The Ugly Old Brute

By Randall MellJuly 8, 2010, 2:58 am

OAKMONT, Pa. – Oakmont can take your breath away.

It isn’t because it’s built with majestic backdrops like Pebble Beach.

It’s the fearsome nature of the golf course that is home to this week’s U.S. Women’s Open.

The great golf writer Herbert Warren Wind called Oakmont an “ugly old brute.” Hall of Famer Gene Sarazen once said it possessed all the charm of a “sock in the head.”

The man who built the golf course more than 100 years ago relished such descriptions.

“A shot poorly played should be irrevocably lost,” Henry C. Fownes said after building the course and founding the club in 1903.

This old course is taking the breath away from another generation of LPGA pros with the U.S. Women’s Open being played at Oakmont 18 years after its first appearance here.

“I think everyone is probably a little fearful of this golf course,” said Karrie Webb. “I think that’s a good thing.”

Webb loves the course and the setup, but the sentiment isn’t universally shared this week.

“There are U.S. Open courses, and there are U.S. Women’s Open courses,” said Dean Herden, Jiyai Shin’s caddie. “This is not a good course for a U.S. Women’s Open. The greens are set up too severely.”

Herden said caddies are openly projecting that 10-over par or higher could win this week.

“It’s one of the hardest courses I’ve ever seen,” said Cristie Kerr, the No. 1 women’s player in the world. 

Christie Kerr
Cristie Kerr hits a shot during a practice round prior to to the start of the U.S. Women's Open.
(Getty Images)
If Kerr didn’t believe that before stepping into a fairway bunker at the 14th hole in a practice round Monday, she did after. Kerr was about 100 yards out and set up with a sand wedge believing she could carry the steep bunker face and reach the green. She took one swipe and watched the ball hit the lip and roll back to her. She took a second swipe. And then a third swipe. With the same results.

“It wasn’t a bad lie,” Kerr said.

This is the same woman who won the LPGA Championship two weeks ago by a record 12 shots.

There could be another record set this week, one that Herden fears could embarrass the women’s game.

The last time the winner of the U.S. Women’s Open was double digits over par was 1972 when Susie Berning won at 11 over at Winged Foot. Actually, the winning scores have been more than fair in recent years in this championship. In the last 25 years, the winner has been over par just twice. Birdie Kim was 3 over at Cherry Hills in 2005 and Se Ri Pak won in a playoff against Jenny Chuasiriporn in '98 after they both finished at 6 over at Blackwolf Run.

“This could be the toughest U.S. Open course I’ve played,” said Webb, the Hall of Famer who won this championship in 2000 and ’01. “But I think it’s really, really fair.

“I love it. It’s right in front of you. You know what you have to do, but you have to have the guts to do it.”

Oakmont has proven itself as one of the great major championship venues over the years. It’s home to a major for the 17th time this week. Bobby Jones, Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead, Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus are among the winners here.

The course is distinguished by its 210 bunkers, diabolical greens and inland links look and feel. The undulating greens have been described as more difficult than Augusta National’s.

When the women played here in 1992, a pair of future Hall of Famers battled in a playoff with Patty Sheehan defeating Juli Inkster.

Mike Davis, the U.S. Golf Association senior director of rules and competition, hears the fears players have expressed this week, but he heard them in equal measure from the men before Angel Cabrera held off Tiger Woods to win the U.S. Open at Oakmont in ’07. Cabrera won at 5 over in a championship Davis thought played out extremely well.

There were some nightmares that year. Aaron Baddeley was the 54-hole leader and shot 80. Davis believes setting up conditions to identify the best players can mean struggles for players who aren’t at their best. It goes with the territory.

Davis wants this week’s U.S. Women’s Open to play as closely as possible to the way it played for the men in ’07.

Of course, there are changes in setup to balance out the different strengths of the sexes.

The U.S. Open played to 7,230 yards for the men as a par 70. It will play to 6,613 yards as a par 71 for the women. The greens were rolling at nearly 15 on the Stimpmeter for the men. They’ll roll at around 14 for the women. Davis said slowing the green speed is required to create similar shot values into the greens. The fact that women spin the ball less means the greens cannot be as firm in creating comparable shot values.

“You want the ball [on approach shots] to bounce, bounce and then grab and roll,” Davis said.

Kerr loves the setup and how it will test her total game, including her strategic skills and emotions.

“Being a hero is not going to win this U.S. Open,” Kerr said. “It’s whoever is going to take their medicine the best, save as many pars as they can, and move on.”

Despite the fears from some players and caddies, Davis is convinced the setup this week will be just right to identify the best player in women’s golf. Of course, he can’t control potential rain, which is forecast Friday and could change conditions.

“I’m excited,” Davis said. “Every championship has things you get excited about, but for some reason when you walk on Oakmont, it just has a mystique to it. I am truly giddy.

“I can tell you this golf course is darn near perfect. In fact, it is perfect.”

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

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Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.

The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.


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Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.


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Vandalism

Article: Environmental group vandalizes Trump golf course

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Finances


Article: Two Trump courses in Scotland losing millions

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Article: Trump company ordered to pay $5.77M in dues dispute

Reportedly fake TIME covers


Article: Trump clubs display fake Time magazine cover


Trump apologizes for voter-fraud story

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Pros comment on the president

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 12:30 pm