Q. Some players have said this week that this course does not put a premium on length. How has your length been an advantage these two days for you?
BUBBA WATSON: You know, I'm hitting 5- and 6-irons on some of the par-4s off the tee. That's a little bit easier to hit than somebody hitting a 3-iron or 2-iron or 3-wood or 5-wood.
The hole that everybody has been talking about, No. 8, I'm hitting 3-iron both days and not having a problem with it. So, I mean, you could say it's helping me a little bit. Just I can hit shorter clubs into some of these holes and maybe hit it a little bit higher to stop it. Just happy to hit 'em straight right now.
Bad putting is due more to the effect the green has upon the player than it has upon the action of the ball. BOBBY JONES
Here's a beautiful post round exchange between Tom Pernice and a scribbler...
Q. Do you see the USGA in some ways as kind of the last guardian of the game? There's a struggle between the modern power player and the old guard, and I know they feel as though the emphasis on hitting fairways has been lessened at the professional level. Do you see them as the last sort of guardian and do you agree with that position?
Yes, the last guardian would use a golf course to mask increased driving distances! Oh Tom, your answer...
TOM PERNICE, JR.: Well, it's almost Oakmont. I don't know that it's USGA. Their fairways average 26 or 27 yards wide here with probably the most severe bunkering of any course you'll ever play, so let alone the rough. The fairway bunkering and 28-yard wide fairways, I'm a firm believer if the tour average was the same, you'd see some similarities.
I think it's Oakmont. What they are notorious for is building a hard golf course and having their golf course play hard. They got it there. And obviously the USGA has come in and thickened the rough, which is another added feature. It would still be a difficult golf course if the conditions were like this and firm and fast without the thick rough.But I think the narrowing of the fairways and the very difficult fairway bunkers in itself is doing it, not so much the USGA. I think the USGA is trying to set the golf course up where you can play it, but it's tough to play. You have a lot of contouring and slope on the fairways and it makes it difficult, 26, 27 yards wide.
Q. Gives guys a fighting chance versus guys who can put it out there at 320?
Right. Again, use the golf course to regulate equipment. I love this guy! How about netting at 320 to stop those buggers!
TOM PERNICE, JR.: No question it's a positioning golf course. You have to maneuver the ball, hit 3-wood, 5-woods, 2-irons where you can and where you need to and you need a specific strategy and more importantly you have to have control of the golf ball.
I suppose because it's a nuanced issue that would actually require some thought and consideration, a lot of people are going to shrug off Phil Mickelson's rough-induced-wrist-injury comments both on Golf Channel Wednesday night and after his round today.
There was the irony (or ignorance?) of the injury-plagued Johnny Miller blowing off Phil's remarks as the product of mistaken overpracticing. There was also the remainder of the NBC crew chiming in with a similar attitude, disregarding the fact David Howell also pulled out this week with a rough-induced injury. They also suggested this is typical of the U.S. Open, but is it?
Sure, like other years, this rough is a man-made hazard harvested to keep scores in check at apparently any cost.
But don't forget that the USGA's Mike Davis ordered that the rough cut be lowered to a unprecedented low of 2 3/4 inches prior to this week because it was so dense. There were plenty of other reports leading into the event about how unusually thick the grass was.
It's one thing for Mother Nature to leave a course so lush that such injuries are possible, but we know that the Oakmont mentality is in love with the idea of making the player suffer with over-the-top conditions.
So I find it shocking that there seems to be so little consideration that just maybe Phil has a legitimate point about the efforts to grow such dense rough and the possible impact on the players.
"I wasn't out there practicing out of the rough from the fairway, I was practicing around the greens"
Mickelson, after the second round, in spite of a rally kill attempt...
Q. The injury and not be being able to prepare the way you wanted to and not being able to practice the way you wanted to?Rally kill here...and then...
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it's disappointing to dream as a kid about winning the U.S. Open and spend all this time getting ready for it and have the course setup, injury, you know? To think that the end of this tournament -- you're trying to win and hit great shots but you're also trying to not end your career on one shot, which -- or at least suspend it for a while. That's a little disappointing, yeah.
Q. The U.S. Open, as big as it is, is it disappointing the way they decide to go, the way they went the last few years?
PHIL MICKELSON: That's not for me to say. I know they're doing the best they can, they are. They're doing the best they can -- they're doing all they can.
