the fairways are. There are only two par 5s and both are very long. A par 5 is usually considered a catch-up hole where you can get a birdie. Not so much in Oak Hill.they have [two] A short par 4 on the backside allows you to catch up.
Will they have different setups for the PGA and the Open?
Things were pretty rough last year in Tulsa (where the 2022 tournament will be held). Kelly Haig did a great job with the PGA. I’m sure he will do it again. It all depends on how he wants it set up. He always lets his players play a little bit.
Does the PGA get enough respect as a major championship?
I think it is now with May dates. August was the end of the year for viewers and players alike. Their May date was a home run for them.
Was it particularly disappointing that your dad was a club pro and never won the PGA?
That’s why it was always at the top of my list.it’s the american pga [an organization of golf professionals].
Remember when you tied for second in the 1989 PGA?
A match that Payne Stewart won, but Mike Reid should have won. I played very well on Sunday, but I didn’t make the putt I needed to win and I had a chance on the final hole. I had a good opportunity.