History 101 Oakland Hills

By Chris LewisAugust 1, 2008, 4:00 pm
2008 US Open 81x90Ever since its opening in 1918, Oakland Hills has hosted some of the games greatest championships.
With Donald Ross as its course architect and 11-time major champion Walter Hagen as its first head professional, Oakland Hills was destined for greatness. During the past 90 years, the course has hosted eight major championships including two PGA Championships, two U.S. Senior Opens, a U.S. Amateur and the 2004 Ryder Cup.
On the doorsteps of the 90th PGA Championship, lets reflect on the courses past, one filled with some greatest moments in golf history.
1922 Western Open
Back in the 1920s, the Western Open was one of the most prestigious tournaments in golf, attracting the worlds best. For the first time in its four year history, Oakland Hills gained recognition as the host of the 1922 Western Open. Oakland Hills head professional Mike Brady won the tournament by defeating two-time major champion Jock Hutchinson by 10 strokes for one of the largest margins of victory in PGA TOUR history. Brady succeeded Hagen as the clubs head professional after he lost the 1919 U.S. Open in a playoff to Hagen. When Hagen won he opted to leave position at Oakland Hills to focus solely on competitive golf.
1924 U.S. Open
Two years after the Western Open, Oakland Hills hosted its first major championship. Englishman Cyril Walker defeated defending champion Bobby Jones by three strokes. Jones was the best golfer in the world and ultimately won 12 more major championships, including three more U.S. Opens, Walker would not win another major championship. In fact, he would only have one more top-10 finish in a major championship for the remainder of his career. This Open will be remembered primarily as one of several great finishes that Bobby Jones had in the U.S. Open from 1922 to 1930.
1937 U.S. Open
Thirteen years later, Oakland Hills hosted its second U.S. Open as 24-year-old Ralph Guldahl won his first of consecutive U.S. Opens. Guldahl is one of six golfers to successfully defend the U.S. Open championship. Since Guldahls 1938 U.S. Open victory, only Ben Hogan and Curtis Strange have won back-to-back U.S. Opens. In the 1937 U.S. Open, he defeated hard-luck Sam Snead by two shots. Guldahl played steady golf all week by shooting 71-69-72-69 for a total of 7-under-par 281. Upon winning the 1937 and 1938 U.S. Opens, Guldahl would also add the 1939 Masters to his resume.
1951 U.S. Open
During the prime of his career, Ben Hogan won the 1951 U.S. Open at Oakland Hills for his second consecutive U.S. Open victory. Hogan fired a final round of 67 for a 7-over par finish of 287. The course played its toughest after course architect Robert Trent Jones modifications. Par was also changed from 72 to 70 for the week. Hogans 67 was one of only two under-par scores shot during the entire week. Four-time Tour winner Clayton Heafner shot the other under-par score and finished two strokes behind Hogan for second place. After winning his third Open, Hogan said: I am glad I brought this course, this monster, to its knees. Hogan also viewed Oakland Hills as the greatest test of golf he had ever played. Oakland Hills still is known as The Monster.
1961 U.S. Open
Gene Littler won his only major championship at the fourth U.S. Open contested at Oakland Hills. When Littler arrived at Oakland Hills he had already won 16 Tourtitles, including the 1954 San Diego Open as an amateur. However, it was his U.S. Open victory that placed him among the games elite. In the final round, Littler shot a courageous 68 for a one-over total of 281. He defeated 20-time Tour winner Doug Sanders and 1968 Masters champion Bob Goalby by one shot. Littler would eventually win 12 more times on the PGA TOUR for a total of 29 victories.
1972 PGA Championship
Gary Player etched his name on the Wannamaker Trophy for the second time in his career during the first PGA Championship held at Oakland Hills. The tournament will always be remembered for Gary Players miraculous second shot on the par-four 16th hole, which is one of the toughest holes on the course. After bogeying the 14th and 15th holes to lose his lead to Jim Jamieson, Player sliced his tee shot into the rough. After standing on a gallery members chair to see the green, Player hit a 9 iron over water and trees. His ball landed only four feet from the hole. The unlikely birdie led to a two-stroke victory over Jamieson and 1973 Masters champion Tommy Aaron. Famous golf writer Herbert Warren Wind once called Players shot one of the most spectacular recovery shots in championship history. The victory was Players sixth major championship. It would also be Players last PGA Championship victory.