Q. Would you reevaluate your preparation for the majors?
PHIL MICKELSON: Absolutely, I'm going to have to change things. This really was dangerous doing what I did because the rough was twice as long and I thought that they may play it like that, and certainly with this liquid fertilizer and these new machines that make the grass suck straight up it absolutely is dangerous.
The first practice round on Monday, Jim Weathers had 6 other appointments, people hurting their ribs, their back, their wrists, it's dangerous, it really is. You've got 5 or 6-inch rough and you can only get a wedge in there, what good is it to practice?
Q. You're going to have to hit a high-lot of, club, right?
PHIL MICKELSON: I wasn't out there practicing out of the rough from the fairway, I was practicing around the greens so those are shots everybody is going to have.
Andy North and Mike Tirico just had a good laugh about their 2:47 over-under bet on when no one would be left under par. Nick Dougherty fell to even par at 2:48!
USOpen.com is working swimmingly today, with all the stats in full view including for the first time (I believe), we can see the dreaded "cost of rough" stat. Check out No. 9's cost of rough today and the GIR's on No. 12!
At midday Friday, it sure sounds like the announcers are sensing that conditions are teetering on the edge.
Chris Berman mentioned three times that the maintenance staff had a look in their eyes and made comments yesterday evening that implied they were going to ratcheted things up. He didn't seem to mention it with great admiration by the third time as scores were sky rocketing.
USGA Executive Director David Fay was called in at around 12:30 to talk about things.
"Just to clarify, the golf course conditions, the conditions irrespective of the wind, are back to where they were during the practice rounds. That's the setting."He noted that everything maintenance wise is "done under tight controls."
"Right now it's set up the way we want it."
Key words: right now.
Meanwhile one announcer thought all was okay.
Andy North: "It's definitely fair." "Terrific US Open golf."
A second story considers the plight of Scott Cook, who will be impacted by a reservoir project that will provide more water for the town and future Bandon courses.
Yes, that's how desperate The Donald is to get in bed with the PGA Tour.
Scott Hamilton talks to Trump about his possible interest in taking over the failed Running Horse project and securing a "Fall Finish" event.
“I build real large buildings and we’ve had some great success in golf,” Trump said. “But I don’t want to be a Club Corp – I just want to have great courses. . . . I’m only looking to do the really prestigious courses. I think we could make (Running Horse) that, but it’s still got a long way to go."
I missed most of the afternoon but did get in front of a television to notice that the Mickelson-Scott-Furyk group wrapped up at 7:08 EST, a swift 5:32 after they teed off.
Here is the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Gerry Dulac's game story. Lawrence Donegan offers the UK angle.
Doug Ferguson (I think) looks at Tiger's solid opening round.
For stats, the Pittsburgh Tribune Review offers numbers from key players as well as the leaders in various categories after day 1, including some course stats.
And because USOpen.com aspires to provide as little substantial information as possible, we'll lean on Ed Patterman who is blogging at Golfobserver for some stats that are I can't seem to find on the official site.
-- There were only two eagles all day - both of them HOLE OUTS on Par 4's (11 and 14).Robert Dvorchak at the Post-Gazette offers this note...
-- After 156 Players had played the 477 yard par 4 9th hole, only 3 made birdie. More birdies (4) were made on the 288 par 3 hole.
-- Speaking of which, only 1 out of 3 players hit the 288 Yard Par 3 green in regulation. The stroke average on the hole was 3.539.
-- For the day, 55.9% of all greens were hit in regulation.
-- The field also hit 56.2% of all fairways.
-- The 18th Hole was the most difficult in relation to par, averaging 4.638 strokes.
-- The par 5 4th Hole was the easiest hole, averaging 4.974 strokes.
-- Only two of the Top Ten Players in driving distance are currently in the Top 100 in the tournament standings - Aaron Baddeley (24th) and Jason Dufner (7th),
While the USGA customarily uses yellow flags atop the pins at U.S. Opens, this week red flags adorn the pins. The reason?William Wolfrum noted the USOpen.com web troubles.
Mike Davis, the USGA senior director of rules and competition went to the USGA and requested the change because red is the color Oakmont uses during everyday, regular play.
USOpen.com's Ken Klavon offers an utterly useless explanation about the web site crash, which means there's a juicy story behind it!
With deepest of regrets, we apologize for various site issues we experienced today. Without getting into great detail, the issues were completely out of our hands. It wouldn't be fair to point fingers and the like.John Huggan helps us get to know Nick Dougherty better.
B.J. Lisko in the Salem News found the scribblers questioning of players to be uh, lacking. And you think I'm tough!
