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Hale Irwin was a competitive PGA Tour player into his 40s. See more  pictures of the best golfers.

Only four players -- Willie Anderson, Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, and Jack Nicklaus -- have won more U.S. Opens than the three claimed by Hale Irwin.

In fact, along with those four (who won four Open titles apiece), Irwin is the only other man with more than two. He took the national championship in 1974, 1979, and 1990, in the latter year becoming the oldest man, 45, to take the title.

It is fitting that the U.S. Open, where conditions are most difficult, should represent Irwin's crowning achievement; he has always been at his best on tough courses.

Among his 20 PGA Tour victories, Irwin has won on such renowned courses as Harbour Town, Butler National, Riviera, Pinehurst No. 2, Muirfield Village, and Pebble Beach. He is a relatively short hitter, a fine long-iron player, and a tough competitor; he is at his best when par is a good score.

Irwin, a native of Missouri, fueled his competitive drive as a football player at the University of Colorado, where he was an all-conference defensive back. He also won the 1967 NCAA golf championship.

Irwin joined the Tour in 1968 and had two career wins before the 1974 U.S. Open. Irwin emerged there, surviving the "Massacre at Winged Foot," to win with a 7-over-par total. He won his second Open, at Inverness, at even par.

Irwin's third Open win came in very different fashion. He was tied for 20th place, four strokes behind, entering the final round, but closed with a 67 that included a sizzling 31 on the back nine at Medinah.

A 45-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole ultimately put him in a playoff with Mike Donald, which Irwin won with a sudden-death birdie on the 19th hole.

Though he didn't win any other majors, Irwin was one of the top players in the game for a long period. He won at least once in all but two years from 1973-85 and finished among the top 10 money winners eight times in his career. He made 86 consecutive cuts from 1975-78, the third-best streak in history.

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