|Dates||June 18–21, 1981|
|Course(s)||Merion Golf Club|
|Length||6,544 yards (5,984 m)|
|Field||156 players, 70 after cut|
The 1981 U.S. Open was the 81st U.S. Open, held June 18–21 at the East Course of Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, a suburb northwest of Philadelphia. David Graham won his second major title and became the first Australian to win the U.S. Open, three strokes ahead of runners-up George Burns and Bill Rogers.
After a first round 66, Jim Thorpe made history as the first African-American since 1896 to lead the U.S. Open. Burns took a one-stroke lead over Graham with a 66 in the second round, then increased his lead to three strokes after 54 holes.
In the final round on Sunday, Graham shot one of the most precise rounds in U.S. Open history. He hit every green in regulation, missed just one fairway, and recorded four birdies, missing several other opportunities from within 10 feet (3 m). The only bogey was a three-putt at the fifth, after his approach shot stopped above the hole. After a string of eight pars, Graham finally passed Burns with birdies at the 14th and 15th holes. Graham carded a 67 to Burns' 73 to win by three strokes. Rogers shot 69 to tie Burns for 2nd and won the British Open four weeks later.
This was the fourth U.S. Open played at Merion, all at its East Course. Previous editions were hosted in 1934, 1950, and 1971. At 6,544 yards (5,984 m), the same length as 1971, it was the shortest U.S. Open course since 1947. With heavy rains softening the course before the tournament, 93 rounds of par 70 or better were recorded. Fifteen players were under par after 36 holes, but only five finished under par for the four rounds. Five more were at even par 280, including defending champion Jack Nicklaus, a four-time winner.
After 1981, the U.S. Open was not played at Merion until 2013.
Lengths of the course for previous U.S. Opens:
- 1971: 6,544 yards (5,984 m), par 70
- 1950: 6,694 yards (6,121 m), par 70
- 1934: 6,694 yards (6,121 m), par 70
Past champions in the field
Made the cut
|Player||Country||Year(s) won||R1||R2||R3||R4||Total||To par||Finish|
|Jack Nicklaus||United States||1962, 1967,
|Johnny Miller||United States||1973||69||71||73||72||285||+5||T23|
|Gary Player||South Africa||1965||72||72||71||71||286||+6||T26|
|Jerry Pate||United States||1976||70||69||72||75||286||+6||T26|
|Hubert Green||United States||1977||69||76||71||72||288||+8||T37|
|Andy North||United States||1978||73||74||72||71||290||+10||T43|
|Hale Irwin||United States||1974, 1979||72||75||73||72||292||+12||T58|
Missed the cut
|Player||Country||Year(s) won||R1||R2||Total||To par|
|Lee Trevino||United States||1968, 1971||72||76||148||+8|
|Lou Graham||United States||1975||76||74||150||+10|
|Arnold Palmer||United States||1960||77||78||155||+15|
Thursday, June 18, 1981
|1||Jim Thorpe||United States||66||−4|
|2||J. C. Snead||United States||67||−3|
|T3||Bob Ackerman||United States||68||−2|
|John Cook||United States|
|Jack Renner||United States|
|Chi-Chi Rodríguez||United States|
|T8||George Burns||United States||69||−1|
|Rex Caldwell||United States|
|Hubert Green||United States|
|Lon Hinkle||United States|
|Billy Kratzert||United States|
|Johnny Miller||United States|
|Jack Nicklaus||United States|
|Tommy Valentine||United States|
Friday, June 19, 1981
|1||George Burns||United States||69-66=135||−5|
|T3||Jack Nicklaus||United States||69-68=137||−3|
|Tommy Valentine||United States||69-68=137|
|T5||John Cook||United States||68-70=138||���2|
|Billy Kratzert||United States||69-69=138|
|Bill Rogers||United States||70-68=138|
|T9||Jerry Pate||United States||70-69=139||−1|
|Jack Renner||United States||68-71=139|
|John Schroeder||United States||71-68=139|
|Scott Simpson||United States||72-67=139|
|Jim Thorpe||United States||66-73=139|
|Lanny Wadkins||United States||71-68=139|
|Tom Watson||United States||70-69=139|
Amateurs: Rassett (E), Norton (+8), Pavin (+9), DeFrancesco (+10), White (+10), Sindelar (+11), Faxon (+12), Lawrence (+14), Sanchez (+14), Moore (+15), Mudd (+15), Yokoi (+15), Biancalana (+16), Jones (+16), Ludwig (+16), Magee (+17), Hurter (+21), Brodie (+22).
Saturday, June 20, 1981
|1||George Burns||United States||69-66-68=203||−7|
|3||Bill Rogers||United States||70-68-69=207||−3|
|T4||Jack Nicklaus||United States||69-68-71=208||−2|
|Chi-Chi Rodríguez||United States||68-73-67=208|
|John Schroeder||United States||71-68-69=208|
|T7||John Cook||United States||68-70-71=209||−1|
|Ben Crenshaw||United States||70-75-64=209|
|Jim Thorpe||United States||66-73-70=209|
|Tommy Valentine||United States||69-68-72=209|
Sunday, June 21, 1981
|Place||Player||Country||Score||To par||Money ($)|
|T2||George Burns||United States||69-66-68-73=276||−4||24,650|
|Bill Rogers||United States||70-68-69-69=276|
|T4||John Cook||United States||68-70-71-70=279||−1||16,200|
|John Schroeder||United States||71-68-69-71=279|
|T6||Frank Conner||United States||71-72-69-68=280||E||9,920|
|Lon Hinkle||United States||69-71-70-70=280|
|Jack Nicklaus||United States||69-68-71-72=280|
|Sammy Rachels||United States||70-71-69-70=280|
|Chi-Chi Rodríguez||United States||68-73-67-72=280|
Amateur: Rassett (+14).
Cumulative playoff scores, relative to par
- "Graham conquers Open crew". Spokesman-Review. Associated Press. June 22, 1981. p. 17.
- Jenkins, Dan (June 29, 1981). "Graham didn't crack". Sports Illustrated. p. 18.
- Parascenzo, Marino (June 22, 1981). "Graham wins Open with 7-under". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. p. 21.
- Lieber, Jill (June 19, 1981). "Thorpe makes his name known with 66 in Open". Milwaukee Sentinel. p. 1-part 2.
- Shedloski, Dave (May 14, 2013). "Looking Back...1981 U.S. Open at Merion". United States Golf Association. Archived from the original on July 24, 2013. Retrieved May 29, 2013.
- "Stat Sheet, Golf: U.S. Open yards and par". Spokesman-Review. Associated Press. June 18, 1981. p. 28.
- "Scoreboard: U.S. Open leader cards". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. June 22, 1981. p. 26.
|Major Championships||Succeeded by|
1981 Open Championship