Tuesday’s press conferences which included Woods, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Johnny Miller and a few others was another exercise in futility. What’s most remarkable about the conferences is how completely clueless and dumfounded the golf media truly is. There are a few exceptions — regulars like Doug Ferguson of the Associated Press, and a few scattered writers for some of the larger golf publications — but the majority are no more than windbags that aren’t even in physical shape enough to walk the course. They sit in the media tent, watch the monitors, then ask third-grade level questions while the pros blankly stare back and try to come up with something resembling an answer to easily some of the dumbest inquiries ever uttered.He goes on to share real questions and pose appropriately sarcastic answers.
The Irish Independent--that would be from the same country that gave us The K Club as a Ryder Cup venue--does not like the quirkiness of Oakmont's practice green/9th green. Surely there is another practice putting green on the property?
The practice putting green at Oakmont is not up to the standard one expects at a Major Championship.And Simon Bruty's Golf.com shot of Phil Mickelson pretty much sums up Lefty's day:
An extension of Oakmont's ninth green, this practice area is simply inadequate, while crowds of players preparing for their tee times were an obvious distraction to many attempting to finish out the ninth hole yesterday.
Pádraig Harrington, Ernie Els and Graeme McDowell were but three of many who had practicing players working a couple of yards behind them as they lined up their putts at nine yesterday.
The Dubliner missed his birdie attempt as did Els minutes later. Though neither made an issue of it, the situation was utterly surreal.
McDowell later complained that the practice green itself "is really disappointing. I have not been able to get any work done on it at all.
"There is not enough room there at the back of the ninth green to get a feel for these things."
Thanks to reader Mike for finding Dottie Pepper's SI Golf Plus column on Michelle Wie. I think it's safe to say that Dottie will not be hired as Wie's guidance counselor.
Given a chance to apologize or at least justify the contradictions, Wie reacted defiantly. Instead of becoming the great player and professional that she has shown the potential to become, Michelle has shown disrespect (especially over the last two weeks) for the game and its traditions.
For the first time she came across as a selfcentered, unapologetic brat.
The LPGA could have handled the withdrawal better. Admitting that the tour needs Michelle and the attention she brings is no crime, but not being truthful about the initial conversations surrounding the WD was improper.
The LPGA is not the source of the problem, though. That, sadly, is the greed and short-sightedness of the two people closest to Michelle, the people charged with molding her into a complete, independent and responsible person: B.J. and her mother, Bo.
The Wies used to be open to the media and the golf world in general. Now they operate under a veil of secrecy and deception, even though they are surrounded by good people giving good advice, which they simply ignore.
The fact that it took four months to admit she had a broken left wrist (which happened when Michelle fell while jogging) should tell everyone that there is something horribly wrong with this picture. With multimillion-dollar contracts to consider, there's pressure on the Wies, both for Michelle to get back on the course and to preserve her playing privileges.
But what about the big picture? Kids trip and fall. So what? Sponsors understand that. Contracts can be adjusted. What can't be recovered so easily is a childhood that's not only been tarnished but also stolen.
Well I'm heading out and will post later, but so far a pretty uneventful morning. Phil looks dicey to finish his round, which is a shame. Hopefully no one else will get hurt.
In the meantime, feel free to comment away on rounds or stories you see that would be of interest!
In Kenneth Weiss' story on the California Coastal Commission's rejection of the proposed Pebble Beach expansion, he writes:
Ueberroth and other company officials asserted that some development is needed to help Pebble Beach's 130 investors — including Tiger Woods — make a reasonable return, pay for upkeep on the peninsula's famed 17-Mile Drive and meet other expenses.
Is this well known? I don't recall reading this anywhere?
I've switched the left column link to PGATour.com's joint board with PGA.com because the ESPN.com/USGA leaderboard has been working sporadically.
**8:20 PST Wow, the others were even worse. GolfChannel had Ogilvy through 8 holes when he had played 11, and PGA.com had him through 3 at the same point.
Meanwhile USOpen.com seems to be working now.
*** 8:25 - USOpen.com not working again.
At 8:50, the homepage of USOpen.com...
AP's Nancy Armour (uh, any relation to Tommy?) reports on Wednesday evening's ugly thunderstorm.
Nearly a half-inch of rain fell during a Wednesday afternoon thunderstorm that also scattered tree limbs and twigs across fairways. But crews were out as soon as the rain stopped, and officials hope the course won't play significantly different Thursday.