1979 PGA Championship
For the second time during the decade, Oakland Hills hosted the PGA Championship. The championship was extremely popular and drew large galleries. Australian David Graham was hoping to shoot a final-round 63 but double-bogeyed the renowned par four 18th hole. He would finish the championship with a final-round 65 for a total of 272. Ben Crenshaw eventually matched this score, forcing a playoff. Graham holed spectacular putts on the first and second holes to remain in the playoff and then won with a birdie on the third hole. At the time, Crenshaw was still searching for his first major championship and had become a star on the PGA TOUR. Graham had won various international titles before his PGA Championship victory, including three Tour events. He used his PGA Championship victory for further successes as he won his second major championship at the 1981 U.S. Open. Crenshaw eventually found his own major championship glory, however, with wins at the 1984 and 1995 Masters.
1981 U.S. Senior Open
Oakland Hills hosted the second U.S. Senior Open with 1967 British Open champion Roberto De Vicenzo as the defending champion. Arnold Palmer revenged his 1966 U.S. Open playoff loss to three-time major champion Billy Casper with an 18-hole playoff victory over Casper and Bob Stone, after all three players shot a 289, nine-over par for the week. Palmer shot an even-par 70 during the playoff to beat Stone by four shots and Casper by seven.
1985 U.S. Open
In 1985, Oakland Hills became the third course to host the U.S. Open five times. Little-known T.C. Chen held a four stoke lead during the final round of the championship, but blew it with a quadruple bogey on the fifth hole after hitting his ball twice on an approach shot for a two-stroke penalty. Andy North eventually claimed his second major championship after shooting a final round 74. He defeated three-time Tour winner Dennis Watson, Chen and two-time Tour winner Dave Barr by one shot. One of the most memorable shots of Norths round was his sand save on the difficult par-three 17th. North hit his second shot within inches of the hole to save par and win the championship. The 1985 U.S. Open was the last win of Norths Tour career.
1991 U.S. Senior Open
During the second U.S. Senior Open contested at Oakland Hills, Jack Nicklaus joined Arnold Palmer as one of only two golfers to have ever won the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open and U.S. Senior Open. Nicklaus finished regulation play at 282 and was joined by Chi-Chi Rodriguez. Nicklaus won the 18-hole playoff by shooting 65 to defeat Rodriguez by four shots. Afterwards, Nicklaus said, It was one of the best ball-striking rounds Ive played in a long time.
1996 U.S. Open
After entering the 1996 U.S. Open as a sectional qualifier, Steve Jones was not expected to contend. However, he followed an opening-round 74 with a 66 and shot a pair of 69s during the weekend to finish the tournament at 278, two-under par. Davis Love III was one of the best golfers in the world at the time and was searching for his major championship breakthrough. Playing in the second to last group, he three-putted for a costly bogey on the par-4 18th after missing a three-foot putt for par. Tom Lehman was playing in the final group with Jones and also bogeyed the 18th. Jones made par on the final hole for a one-stroke victory over Lehman and Love. After his U.S. Open victory, Jones won three more times, Lehman won the 1996 British Open and Love won the 1997 PGA Championship.
2002 U.S. Amateur
Oakland Hills hosted the 102nd U.S. Amateur as Ricky Barnes defeated Hunter Mahan 2 and 1. Barnes was low amateur at te Masters the following year, but is now competing on the Nationwide Tour. Meanwhile, Mahan won the 2007 Travelers Championship on the PGA Tour and was a captains pick for the 2007 Presidents Cup.
2004 Ryder Cup
In 2004, Oakland Hills hosted its very first Ryder Cup, which will be remembered as the largest defeat for the U.S. on home soil in the history of the competition. Europe won 18 to 9 in dominating fashion. European Colin Montgomerie holed the winning putt for Europe to maintain his record of never losing a singles matches. U.S. captain Hal Sutton was also criticized for his pairing of the top two golfers in the world, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

