Even Scarier Than You Thought

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2007 U.S. OpenOAKMONT, Pa. -- Tuesday, in this space, I made the case for the notion that there are two stars here at the U.S. Open which is scheduled to begin at 7 a.m. Thursday.
 
Those two stars are, in order of brightness, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
 
Actually, there are three stars.
 
Luke Donald
Luke Donald hits from the famed Church Pew bunkers at Oakmont. (Getty Images)
Yes, I forgot one.
 
The third, with apologies to Johnny Miller, is the golf course: Oakmont Country Club, 7,200 yards of the best conditioned and groomed golfing hell that you are likely to find anywhere.
 
In the span of two breaths Tuesday, NBC announcer Miller anointed Oakmont.
 
This is the finest golf course in the world, Johnny said.
 
This is the greatest course in the world, Johnny added, barely coming up for air.
 
Better than Pine Valley ever thought of being, better than Cypress (Point) ever thought of being, Johnny gushed.
 
A lot of people who have been to a lot of major championships are also saying this years Oakmont version is the toughest test ever at a major. That covers a lot of ground. So I ran it past former player and current TV analyst Peter Oosterhuis, who has played in more kinds of conditions than just about anybody on the grounds.
 
Oakmont the toughest ever?
 
Oosty: It always was.
 
Oakmont has been in the business of thoroughly examining the golf games of the best players in the world for a long time. No other golf course has hosted more U.S. Opens. This will be the eighth for Oakmont.
 
Wednesday the gentlemen from the USGA showed up for their annual state of the U.S. Open press conference. The subject of the golf course dominated the presentation and most of the Q&A.
 
I couldnt resist asking USGA President Walter Driver and Executive Director David Fay for their reaction to Millers comments. And, I asked them, if they agreed.
 
I was told when I took this job that saying anything negative about any golf course was like insulting someones spouse, and you better not do that, Driver said. So I think this is a great golf course. As to comparing it to other golf courses, Im not going to go there.
 
By the way, Fay chimed in, that comment about insulting ones spouse -- Charles Blair Macdonald. Ive got to get that plug in.
 
Fay felt compelled because earlier in the news conference the World Golf Hall of Fame had announced it will induct Macdonald, who designed National Golf Links and Chicago Golf, among others, in November. Macdonald, Fay said, is the father of organized golf in America. Its no stretch to say that without Charles Blair McDonald there would be no USGA and no U.S. Open.
 
Macdonald, if he were still alive, would probably love Oakmont. The green speeds will be in the range of 13 to 14 on the Stimpmeter. The primary cut of rough is 2 inches. The intermediate rough is 5 inches. And the USGA promises those numbers will remain constant throughout the week.
 
Unless, of course, there is what the USGA calls a rain event. One was predicted for late Wednesday. Both Mike Davis and Tim Moraghan told me separately Wednesday that if it doesnt rain, they will be able to control course conditions to just the spot they wanted them to be. Davis is in charge of course set-up for the USGA. Moraghan is the USGAs chief agronomist.
 
Moraghan also told me that there are plans afoot to move the tee box up on the second hole to 300 yards for Sundays final round. The normal tee box on that uphill par-4 is 341 yards. Jim Hyler, chairman of the USGA Championship Committee, hinted strongly that the downhill par-3 eighth will also play 300 yards Sunday.
 
Thats a par-3 and a par-4 playing to the same yardage, if not the same virtual distance. The hope is that there will be players in the field who can drive both.
 
We dont want this thing to be all Starbucks grind, Moraghan told me. We like to have a little fun.
 
Fun, of course, is a relative word.
 
If somebody built a course like this today, Justin Rose told me Monday before boarding his plane to Oakmont, theyd probably crucify him.
 
Ladies and gentleman, Hyler said, clearly having fun, these greens are scary.
 
Absolutely no grain in them, Moraghan said. Just uphill or downhill.
 
Just Oakmont.
 
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