Oakland Hills From Monster to Mecca

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04 Ryder CupBLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- Oakland Hills' place in golf history was secure before the Ryder Cup arrived.
 
It has hosted six U.S. Opens, none more famous than the one in 1951, a layout Ben Hogan called a 'monster.' It also has been home to two PGA Championships, and will get another in four years.

But when the 35th Ryder Cup begins Friday on a course that once was a dairy farm, Oakland Hills will join some exclusive company as one of four courses to have held a Ryder Cup, U.S. Open and PGA Championship. Oak Hill, Pinehurst and Scioto are the others.
 
'Championship golf has been a part of Oakland Hills since its inception in 1918, and our membership has always viewed itself as stewards of a national golf treasure,' Oakland Hills chief operating officer Rick Bayliss said. 'Oakland Hills has played a significant role in golf's history, and it's part of our mission to make sure that's true in the years to come.'
 
The Donald Ross design, which opened in 1918, is an American classic with tree-lined, undulating fairways, subtle elevations and some of the most severely contoured greens in the land -- so much slope, in fact, that the U.S. Open has to keep the greens at a moderate speed to make it fair.
 
'It's hard to rank the historic courses, but there's no question that Oakland Hills is on the short list,' Jim Furyk said.
 
Furyk and the rest of the Americans will be playing at home, where it has lost the Ryder Cup just twice since the matches began in 1927 -- in 1987 at Muirfield and in 1995 at Oak Hill.
 
But while Hogan said he was glad to have 'brought this course, this monster, to its knees' a half-century ago, the 7,077-yard course at a par 70 is no longer as daunting because of the sport's new technology.
 
The key has always been -- and will always be -- keeping the ball below the hole on the greens.
 
'They are severe, but they are in great shape,' Stewart Cink said. 'So what you see for break, you're going to get.'
 
Jack Nicklaus, who won the 1991 U.S. Senior Open at Oakland Hills, once said the greens were more difficult than any other because of their speed and contour.
 
Unlike stroke play, the golf course has little to do with the Ryder Cup matches. The United States could play Europe at any municipal golf course and it would still come down to beating the other guys on that hole.
 
Of course, that doesn't make Oakland Hills -- ranked No. 8 among America's 100 greatest golf courses by Golf Digest -- and its 900 members feel any less special about hosting one of world's great sports events.
 
'Even though we've hosted many major events, this is a true treat,' Bayliss said.
 
John O'Hara, an 86-year-old member, said Oakland Hills is essentially the same as it was when he started playing it in 1926.
 
'When Donald Ross first came here to design the course he said, 'The Lord intended this to be a golf course,'' O'Hara said. 'He put bunkers behind the greens because in those days, we had to water the greens by hand with hoses, so they were as hard as concrete. Our irrigation system took care of that, but that's about the only major change.'
 
To get ready for the Ryder Cup and its 40,000 daily visitors, however, Oakland Hills and the PGA of America split $70 million in costs. The two entities also will share in the profits, not including the millions NBC pays the PGA of America to televise the event.
 
More than 800 semi-trucks delivered materials to build 325,000 square feet of tents, including a 3,500 square foot merchandise tent, and to bring nearly 5,000 pieces of furniture and 15,000 bleacher seats.
 
On Monday morning, the tear-down process will start and is expected to last four days.
 
'It's the quintessential moveable feast,' Bayliss said.
 
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