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    Tiger Tracker: Farmers Insurance Open

    By Tiger TrackerJanuary 23, 2018, 4:00 pm

    Tiger Woods is competing in a full-field event for the first time in nearly a year. We're tracking him at this week's Farmers Insurance Open. (Note: Tweets read, in order, left to right)

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    Wie's goal to reach goals: Just. Stay. Healthy.

    By Randall MellJanuary 23, 2018, 3:30 pm

    Michelle Wie’s player bio should come with medical charts.

    Her caddie would be well served if he could read X-rays as well as he reads greens.

    Remarkably, Wie will begin her 13th full season as a pro when she tees it up Thursday in the LPGA’s season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic.

    Wie is only 28, but on some days, she must feel like she’s going on 40.

    It isn’t the years, it’s the mileage. Her body has too often been like an exotic sports car, a sleek and powerful machine capable of thrilling rides ... when it isn’t sitting it in the shop for weeks for repairs. There’s been one breakdown after another, spoiling her rides.

    That’s why one burning desire trumps all others for Wie as she begins this new year.

    “Being healthy, staying healthy, it’s my No. 1 priority,” Wie told GolfChannel.com. “I hired private physios at the end of last year, to work on my body. I’ve been working with my doctors in New York, and they’ve been doing a great job of getting me to a place where I’m pain free.

    “For the most part, I’m feeling pretty good and pretty healthy. I’ve got little aches and pains from hitting so many balls over the years, but I’m really excited about starting this year. I feel really driven this year. I just want to be healthy so I can build some momentum and be able to play at 100 percent.”

    Wie would love to see what she can do in an injury-free, illness-free year after all the promising work she put into rebuilding her game last year. She seemed on the brink of something special again.

    “We worked last week, and Michelle looked really, really good,” said David Leadbetter, her swing coach. “It’s quite impressive the way she’s hitting the ball. She is hitting it long and feeling good about her game. So, the main goal really is to see if she can go injury free.”

    After winning twice in 2014, including the U.S. Women’s Open, Wie battled through a troublesome finger injury in the second half of that year. Hip, knee and ankle injuries followed the next year. She didn’t just lose all her good momentum. She lost the swing she grooved.

    Wie rebuilt it all last year, turning her draw into a dependable fade that allowed her to play more aggressively again. She loved being able to go hard at the ball again, without fearing where it might go. The confidence from that filtered into every part of her game. She started hitting more drivers again.

    And Wie found yet another eccentric but effective putting method, abandoning her table-top putting stance for a rotating trio of grips (conventional, left-hand low and claw). She would use them all in a single round. It was weird science, but it worked as she moved to a more classic, upright stance.

    “It’s not pretty, but it’s working,” Stacy Lewis said after playing with Wie at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship last summer.

    Wie said she’s going back and forth between conventional and left-hand low now.

    “I can’t promise I’ll stay the same way all year,” Wie said. “But even with different grips, I stayed with the same putting philosophy all year. I want to keep doing that.”

    Leadbetter calls Wie a rebel in her approach to the game. She’s a power player, but she carried a 9-wood and 11-wood last year. She says the 11-wood will be back in her bag this week. Her unorthodox ways go beyond technique, strategy and equipment. She’ll be sporting pink hair come Thursday.

    “She has never been orthodox,” Leadbetter said. “She doesn’t like to conform. She’s always liked to buck the system in some way.”

    Wie looked as if she were poised to make a run at her fifth career title last season. She logged six finishes of fourth place or better the first half of the year. She contended at the ANA Inspiration, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and the Ricoh Women’s British Open.

    And then a neck spasm knocked her out of the U.S. Women’s Open.

    And then emergency appendectomy surgery knocked her out for six weeks at summer’s end. It kept her from playing the year’s final major, the Evian Championship.

    “I can’t list all the injuries Michelle has had in her career,” Leadbetter said. “I don’t think there is one joint or bone in her body that hasn’t had some sort of injury or issue.”

    Over the last three seasons alone, Wie has played through bursitis in her left hip, a bone spur in her left foot and inflammation in her left knee. She has battled neck spasms and back spasms. There have been platelet rich plasma injections to aid healing, and there have been too many cortisone injections for her liking.

    There also have been ongoing issues in both wrists.

    In fact, Wie, who broke two bones in her left wrist early in her career, is dealing with arthritic issues in both wrists of late. She underwent collagen injections this off season to try to be more pain free.

