Here is the latest version of Hooks and Cuts as we’re on our way to The Olympic Club for what proves to be an exciting U.S. Open:
• The grouping of Tiger, Phil and Bubba is a strong counter-programming play against a potential LeBron-DWade-Kevin Durant NBA Finals.
• Colleague Steve Burkowski covered the Casey Martin qualifier. He said you couldn’t help but wonder if there wasn’t divine intervention. On the eighth hole Martin couldn’t find his ball in the trees and was about to give up the search and head back to the tee to hit another. As he was set to drive away, he saw his ball on the other side of the cart. He played out to the fairway, then holed his chip for birdie.
• One of Olympic’s better amateur players said he wouldn’t be surprised to see 5 over win the U.S Open, it’s that tough. There are several holes that are really par 4 1/2, a par 3 1/2 and a par 5 1/2.
• Tiger’s cut 3 wood should be a lethal and potentially winning weapon.
• Johnny Miller is the most famous Olympic product, but the burger dog they serve isn’t far behind.
• Phil Mickelson generally rises to the Tiger occasion.
• The Olympic Club’s opening six-hole stretch is absolutely brutal. Two over through that gauntlet won’t lose anything to the field.
• Suddenly, Tiger’s not so shaky. Suddenly, Rory and Rickie seem like kids again, not yet fully prepared to meet what may be coming.
• With so many trees removed since 1998, Olympic’s now a windy golf course, adding to the degree of difficulty.
• Luke Donald’s a beautiful player, but he’s an underwhelming No. 1, as No. 1s go.
• Olympic’s a very good setup for a steady drone like Jason Dufner.
• If Riviera’s U.S. Open legacy is tied to Ben Hogan, Olympic’s past belongs to the anonymous plodder. Who lost at Olympic is much more easily recalled than who won. In case you forgot, Jack Fleck beat Ben Hogan, Billy Casper came from seven down with nine to play to gut Arnold Palmer, Scott Simpson clipped Tom Watson and Lee Janzen won at the expense of Payne Stewart.
• We tend to get excited when Dallas Cowboys’ QB Tony Romo tries to qualify for a U.S. Open. Well, former 49ers’ quarterback John Brodie qualified twice, in 1959 and 1981. The year he won the NFL MVP (1970) he also won the Crosby, alongside Bob Rosburg. And in 1991, he became the first athlete from another sport to win on the Champions Tour. I met Brodie in San Francisco last month for a story that will air on Golf Channel next week. His speech is impaired as a result of a stroke 12 years ago, but he’s in good spirits.
• If Pebble Beach is a heart stopper, Olympic is a heart breaker.
• Olympic’s not public but neither is it prohibitive. It’s a modest $10,000 to join plus $250 a month in dues.
• Not everything breaks toward Lake Merced, especially since they replaced the poa greens with bent.
• If you’re going, take an afternoon to tee it up at the roguish nine-hole gem about five miles from Olympic called Gleneagles. We’re airing a story on the course that sits on top of a public housing unit. Every day there’s a $20 buy-in skins game with an assortment of drifters and drinkers, high binders and high rollers, stoners and sticks. It’s an excellent layout, designed by Alistair Mackenzie protégé Jack Fleming, and there’s a good pub scene to finish off your day. Or start it.
• In the decade between 1959 and 1969, Bay Area golfers combined to win the slam. Bob Rosburg took the ’59 PGA, Ken Venturi the ’64 U.S. Open, Tony Lema the ’64 Open and George Archer the ’69 Masters. Accessibility and affordability helped. Back then they could play the city munis like Lincoln Park for $2.50 a month.
• If Congressional last year felt like any other low scoring Tour event, Olympic will feel like the U.S. Open as we’ve known it. U.S. Opens at their best put a premium on breaking par, and, especially at Olympic, breaking spirits.
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