A Walk and an Analysis of Dreaded Oakmont

By Associated PressJune 13, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 U.S. OpenOAKMONT, Pa. -- A squirrel ran onto the ninth green at Oakmont, looked around in confusion at the 10 U.S. Open golfers practicing their putting and tried to escape. He ran this way, then another, but still couldn't find a way out or a tree to climb.
 
By the midpoint of Thursday's opening round, more than a few in the U.S. Open field may feel the same way. Almost 5,000 trees are gone, but the toughness remains, with no place to hide from the troubles that await on every hole and, specifically, every green.
 
U.S. Open Practice Schedule
Fans figure out the practice schedule Wednesday at Oakmont. (Getty Images)
That was evident Wednesday during an 18-hole walk of Oakmont, where the only person who looked relaxed was a fan who found a shaded area near the No. 17 fairway, took off his shoes, used them for a pillow and took a nap. About 30 feet away, Phil Mickelson hit an approach shot during a practice round limited to 10 holes because of his sore left wrist.
 
No. 1, 482 yards, par 4: Tiger Woods calls this the toughest opening hole in American golf, but he didn't play it Wednesday, working only at the driving range and practice green. Maybe he feels ready enough -- or maybe it was the tobacco smoke. While many sports arenas, stadiums and ballparks, including Pittsburgh's PNC Park, ban smoking, it's allowed at an outdoor venue such as Oakmont. Five smokers were taking advantage by puffing away at a concession stand alongside the No. 1 fairway, irritating others waiting in line for a drink.
 
No. 2, 341 yards, par 4: At the 1994 Open, fans waited up to 20 minutes to traverse the lone spectator bridge that crosses the Pennsylvania Turnpike and connects holes 2-7 with the rest of the course. A second bridge was built for this Open, but only the golfers, caddies and tournament personnel can use it. Fans moving from No. 1 to No. 2 must wait to cross the No. 9 fairway to reach the spectator bridge then, on the other side, encounter a second delay getting to No. 2 as they wait for traffic to clear from the new bridge. The result? The same wait as before in some cases.
 
No. 3, 428 yards, par 4: The first hole where the half-acre Church Pews bunker comes into play, though it is more of a hazard for golfers who hook their drives on No. 4. Woods declined to practice hitting out of the bunker, saying, 'I don't really think that you should be practicing negativity.' On the green, longtime pro Bob Murphy, now an NBC announcer, took numerous practice putts alongside Brett Quigley.
 
No. 4, 609 yards, par 5: The first of two 600-yard-plus holes. As Quigley walks the fairway, one of the estimated 25,000 spectators asks why so few are practicing, making for little activity for long stretches at many holes. He replied, 'A lot of guys are just playing nine today.'
 
No. 5, 382 yards, par 4: With so little shade, fans are crowding to sit under a covered picnic table not far from a large concession stand. There's no other such respite on the course.
 
No. 6, 194 yards, par 3: There's never been a hole in one in competition here.
 
No. 7, 479 yards, par 4: The field can only hope a late-afternoon thunderstorm Wednesday softens up the green on a hole that has been lengthened by 51 yards, creating a blind and very difficult second shot.
 
No. 8, 252/288 yards, par 3: Yes, it's a par 3 -- and it may play longer for the final round Sunday, according to the USGA's Jim Hyler. One of the players told Hyler, 'You could have a long drive and a closest-to-the-hole contest on the same hole.'
 
No. 9, 477 yards, par 4: Might be the only green in U.S. Open history where 30 golfers putt at the same time. Oakmont is unique in that the huge No. 9 green doubles as the practice green. USGA rules state there can be no practicing on a tournament green during competition. To police that, the USGA put down a blue line to differentiate between playing and practice areas. The penalty for violation: disqualification.
 
No. 10, 435/462 yards, par 4: As Mickelson begins his practice round, he is apologetic in declining autograph requests, blaming his inflamed left wrist. 'I'm sorry,' he said. 'Another week or so.'
 
No. 11, 379 yards, par 4: A blind, uphill tee shot to a tiny green. No wonder Mickelson spent so much time practicing there.
 
No. 12, 632/667 yards, par 5: The hole is so long, it runs nearly from the clubhouse to the Pennsylvania Turnpike -- long enough to charge a toll. 'It's the epitome of a par 5,' said Masters champion Zach Johnson. In the 2003 U.S. Amateur, Trip Kuehne -- who is in the U.S. Open field -- reached in two with a 6-iron.
 
No. 13, 183 yards, par 3: Four deep bunkers guard a green with a serious tilt. Get above the hole and ...
 
No. 14, 358 yards, par 4: Johnny Miller missed a 10-foot birdie putt here on his final round in 1973, or else that famous 63 would have been a more famous 62.
 
No. 15: 500 yards, par 4: The Oakmont Country Club members tent runs alongside the fairway. As they watched the practice rounds, some members said the course's setup isn't nearly as difficult as it is for some member events. Among those members: Arnold Palmer. There's another Church Pews bunker here, too.
 
No. 16, 231 yards, par 3: Probably the favorite hole of Richard Lee. He's 16, just like the hole, the youngest player in the 156-man field and second-youngest ever in an Open. Not that it's bothering him. 'I'm not nervous at all,' he said.
 
No. 17, 313 yards, par 4: Woods still doesn't know how it will play because of high rough on the left and the tilted green. 'It's a hole that going to be probably pivotal and very key to who wins the championship,' he said. By then, perhaps the sleeping man alongside the fairway will wake up.
 
No. 18, 484 yards, par 4: Palmer's long walk up No. 18 in 1994, during his last U.S. Open round, is still remembered for the thunderous ovation he received. 'The tough part was walking up 18,' Palmer said. 'It was overwhelming.'
 
No. 19: Woods calls this his favorite hole. It must be -- he spent considerable time signing autographs after a 45-minute stop on the practice green, something he doesn't always do.
 
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    Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

    Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

    Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

    In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

    Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

    “I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

    Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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    Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

    In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.


    Made Cut

    Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

    Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

    “If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

    McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

    “The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

    September can’t get here quick enough.

    Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

    There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

    In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.


    Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

    On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

    “I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

    The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

    Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

    Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

    The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

    The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

    “My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.


    Missed Cut

    Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

    After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

    It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

    Tweet of the week:

    It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

    The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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    Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

    Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

    While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

    “I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

    Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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    DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

    Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

    “I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

    Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

    “Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

    Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

    “It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.”