    “I’ve had to pull back the last couple years, restrict the number of balls I hit, not practice as much as I would like, but I was able to put in a lot of work this offseason,” Wie said. “I’m excited about this year, but I’ve been smart about things.”

    Leadbetter says he has been focusing on injury prevention when working with Wie. He worries about the stress that all the torque she creates can have on her body, with her powerful coil and the way she sometimes likes to hold off shots with her finish. His work, sometimes, is pulling her back from the tinkering she loves to do.

    “Everything we do with her swing now is to help prevent injury,” he said.

    Leadbetter relishes seeing what’s possible in 2018 if there are no setbacks.

    “Michelle would be the first to admit she hasn’t reached anywhere near her potential,” Leadbetter said. “We all know what she is capable of. We’ve had fleeting glimpses. Now, it’s a matter of, ‘OK, let’s see if we can really fulfill the potential she’s had from a very young age.’

    “She’s really enthusiastic about this year. She can’t wait to get back in the mix.”

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    How Rahm can overtake DJ for OWGR No. 1 this week

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 2:50 pm

    Editor's note: Information and text provided by Golf Channel's Official World Golf Ranking expert, Alan Robison.

    Despite having fewer worldwide wins, fewer top-5 finishes, fewer top-25 finishes and more missed cuts over the past two years, Jon Rahm is poised to overtake Dustin Johnson for No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking with a win in this week’s Farmers Insurance Open. 

    The Rise of Rahm is meteoric, but how is this possible? After all, Rahm has five worldwide wins vs. eight for Johnson in the same span? 

    We’ll start with the raw numbers over the 104-week cycle of the Official World Golf Ranking. These numbers include a win for Rahm in this week’s Farmers (the only way he could get to No. 1; DJ is not playing):

      Dustin Johnson Jon Rahm
    Events   46 40
    Wins  8 (1 major, 3 WGCs) 5 (3 PGA Tour, 2 Euro)
    Top 5 finishes   20 16
    Top 10 finishes  26 19
    Top 25 finishes  37 26
    MC or 0 OWGR Pts earned  4 7

    Johnson leads Rahm in every possible category, so you may be wondering, again, how is Rahm replacing DJ possible? 

    To understand this, you would need to understand the Official World Golf Ranking, which is all about the power of math, a recency bias and the divisor.

    The ranking system can feel a bit overwhelming, so here are a couple of topline bullet points:

    • The ranking is a 104-week period (two years) that evaluates a player’s performance.
    • Events are given a certain weight and bigger events have a higher point total.
    • Majors are worth 100 points to the winner. The Players champ is given 80 points. From there, you will see events weighted in the 70s for most WGCs, down to 24 for PGA Tour events opposite WGCs and majors.
    • The number assigned to an event has to do with the quality of field – the more top 10/20/50/100 players that are in a field, the higher the weighting.

    Next, you can look at how recent the event was to determine its true value to a player. Dustin Johnson’s 2016 U.S. Open victory was given 100 points, but now he’s only receiving 23.9 percent of its original weight. Conversely, Rahm’s win at the CareerBuilder Challenge was only worth 40 points, but because it happened on Sunday, he’s receiving the full allotment of points.

    Why is DJ getting 23.9 percent of his U.S. Open total? Doesn’t that seem arbitrary? Actually, the OWGR has an intricate formula to determine the value of events. Any event a player has started in the previous 13 weeks is given full value. For the remaining 91 weeks, events drop off at a rate of 1.09 percent until they eventually fall off. Here’s an example:

    • Event 25 weeks ago: 86.96 percent of value
    • Event 50 weeks ago: 59.78 percent of value
    • Event 75 weeks ago: 32.61 percent of value
    • Event 100 weeks ago: 5.43 percent of value

    With a win at Farmers, Rahm would have three victories and a runner-up finish inside the last 13 weeks.  That would total to 175.60, given full-point value. After this week, DJ would only have three events in the last 13 weeks and those finishes are T9-win-T14, for a total of 67.32.

    Rahm is taking advantage of the full value for three of his five professional wins.

    There is still one more important piece of the formula and that’s the divisor.

    The OWGR has determined that each player must have a minimum number of events and a maximum number of events, in order to protect players.