Speed of the greens should be the same, said Tim Moraghan, the U.S. Golf Association's agronomist, but firmness could be affected.
"It's not going to be what we planned for," Moraghan said. "Things were moving along quite well (before the storm). We thought we'd have a true, hard test for players on Thursday. The rain has altered this a little bit.
"We're going to try and do everything we can to get the golf course back to where it was before this little rain."
Lorne Rubenstein loves that Oakmont does not try to hide from its neighbors and notes eloquently that the best places in golf embrace their surroundings.
You feel it as soon as you approach the club along Hulton Road, which winds along a slight slope past modest homes and a few lavish, older homes. But nothing shouts at the visitor who approaches Oakmont, which simply emerges out of the neighborhood, adjacent to the Presbyterian Senior Care home.
This feeling should be a part of the game everywhere. The Old Course in St. Andrews is often called the mother of all courses because of the influence it's had on design. It's not even a club as we think of a club on this side of the pond. It's a course, a public course, although most people know that the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews has its clubhouse there. The R&A is private, the course is public. It's the mother of the notion that golf is a welcoming game, not an exclusionary one.
USOpen.com asks various inkslingers who they like to win the US Open. Plenty of Furyk, Goosen and Tiger picks. Oh and one Martin Laird from John Huggan. Looks like the heat's already gone to someone's head.
E. Michael Johnson takes a fascinating look at what players were using in 1994.
Consider that Ernie Els won that major using a Callaway Big Bertha War Bird driver about half the size of the driver he uses today.
Needless to say, golf equipment was a bit different back then.
At Oakmont that year, Phil Mickelson and Wayne Levi were considered cutting edge with their all-graphite Yonex drivers, as was Hale Irwin for using a set of oversize, cavity-back King Cobra irons. Of course, with 23 players still swinging persimmon drivers, anything remotely out of the ordinary was deemed "out there."
Grant Boone previews the U.S. Open in his own unique TMI-way, but eventually drops this beauty:
Marriage counseling is a lot like a U.S. Open. It has a way of laying you uncomfortably bare but leaving you with a much better idea of who the two of you are and what needs work. Not much fun but ultimately rewarding.
Ron Green Jr. blogs:
Interesting scene on the practice tee Wednesday – Vijay Singh warming up while talking to Chi Chi Rodriguez, who was wearing a black leather jacket despite temperatures in the low 80s.
And just think, he's wearing two hats too!
After hearing Walter Driver urge writers to go check out the tents for the USGA's new presenting sponsors, USOpen.com's David Shefter remembered who might tamper with his paycheck,
plugging blogging an item that will surely earn him a big thank you from USGA CMO Barry Hyde, but probably not a Lexus courtesy car:
I also stopped by the U.S. Open Experience presented by American Express. A very nice set-up with displays from future U.S. Open sites replete with memorabilia from the USGA Museum and videos of past events held at those clubs. You can even test your knowledge with an interactive Rules quiz, and check out a my leaderboard handheld PDA device that keeps you up-to-date with scores during the championship. You can even sign up to become a USGA Member.
According to our USGA folks, more than 11,000 people had gone through the tent over the first two practice-round days. You can only expect those numbers to go way up over the next four days.
Right next door is the Lexus tent, where spectators can pose with a replica of the U.S. Open trophy. Hey, if you can't win the U.S. Open, at least make it look you did. Needless to say, there was a healthy line for that exhibit.
What was really cool was I walked up the fairway of No. 9, the majestic front-side finishing hole here. It's fairly steep uphill for about 100 yards, then gradually inclines to the large square green. It's neat to walk up over the first hill and see the clubhouse, in its classic green and white, come into view. I can imagine what it will be like for players here tomorrow to do that. Author John Feinstein (channeling Mark Twain) called it "A Great Walk Spoiled." That's often correct.
Uh, not in this case.
Candid remarks from Arnold Palmer Wednesday at Oakmont:
I've been talking to some of the guys that have been out there and I've talked to some of the former champions that have been out there on the golf course. And they tell me that this field -- and this is just an observation, that this field is not really ready for Oakmont. I say "the field" and I'm generalizing. I think probably what they were telling me is that they haven't really learned yet how to play Oakmont. And they may do that in the next couple days.And an update on the new museum at Far Hills...for Arnold:
RAND JERRIS: I want to ask you if you could share some thoughts with us about a project that's important to me and I hope important to you as well, which is the Arnold Palmer Center For Golf History which we're building in Far Hills, and it will be open about a year from now.
