he most dramatic major at Southern Hills was the 1977 U.S. Open, not so much for the quality of golf but for a death threat that hung over American Hubert Green as he played the last four holes.
Walking off the 14th green, Green was notified by officials that they had received a phone call claiming he would be shot when he reached the 15th green. Presented with options to clear the course of fans or return the following day, Green boldly decided to play on, instructing his caddie to keep his distance as they walked up 15.
Green—who died in 2018 at the age of 71—gave new meaning to gutsy golf. He parred 15 and birdied 16 to capture his first major with a one-shot victory over Lou Graham. The person who issued the death threat was never identified.
Green did not explain the threat to his caddie, Shayne Grier, until they were in the locker room afterwards. Recalled Grier: “Hubert looked me straight in the eye and said: ‘Shayne, don’t talk about this. It’s not good for golf. We don’t want other kooks coming out and doing it’. It showed what Hubert is made of.”
The meandering Southern Hills Championship Course in Tulsa, Oklahoma, designed by Perry Maxwell, was funded by oil tycoons when it opened in 1936. This classical parkland layout features doglegs shaped by mature deciduous trees, tilted greens and a plethora of drainage creeks, and it was upgraded four years ago by Gil Hanse. This fascinating test might take the driver out of golfers’ hands on many holes this week.
“On the course, I figured I was already nervous enough, that I couldn't get much more nervous” – Years later, Hubert Green reflecting on his decision to play under a death threat