Oakmont Not From The Tips

By Brian HewittMay 5, 2007, 4:00 pm
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
Getty Images

Woods on firing shot into crowd: 'I kept moving them back'

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 3:14 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – It added up to another even-par round, but Tiger Woods had an eventful Friday at The Open.

His adventure started on the second hole, when he wiped a drive into the right rough. Standing awkwardly on the side of a mound, he prepared for a quick hook but instead fired one into the crowd that was hovering near the rope line.

“I kept moving them back,” he said. “I moved them back about 40 yards. I was trying to play for the grass to wrap the shaft around there and hit it left, and I was just trying to hold the face open as much as I possibly could. It grabbed the shaft and smothered it.

“I was very, very fortunate that I got far enough down there where I had a full wedge into the green.”

Woods bogeyed the hole, one of four on the day, and carded four birdies in his round of 71 at Carnoustie. When he walked off the course, he was in a tie for 30th, six shots off the clubhouse lead.

It’s the first time in five years – since the 2013 Open – that Woods has opened a major with consecutive rounds of par or better. He went on to tie for sixth that year at Muirfield.

Getty Images

Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 2:30 pm

Tiger Woods shot his second consecutive 70 on Friday at Carnoustie and enters weekend play at even par for the championship, still in contention for major No. 15.


Getty Images

Scott and Sunesson a one-week partnership

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 2:13 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Adam Scott has been in between caddies for the last month and went with a bold stand-in for this week’s Open Championship, coaxing veteran looper Fanny Sunesson out of retirement to work for him at Carnoustie.

Sunesson caddied for Nick Faldo in his prime, as the duo won four major titles together. She also worked for Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia before a back injury forced her to retire.

But for this week’s championship, Scott convinced the Swede to return to the caddie corps. The results have been impressive, with the Australian following an opening 71 with a second-round 70 for a tie for 16th place.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“It's been going great. Fanny is, obviously, a fantastic caddie, and to be able to have that experience out there with me is certainly comforting,” Scott said. “We've gotten along really well. She's picked up on my game quickly, and I think we think about things in a very similar way.”

Scott was also asked about a potential long-term partnership between the duo, but he didn’t sound hopeful.

“It's just for this week,” he said. “It would be up to her, but I don't think she's making plans of a comeback. I was being a bit opportunistic in contacting her and coaxing her out of retirement, I guess. But I think she's having a good week. We'll just take it one week at the moment.”

Getty Images

After tense Augusta Sunday, Rory ready to be aggressive

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 1:51 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy temporarily lost his superpowers during the Masters.  

In one of the most surprising rounds of the year, he played tentatively and carefully during the final day. Squaring off against the major-less Patrick Reed, on the brink of history, with the backing of nearly the entire crowd, it was McIlroy who shrank in the moment, who looked like the one searching for validation. He shot a joyless 74 and wound up six shots behind Reed.

No, the final round was nowhere near as dispiriting as the finale in 2011, but McIlroy still sulked the following week. He binge-watched TV shows. Devoured a few books. Guzzled a couple of bottles of wine. His pity party lasted a few days, until his wife, Erica, finally dragged him out of the house for a walk.

Some deeper introspection was required, and McIlroy revealed a healthier self-analysis Friday at Carnoustie. He diagnosed what went wrong at Augusta, and then again two months later at the U.S. Open, where he blew himself out of the tournament with an opening 80.

“I was worrying too much about the result, not focusing on the process,” he said. “Sunday at Augusta was a big learning curve for me because, even if I hadn’t won that tournament, but I went down swinging and aggressive and committing to every shot, I would have walked away a lot happier.”


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


And so McIlroy has a new mantra this week at The Open.

Let it go.

Don’t hold back. Don’t worry about the repercussions. Don’t play scared.

“I’m committed to making sure, even if I don’t play my best golf and don’t shoot the scores I want, I’m going to go down swinging, and I’m going to go down giving my best,” he said. “The result is the byproduct of all the little things you do to lead up to that. Sometimes I’ve forgotten that, and I just need to get back in that mindset.”

It’s worked through two rounds, even after the cool, damp conditions led McIlroy to abandon his ultra-aggressive strategy. He offset a few mistakes with four birdies, shooting a second consecutive 69 to sit just a couple of shots off the lead.

During a sun-splashed first round, McIlroy gleefully banged driver on almost every hole, flying or skirting the bunkers that dot these baked-out, undulating fairways. He wasn’t particularly accurate, but he also didn’t need to be, as the thin, wispy rough enabled every player to at least advance their approach shots near the green.

Friday’s weather presented a different challenge. A steady morning rain took some of the fire out of parched fairways, but the cooler temperatures also reduced much of the bombers’ hang time. Suddenly, all of the bunkers were in play, and McIlroy needed to adjust his driver-heavy approach (he hit only six) on the fly.

“It just wasn’t worth it,” he said.

McIlroy hit a few “skanky” shots, in his words, but even his bigger misses – on the sixth and 17th holes – were on the proper side, allowing him to scramble for par and keep the round going.

It’s the fifth time in his career that he’s opened a major with back-to-back rounds in the 60s. He’s gone on to win three of the previous four – the lone exception that disastrous final round (80) at Augusta in 2011.

“I don’t want to say easy,” he said, “but it’s felt comfortable.”

The weekend gets uncomfortable for everyone, apparently even four-time major winners who, when in form, ooze confidence and swagger.

Once again McIlroy has that look at a major.

The only thing left to do?

Let it go.