ARNOLD PALMER: I think some of you know, maybe you don't know that the U.S. Open has started construction on the Arnold Palmer Museum For Golf History and Memorabilia. It will be opening in June of '08?
RAND JERRIS: Yes, sir.
I've been searching for anything fun but apparently the photographers are saving their energy for the expected weekend heat. Therefore, courtesy of GolfChannel.com, because he's easy...
Phil: "This golf course is a physical hazard to the players. I don't think that that has been very well thought out."
Another excellent edition of Golf Channel's Pre-Game U.S. Open coverage featured the usual gang (Kann, Pepper, Nobilo, Oosterhuis, Lerner) stepping up to the plate with fresh insights into the field and course, with colorful (literally) reports from Marty Hackel and a fun look inside the Pirates' ballpark.
But it was all highlighted by the Steve Sands interview with an obviously perturbed Phil Mickelson.
One comment from Phil was notable for its honesty and accuracy, the other just a sign of these wacky times.
Sands: You nervous at all...about the wrist?
Mickelson: I'm uncertain whether or not it's going to hold up on some of the shots out of the rough. It's been hurt in this rough before. Yesterday, 5, 6 people got hurt that Jim Weathers had to go work on. I think this golf course is a physical hazard to the players. I don't think that that has been very well thought out. So I think every player should be concerned--not just me--when they hit a shot in the rough.
I know I've shared my bias on this as someone who had a wrist injury and as someone who finds it pitiful that rough is harvested like a crop so grown men can compensate for some mysteriously vacant portion of their golfing soul that believes this torture rewards skill, but isn't there something seriously wrong with the game when antics like rough-on-steroids could impact our national championship and potential damage the well-being of a player and his career?
Anyway, here's the part where the modern player mentality of having consistent greens throughout the course is a bit hard for me to relate to. Continuing on after his comments about the rough...
Mickelson: This has forced me to prepare on the greens. Pelz and I have been out here on the greens this weekend, I feel like I have a good concept of how the putts break but also the speeds. You know the speeds have fluctuated tremendously from green to green. And I know they're doing the best, but they do the same thing to each green. They cut it the same height, roll it the same for every green. Well that's just ridiculous because you have greens that are high that are more exposed and get more wind and greens that are low that get a lot more moisture, so the fluctuation in the greens have been up to four and half feet from the fastest to the slowest. And so I think guys are going to struggle and I think that on the greens I may have an advantage knowing what the actual green speed is.
I guess this is where I would say to Phil that you knowing the varying speeds of each green is a cool thing and that attempts to make speeds uniform would be more contrived than what's out there now.
In Jon Show's Sports Business Journal story on the USGA's deals with Lexus and AmEx, he writes:
In addition to Miller¹s activities, Lexus is offering a swing simulator at its vehicle display tent that lets fans take shots on a computer-generated Oakmont course. Any fan hitting a hole-in-one will win a new Lexus LS 600h L. Visitors to the tent can also have their photo taken with a full-sized replica of the U.S. Open trophy that will be posted to www.MyOwnPursuit.com, a site being created by Lexus for the feature.So naturally, the USGA President's press conference had to include a pseudo plug for the new sponsor's pavillion.
If you haven't been there, I would urge each of you to go across the Turnpike and go up to the main entrance and see all of that and the things that are available for the spectators as they come in. They can have their picture taken with a replica of the U.S. Open trophy. I understand there were 6,000 people in line to do that yesterday. So you might want to time your visit at some low point in the crowd, but I'm not sure when that is going to be.Synergy baby. Brand those platforms. Or is that platforming the brand? Or synergized cross-pollination? Eh, anyway...
Q. This is for Walter and/or David. Johnny Miller came in yesterday and said he thought that this was the -- I think he said, "Greatest golf course in the world right now." I'm interested in your reaction to that, and do you agree with that? I know you have other courses in your rotation.
WALTER DRIVER: I was told when I took this job that saying anything negative about any golf course was like insulting someone's spouse, and you better not do that.
So I think this is a great golf course. As to comparing it to other golf courses. I'm not going to go there, but this is one of the great golf courses in the United States without any question.
DAVID FAY: By the way, the first person to make that comment about insulting one's spouse, Charles Blair McDonald. I've got to get that plug in.
Yeah, right. Sigh.
Well, we'll let this one slide. He didn't say anything about spouses, but it was the thought that counted.