Oakmont a Beast Even Without US Open

By Associated PressJune 11, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 U.S. OpenOAKMONT, Pa. -- Vaughn Taylor is back at Oakmont, relieved that it's only the U.S. Open.
 
There has been widespread talk of gloom and doom in recent weeks, from defending champion Geoff Ogilvy reportedly losing seven balls in his round of 85 to Vijay Singh and a host of others saying they would not be surprised if the winner finished 10 shots over par.
 
Oakmont is reputed to be the toughest golf course in America, but as it prepares to host its record eighth U.S. Open, there is another part of the mystique that players should keep in mind.
 
If you think it's tough now, come back in July.
 
'The members say we don't have to do anything except maybe make it slightly easier,' said Mike Davis, the USGA's senior director of rules and competition who sets up the course for the toughest test in golf.
 
Taylor can attest to that.
 
He hasn't played in the U.S. Open since 1998, when he was spooked by the narrow fairways and high rough. But he has been to Oakmont twice in the last few years to play a corporate outing, and the greens were unlike any he has played.
 
'I had two four-putts and three three-putts, and I putted pretty good that day,' said Taylor, one of the best on the PGA TOUR. 'The greens are slower now than they usually are.'
 
Monday was the first day of practice for the U.S. Open, the first chance for many to see what the fuss is all about. Along with some of the fastest greens anywhere, the rough is as punishing as ever -- so punishing Phil Mickelson attributes his left wrist injury to chipping countless times out of the rough during his marathon practice rounds two weeks ago.
 
Mickelson had his wrist tightly wrapped Monday and did not play a practice round. He only hit half-shots from the grass on the range, placing his ball on a tee to hit a middle iron, graduating to a hybrid that made short-game coach Dave Pelz wince with nervousness, and he hit only one shot with his driver before going back to 30-yard chips.
 
He plans to play his first round since he withdrew after 11 holes at the Memorial.
 
Tiger Woods started on the back nine and played 18 holes and offered this prognosis: 'I broke 100.'
 
But there have been few complaints. They say it is tough but fair, but they have yet to put pencil to scorecard.
 
'It is stifling difficult, to the point of walking off and feeling like you've got 12 rounds with Ali,' Paul Goydos said.
 
He tied for 44th in 1994, the last time the U.S. Open was held at Oakmont, and it is one of his favorite U.S. Open courses. Beyond the famous Church Pew bunkers and frightening fast greens, what intrigues Goydos is the membership, specifically why anyone would want to belong to a club that beats you to a pulp.
 
'They have an interesting mentality,' he said. 'I think they're all insane. These people must like losing balls and shooting 100.'
 
But one way Goydos measures what is a great golf course is how many times it has held the U.S. Open, and he attributes Oakmont's spot in the rotation to a membership that loves seeing how the best players in the world can handle their course.
 
'The members here relish the opportunity,' he said. 'They can't wait to have you here. You can feel how excited they are in the clubhouse. They're like a bunch of peacocks showing off their feathers.'
 
Kevin Sutherland was amazed at the rough, and not because it was a U.S. Open. The USGA again is using a graduated rough, which gets longer the farther a player is from the fairway. It was thick and nasty, and he expects that at a U.S. Open.
 
What got his attention was realizing the bunkers determined the rough line, meaning the fairways were just as narrow for the members during a summer fourball than it is for the U.S. Open.
 
'Unless the bunkers are supposed to be in the fairway,' he said, shaking his head.
 
This is what led Padraig Harrington of Ireland to suggest that the USGA take the week off. He figures there's not much for its staff to do this week if it wants to protect par. Oakmont already does that.
 
'What this golf course does is give the USGA more control over scoring,' he said. 'You could turn up here when there's not a tournament and play a tournament. By its nature, it's already difficult. It's a struggle. They don't have to put the pin 2 feet over a tier. They could put the pin 2 yards over a tier. It's tough enough.'
 
It certainly looked that way on a warm, breezy sunny afternoon. Craig Kanada opted to hit a hybrid off the 313-yard 17th hole, where the big hitters often opt for driver. His first shot was gobbled up by the rough on the left side. His second shot took one hop and disappeared into the high grass. He finally got it right on the third try.
 
Jeff Brehaut, playing in his first major championship, walked off the 18th green and handed golf balls to the two volunteers who walked around with him and U.S. Senior Open champion Allen Doyle.
 
When asked whether he had enough balls left to give away, Brehaut smiled. 'I lost a few of them out there,' he said.
 
Taylor grew up and still lives in Augusta, Ga., but he was asked whether Oakmont was a club he would like to join if he lived here.
 
'I don't know if I could play here every day,' Taylor said. 'This course just beats you up.'
 
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    Singh's lawsuit stalls as judge denies motion

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 7:54 pm

    Vijay Singh’s attempts to speed up the proceedings in his ongoing lawsuit against the PGA Tour have been stalled, again.

    Singh – who filed the lawsuit in New York Supreme Court in May 2013 claiming the Tour recklessly administered its anti-doping program when he was suspended, a suspension that was later rescinded – sought to have the circuit sanctioned for what his attorneys argued was a frivolous motion, but judge Eileen Bransten denied the motion earlier this month.

    “While the court is of the position it correctly denied the Tour’s motion to argue, the court does not agree that the motion was filed in bad faith nor that it represents a ‘persistent pattern of repetitive or meritless motions,’” Bransten said.

    It also doesn’t appear likely the case will go to trial any time soon, with Bransten declining Singh’s request for a pretrial conference until a pair of appeals that have been sent to the court’s appellate division have been decided.

    “What really should be done is settle this case,” Bransten said during the hearing, before adding that it is, “unlikely a trail will commence prior to 2019.”

