The US Open is held in the middle of June each year, and is the second Major on the calendar following The Masters in April. Courses are selected for their difficulty, and then set up to be even harder than normal. Even par is an excellent score, and even +5 has been good enough to win recent US Opens. Errant driving is a surefire method of knocking oneself out of contention.
The first US Open was played in 1895 and drew 11 entrants. The winner, funnily enough, was an Englishman. His name was Horace Rawlins, good pub quiz knowledge, and he won $150 in cash plus a gold medal worth $50. In 2012 professional golfers will battle over a prize pool worth $7,500,000 but unfortunately no gold medal.
The US Open lives up to its name by offering qualifying events to any golfer, professional or amateur (so long as they have a very low official handicap), male of female, and no minimum age limit. A 15 year old has qualified to play before, and the tournament is egalitarian in ways that are refreshing when compared to say the US Masters.
Local Qualifying for the US Open is played at more than 100 courses around the country prior to the Sectional Qualifiers. The final field is now comprised of 156 players.
Interestingly, of the last ten US Opens (dating from 2010-2001) non-Americans have won six. Retief Goosen from South Africa is a two-time winner, and Angel Cabrera (Argentina), Geoff Ogilvy (Australia), Michael Campbell (New Zealand), and the 2010 winner Graeme McDowell (Northern Ireland) are the victorious foreigners.
After a late withdrawal in 2011, Tiger Woods starts as the outright favourite in
2012 and needless to say a lot of the betting revolves around Tiger. Other
favourites to take the title at San Francisco's Athletic Club include Lee
Westwood, Luke Donald and reigning champion Rory McIlroy.