Oakmont Not From The Tips


In the weeks leading up to next months U.S. Open at feared Oakmont, you will hear a lot of experts talking about the perils and pitfalls of a golf course USGA Executive Director David Fay calls, the big bad wolf of American golf.
But sometimes golfs average Joe can say it even better. The following is a case in point. Its the verbatim text of an E-mail sent May 3 by reader/viewer Tom Dempsey from Milwaukee. And it speaks for itself:
Brian: Oakmont update, roughs are long and thick and according to (host pro) Bob Ford they will not be cut prior to the Open. The greens were magnificent and very fast. The wind blew on Tuesday and there were putts that would stop and then roll out another 10-20 feet. Bob indicated the greens will be faster for the tournament. Beside the obvious primary rough, I think the steep grass faces of the bunkers were very difficult.
The grass was 6-8 inches thick and locating the ball was a challenge. In other words, if you miss the green, be sure you wind up in the bunker as the ball will not roll down to the bottom in many cases you will have a severe side hill lie and eight inches of heavy rough to hit out of. Heavy thunderstorms on Tuesday night softened up the course but of course the rain made the rough more difficult and the fairways slower. The course handles the rain very well.
My guess is the story will be the greens and pin locations and not so much the primary rough.
By the way, I hit (it) as well as I ever have and shot 91 with a 10-handicap from 6,500 yards. Next day broke 90 not has (sic) good ball striking but was a lot smarter. None of our (other) three single digits handicappers broke 90 either day and our 18 shot 120 each day. My caddie on Wednesday had Tiger the week before and thought he shot 73 from the tips.
Thanks for the feedback, Joe. And in case you wondering, the championship tee markers at Oakmont next month will play 7,230 yards to a par of 70.
More E-mail feedback:
From Khalil Munir of Washington D.C.: Do you think golf writers are intimidated and mindful that if they highlight the flaw in Tigers swing with his driver that they will be scorned by Tiger and never receive an interview with him?....Second, why do you think Tiger, despite being the best scrambler in the game, is not more effective with his driver?.....
My answers are, in order: Tiger rarely does interviews that arent of the group variety. So scorn is not an issue here.
As to the driving: I have had this discussion with Hank Haney, Tiger swing coach, many times. Haney believes the driver stats are flawed because if Tiger hits the ball 10 per cent off line, he will miss a lot more fairways than, say, Fred Funk when Funk is 10 per cent off line. Think vectors. Tigers are longer.
I agree with Haney. But I will add this: If Woods was forced to play Funks tee balls, Woods-Funk might never lose.
This from Shri Narayanan: What kind of test is this'a 288-yard par 3? This is ridiculous'is the hole all downhill? Makes no sense at all and takes all fun away from the game. There sure wont be many birdies and surely no hole-in-ones. USGA is plain crazy.
My response: The USGA is no crazier than most of the rest of us. And as to the 288-yard par 3 in question (Oakmonts eighth hole), the point is mostly being missed here. As noted course designer Tom Doak told me when I asked him about the eighth at Oakmont, The length is not important. Whats good here is getting a long club in the hands of the players.
Finally this E-mail from Yvette of Trinidad & Tobago: .Adam (Scott) was willing to take a back seat to Tiger while Butch was his (Tigers) coach. I dont think he will do so with Phil. No matter how much Butch tries to manage his relationship with Adam, he will run into problems. Now that Butch is coaching Mickelson, Im betting that Adam Scott jumps to another coach by years end. And, remember, Greg Norman is Adams idol and had a rocky relationship with Butch at the end.
My response: Butch Harmon has a big ego which isnt a bad thing to have, especially if youre teaching the worlds best players. More importantly, Butch Harmon is loyal. And for that, I take him at his word when he says Adam Scott will remain at the top oh his teaching priority totem pole over Mickelson.
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt