Language Of Winning at Oakmont

By Brian HewittJune 16, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 U.S. OpenOAKMONT, Pa. -- The two best lines Ive heard all week'so far'are both funny and informing.
Kirk Triplett is getting most of the credit for being the player who said this of the 288-yard, par-3 eighth at Oakmont: Its the only hole I know where they can have a long drive contest and a closest to the pin.
Somebody else sized up Saturdays final pairing of Bubba Watson and Angel Cabrera and said this: The only thing they have in common is neither one speaks English.
Cabrera being from Argentina, dont you know. And Watson hailing from rural Florida.
Actually they both share otherworldly length off the tee. But the point of all this is how disorienting Oakmont can be and how important it has become for players to learn Oakmonts unique language.
Enter Tiger Woods, golfs polylinguist extraordinaire.
In the end Sunday, the winner will be the player who will have best blended a mixture of skill, resolve and golf Berlitz. For the 107th U.S. Open, it turns out, is a quadratic equation--X and Y variables all over the place. Solve it and youve got a chance to win.
'They say for every four pars you make it's like a birdie,' said Jeff Brehaut, who fashioned a taut 70 Saturday. 'That's about right. Just do the math.'
Enter Tiger Woods, golfs calculating calculist.
His challenge, and make no mistake he will relish it, is to track down Australian Aaron Baddeley Sunday. Woods is 4 over after 54 holes. Baddeley is 2 over. They will be playing in the final pairing. Note this: Woods has never come from behind after 54 holes to win any of his 12 major victories.
They say theres a first time for everything. For his part, Baddeley has been striking the ball with confidence all week and his putting has been better.
But a word of warning: The language of grind, it turns out surprisingly, may be counterproductive here. The weekend player tells the sad story about the four and a half hour round of golf where he can only concentrate for four. The other 30 minutes ruin his round.
The best players in the world are mentally conditioned to grind four days with few mental lapses. But even Woods has limits to his reservoir of grind. And Oakmont is a place where those limits can be reached.
On Day One here Nick Dougherty blithely made his way around in 68 pops. Led the championship and talked afterward about how much fun he had and how much he enjoyed the noises of the American crowds. This was Doughertys way of turning off the pressure. It lasted a day. He carded 77 Friday.
After his Friday 66, which will undoubtedly stand as the championships lowest round, Paul Casey also addressed the zone that, when achieved, can protect a player from the rigors of a golf course like Oakmont. In 1973 when Johnny Millers final round 63 won the U.S. Open here at Oakmont, one of the first questions asked after his round was, What was going through your mind?
Absolutely nothing, Miller responded. Or words to that effect.
Told of Millers comments back then, Casey said, Theres rarely anything going through my mind when Im playing golf.
At least not good golf.
Casey, by the way, actually counted his strokes in Wednesdays last practice round. It was 1-under 69 and he won a dinner bet from Victor Garcia, Sergios father. The method to this madness was Caseys first round struggles in majors. In April at Augusta Casey opened with 79 and followed it with 68. Here it was 77-66. Wouldnt Paul Casey, three back of Baddeley now, love to have that 69 back and be able to count it Sunday?
Stephen Ames, also three back of Baddeley, caught himself in the middle of his second round. As the day was going on, I realized that I was slowly starting to get into a rut of thinking score and stuff, Ames said. So I started to crack some more jokes.
The result was a 69, the only other round under par for that day.
'You have to switch gears,' Brehaut said.
Phil Mickelson, on the other hand, appears to have overthought the whole process. On an extended pre-championship visit he injured his wrist. And it didnt recover in time. He shot 74-77 and missed the cut by a shot.
Im going to have to change things, Mickelson said before getting out of town. Only time will tell exactly what that means.
But one of the lessons of Oakmont so far has been this: Let the game come to you. Or, failing that, make sure to stay true to yourself.
Youve got to figure out what works best for you, Woods said. Thats the hard part. I know I cant play as stoic as Hogan, and I cant talk as much as Trevino; you have to be your own person.
And, at Oakmont, you have to understand that Oakmont is going to be its own golf course.
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - U.S. Open
  • Getty Images

    Watch: Daly makes birdie from 18-foot-deep bunker

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 11:14 pm

    John Daly on Friday somehow got up and down for birdie from the deepest bunker on the PGA Tour.

    The sand to the left of the green on the 16th hole at the Stadium Course at PGA West sits 18 feet below the surface of the green.

    That proved no problem for Daly, who cleared the lip three times taller than he is and then rolled in a 26-footer.

    He fared just slightly better than former Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill.

    Getty Images

    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. 

    Getty Images

    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.

    Getty Images

    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.