    The Tour’s longstanding policy is not to comment on ongoing litigation, but earlier this month commissioner Jay Monahan was asked about the lawsuit.

    “I'll just say that we're going through the process,” Monahan said. “Once you get into a legal process, and you've been into it as long as we have been into it, I think it's fair to assume that we're going to run it until the end.”

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    Videos and images from Tiger's Tuesday at Torrey

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 7:45 pm

    Tiger Woods played a nine-hole practice round Tuesday at Torrey Pines South, site of this week's Farmers Insurance Open. Woods is making his first PGA Tour start since missing the cut in this event last year. Here's a look at some images and videos of Tiger, via social media:







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    Power Rankings: 2018 Farmers Insurance Open

    By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:59 pm

    The PGA Tour remains in California this week for the Farmers Insurance Open. A field of 156 players will tackle the North and South Courses at Torrey Pines, with weekend play exclusively on the South Course.

    Be sure to join the all-new Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge - including a new One & Done game offering - to compete for prizes and form your own leagues, and log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to submit your picks for this week's event.

    Jon Rahm won this event last year by three shots over Charles Howell III and C.T. Pan. Here are 10 names to watch in La Jolla:

    1. Jon Rahm: No need to overthink it at the top. Rahm enters as a defending champ for the first time, fresh off a playoff win at the CareerBuilder Challenge that itself was preceded by a runner-up showing at Kapalua. Rahm is perhaps the hottest player in the field, and with a chance to become world No. 1 should be set for another big week.

    2. Jason Day: The Aussie has missed the cut here the last two years, and he hasn't played competitively since November. But he ended a disappointing 2017 on a slight uptick, and his Torrey Pines record includes three straight top-10s from 2013-15 that ended with his victory three years ago.

    3. Justin Rose: Rose ended last year on a tear, with three victories over his final six starts including two in a row in Turkey and China. The former U.S. Open winner has the patience to deal with a brutal layout like the South Course, as evidenced by his fourth-place showing at this event a year ago.

    4. Rickie Fowler: This tournament has become somewhat feast-or-famine for Fowler, who is making his ninth straight start at Torrey Pines. The first four in that run all netted top-20 finishes, including two top-10s, while the last four have led to three missed cuts and a T-61. After a win in the Bahamas and T-4 at Kapalua, it's likely his mini-slump comes to an end.

    5. Brandt Snedeker: Snedeker has become somewhat of a course specialist at Torrey Pines in recent years, with six top-10 finishes over the last eight years including wins in both 2012 and 2016. While he missed much of the second half of 2017 recovering from injury and missed the cut last week, Snedeker is always a threat to contend at this particular event.

    6. Hideki Matsuyama: Matsuyama struggled to find his footing after a near-miss at the PGA Championship, but he appears to be returning to form. The Japanese phenom finished T-4 at Kapalua and has put up solid results in two of his four prior trips to San Diego, including a T-16 finish in his 2014 tournament debut. Matsuyama deserves a look at any event that puts a strong emphasis on ball-striking.

    7. Tony Finau: Finau has the length to handle the difficult demands of the South Course, and his results have gotten progressively better each time around: T-24 in 2015, T-18 in 2016 and T-4 last year. Finau is coming off the best season of his career, one that included a trip to the Tour Championship, and he put together four solid rounds at the Sony Open earlier this month.

    8. Charles Howell III: Howell is no stranger to West Coast golf, and his record at this event since 2013 includes three top-10 finishes highlighted by last year's runner-up showing. Howell chased a T-32 finish in Hawaii with a T-20 finish last week in Palm Springs, his fourth top-20 finish this season.

    9. Marc Leishman: Leishman was twice a runner-up at this event, first in 2010 and again in 2014, and he finished T-20 last year. The Aussie is coming off a season that included two wins, and he has amassed five top-10s in his last eight worldwide starts dating back to the Dell Technologies Championship in September.

    10. Gary Woodland: Woodland played in the final group at this event in 2014 before tying for 10th, and he was one shot off the lead entering the final round in 2016 before Mother Nature blew the entire field sideways. Still, the veteran has three top-20s in his last four trips to San Diego and finished T-7 two weeks ago in Honolulu.

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    Davis on distance: Not 'necessarily good for the game'

    By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:28 pm

    It's a new year, but USGA executive Mike Davis hasn't changed his views on the growing debate over distance.

    Speaking with Matt Adams on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio, Davis didn't mince words regarding his perception that increased distance has had a negative impact on the game of golf, and he reiterated that it's a topic that the USGA and R&A plan to jointly address.

    "The issue is complex. It's important, and it's one that we need to, and we will, face straight on," Davis said. "I think on the topic of distance, we've been steadfast to say that we do not think increased distance is necessarily good for the game."

    Davis' comments echoed his thoughts in November, when he stated that the impact of increased distance has been "horrible" for the game. Those comments drew a strong rebuke from Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein, who claimed there was "no evidence" to support Davis' argument.

    That argument, again reiterated Tuesday, centers on the rising costs associated with both acquiring and maintaining increased footprints for courses. Davis claimed that 1 in 4 courses in the U.S. is currently "not making money," and noted that while U.S. Open venues were 6,800-6,900 yards at the start of his USGA tenure, the norm is now closer to 7,400-7,500 yards.

    "You ask yourself, 'What has this done for the game? How has that made the game better?'" Davis said. "I think if we look at it, and as we look to the future, we're asking ourselves, saying, 'We want the game of golf to be fun.' We want it to continue to be challenging and really let your skills dictate what scores you should shoot versus necessarily the equipment.

    "But at the same time, we know there are pressures on golf courses. We know those pressures are going to become more acute."