    For instance, when Rahm won the Farmers a year ago he received 54 points. It was his 13th event and if 13 had been his divisor he would have had an OWGR total of 4.15, immediately placing him inside the top 20. Instead, to be more fair, it’s divided by the minimum number of 40 events played, giving him 1.35, which was around 110th (Rahm, though, had received enough points in his other 12 events that his win moved him to 46th in the OWGR at the time).

    The maximum number is as important as the minimum. Many players compete in up to 60 events over the course of two years. Instead of hurting them by counting every event, the OWGR only counts the 52 most recent events in the 104-week cycle.

    Why is the divisor so important? Because math. If a player wins a major (100 points) and has the minimum divisor, that major is worth 2.5 points (100/40). A player winning that same major who has the max divisor (52 events) only gains 1.92 points.

    In the case of Rahm and Johnson, it’s Rahm who is taking advantage of his divisor in attaining maximum value for his play. Here’s a table of what it would look like after this week (again calculating for a Rahm win) to help explain:

      Dustin Johnson Jon Rahm
    Total points earned:  960.82 557.26
    OWGR valued points 493.08 433.39
    OWGR divisor/events 46 40
    Projected OWGR after Farmers 10.72 10.83

    What’s amazing about these numbers is that Rahm is still maintaining 77.78 percent of his original value on the points that he’s earned. As we said earlier, three wins are 100 percent. His Irish Open win is 81.82 percent, while even his 2017 Farmers victory is still earning 56.5 percent of its original value.

    On the other side, DJ is only maintaining 51.3 percent of his total points earned.

    And there you have it. The math favors Rahm, who is still on the outset of his career. Eventually, it will hurt him. But, for now – and right now – Rahm has an opportunity to take all of these numbers and turn them into the world’s No. 1 ranking.

    To do that, the scenario is quite simple: Win this week.

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    Stock Watch: Strange grumpy; Tiger Time again?

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 1:00 pm

    Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.


    Jon Rahm (+9%): This should put his whirlwind 17 months in the proper context: Rahm (38) has earned four worldwide titles in 25 fewer starts – or a full season quicker – than Jordan Spieth (63). This kid is special.

    Tommy Fleetwood (+7%): Putting on a stripe show in windy conditions, the Englishman defended his title in Abu Dhabi (thanks to a back-nine 30) and capped a 52-week period in which he won three times, contended in majors and WGCs, and soared inside the top 15 in the world.

    Sergio (+3%): Some wholesale equipment changes require months of adjustments. In Garcia’s case, it didn’t even take one start, as the new Callaway staffer dusted the field by five shots in Singapore.

    Rory (+2%): Sure, it was a deflating Sunday finish, as he shot his worst round of the week and got whipped by Fleetwood, but big picture he looked refreshed and built some momentum for the rest of his pre-Masters slate. That’s progress.

    Ken Duke (+1%): Looking ahead to the senior circuit, Duke, 48, still needs a place to play for the next few years. Hopefully a few sponsors saw what happened in Palm Springs, because his decision to sub in for an injured Corey Pavin for the second and third rounds – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard – was as selfless as it gets.


    Austin Cook (-1%): The 54-hole leader in the desert, he closed with 75 – the worst score of anyone inside the top 40. Oy.

    Phil (-2%): All of that pre-tournament optimism was tempered by the reality of his first missed cut to start the new year since 2009. Now ranked 45th in the world, his position inside the top 50 – a spot he’s occupied every week since November 1993 – is now in jeopardy.

    Careful What You Wish For (-3%): Today’s young players might (foolishly) wish they could have faced Woods in his prime, but they’ll at least get a sense this week of the spectacle he creates. Playing his first Tour event in a year, and following an encouraging warmup in the Bahamas, his mere presence at Torrey is sure to leave everyone else to grind in obscurity.

    Curtis Strange (-5%): The two-time U.S. Open champ took exception with the chummy nature of the CareerBuilder playoff, with Rahm and Andrew Landry chatting between shots. “Are you kidding me?” Strange tweeted. “Talking at all?” The quality of golf was superb, so clearly they didn’t need to give each other the silent treatment to summon their best.

    Brooks Koepka (-8%): A bummer, the 27-year-old heading to the DL just as he was starting to come into his own. The partially torn tendon in his left wrist is expected to knock him out of action until the Masters, but who knows how long it’ll take him to return to game shape.