The USGA announced Wednesday that the course near San Francisco would host the tournament for the fifth time in 2012 -- and the first time since 1998.
That year, Payne Stewart and others complained mightily about the hole location at the 18th hole in the second round. Stewart three-putted from 8 feet -- his attempt at birdie left him with a 25-footer for par -- and Kirk Triplett stopped his ball with his putter as it rolled down the slope, incurring a two-stroke penalty.
But Walter Driver, the president of the U.S. Championship Committee, denied the USGA asked the club to change the green.
'Olympic is a great venue, has a wonderful history of national championships and it's a fine golf course, and the membership and the community are very much in favor of having the Open there,' Driver said. 'We're pleased with the changes they made at the golf course in terms of opening it up for air movement. But we don't
dictate changes in the golf course usually as a condition for having the Open.'
Olympic's Lake Course opened in 1927 and has hosted nine USGA championships, including the U.S. Junior Amateur last year.
When he's playing well, Fred Funk enjoys mingling with the gallery, and his fun was on display during his final practice round Wednesday.
He went to the 18th tee well ahead of his playing partners, and when the marshals continued to allow fans to use the crosswalk about 150 yards up the fairway, Funk jokingly acted annoyed. Then he took out his driver and punched his ball just short of where they were walking.
'I like having fun and letting them realize they're appreciated out there and they're recognized,' Funk said. 'When I'm like that, that's when I'm playing my best, too, when I'm having fun with the gallery. Sometimes, you're so frustrated or so focused you don't interact as much, and you can't turn it on and off sometimes when the gun sounds.'
Assuming he's on form, the winner of this year's Players Championship should have little trouble keeping his ball in play, a premium in every U.S. Open. He leads the PGA Tour in driving accuracy, hitting 76 percent of the fairways, and several players have mentioned him as one of the favorites.
Funk finished sixth last year at Shinnecock Hills.
'I would believe I would be one of the favorites if I'm playing as good as I can off the tee,' he said. 'If I'm hitting the ball solid off the tee and hitting it as straight as I normally do, I can be in the fairway a little bit more often than some of the other guys. Then if I can do the other part of my game, it'll just give me ... more options to get in the green and have some scoring opportunities.'
It isn't quite the winter rules most golfers find at their local muni, but the USGA will allow players to move their ball this week if it's within two club lengths of a sprinkler that also is within two club lengths of the green.
'That's a standard local rule, and we have looked at it here and we think that there are positions around the greens where if we did not give that customary relief, you would take away one of the options that the players might otherwise have,' said Walter Driver, the president of the U.S. Championship Committee. 'We want them to have the option around the green of putting, using the fairway wood, bumping the ball into the hill or taking a wedge and trying any of those shots they want.'
The same relief won't be available from the areas around the putting surfaces sodded recently. A few players have complained about the inconsistency of this grass, but Driver isn't worried. 'Generally, we think it's fine,' he said. 'Those have been closely mowed, rolled. And most of those areas we think will play without any difficultly for the players, although we recognize that it's not going to be perfect. But we think it's very playable.'
GETTING IN SHAPE:
Pinehurst Resort, home of the famed No. 2 course, will open a golf fitness lab at its learning center in conjunction with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, giving players a chance to study how their conditioning affects their swing.
'Pinehurst has spent years developing a teaching method personalized to each golfer -- regardless of the equipment they use,' said Matt Massei, director of golf at the resort. '... We've created a total golf education approach that can't be found at another golf resort. It is a groundbreaking step.'
Cost of the new fitness lab range from $25 for a swing mechanics evaluation to $950 for a full swing and fitness test, a 3- or 4-hour program including biomechanics testing, exercise review and swing instruction.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.