Putting Phil's Frustration Into Perspective

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?

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.
Rally kill here...and then... 

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.

Midday Carnage Update

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!

2007USOpenmiddayround2 


 

"Right now it's set up the way we want it."

2007usopen_50.gifAt 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."

And...
"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."

Thursday U.S. Open Clippings: They Finished!

2007usopen_50.gifI 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.

Fun!
20070615pdusopen0614d_450.jpgHere is the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Gerry Dulac's game storyLawrence 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).

-- 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),

Robert Dvorchak at the Post-Gazette offers this note...
While the USGA customarily uses yellow flags atop the pins at U.S. Opens, this week red flags adorn the pins. The reason?

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.

William Wolfrum noted the USOpen.com web troubles.

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.

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."

And Simon Bruty's Golf.com shot of Phil Mickelson pretty much sums up Lefty's day:
 

july14_mickelsonnew__60x0x600.jpg 

 

Leaderboard Not Working?** ***

2007usopen_50.gifI'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.

Thursday's US Open Clippings: Hail Storm

2007usopen_50.gifAP'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.

And...

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.

And finally, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Jerry Micco needs to remember that Google is his friend, blogging this:

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.  

"This field is not really ready for Oakmont."

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.

Phil: "This golf course is a physical hazard to the players. I don't think that that has been very well thought out."

2007usopen_50.gifAnother 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.  

USGA Press Conference: Getting That Lexus Pavilion Plug In!

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. 

 

USGA Press Conference: What They Asked Bud Selig

2007usopen_50.gifThat's right, the inaccessible Bud Selig stopped in the US Open press center after the USGA press conference and here's what the assembled scribes peppered him with:

You must be so happy with the resurgence of the Milwaukee Brewers. Even though you are no longer their owner, how much of their great play do you believe is attributable to your wonderful leadership over the years? 

Have you had much of a negative reaction from fans about taking the 2008 All-Star Game to Yankee Stadium?

As a follow up, have you seen the plans for the new Yankee Stadium? We had Joe Torre in here earlier and he says it's going to be the best in America. Would you agree?

Joe also said the World Series is the one that most players really want to play in and win. What do you think of that assessment?

You must be excited about Barry Bonds and his chase of Hank Aaron's record? Will it be televised?

Okay, enough. You get the point. There's a USGA cover story in Golf World, injuries to two top players induced by course conditions, major questions about square grooves and USGA operations, even more major questions about next year's venue and the scribblers are asking David Fay, Walter Driver and Jim Hyler if they agree with new Lexus pitchman Johnny Miller about the brilliance of Oakmont?  

Mighty, might impressive! 

U.S.G.A. Press Conference: The Questions

Just consider the brainpower necessary to pose such thoughtful, creative and compelling questions!

 Q. I know you don't have a target score, but do you ever intentionally try to make a venue more difficult because scoring was very good, for instance, 2003 at Olympia, the last run of Opens have been more difficult; and any reaction to that?
 Q. Jim, when you set up a course for the U.S. Open, how much are you endeavoring to test the intangibles, poise, patience, maturity in addition to skill?

 Q. You mentioned the renovations, all of the trees that were taken away; one addition from '94 is the new bridge. Just your thoughts on the USGA's impact on that bridge and making it a better golf course for the gallery.

 Q. Wonder if anybody up there could respond to the idea of what reaction you're getting from players thus far, and how does the USGA define the difference between rigorous and sadistic? (Laughter)

Hardeeharhar...

 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.

 Q. Maybe my question will follow-up on that. Yesterday we heard players and Johnny Miller talk about, this is the greatest golf course, this is the hardest golf course we've ever seen. My question is, what's the correlation between something has to be the hardest golf course to be the best golf course for your purposes or can it be something less than that?

You're asking the chairman emeritus of the Rees Jones Fan Club this question?

 Q. Another thing that Johnny Miller said yesterday was he's hearing more and more players talk about how this is a tournament they love to win but sometimes hate to play and there have been some examples in the past eight years or so of events that did get across the line a little bit in certain places. Do you think this is an important week for you guys with the weather, the course conditions to prove that you can walk that fine line between fair and unfair?

 Q. Wonder, did the USGA get involved at all in any decision making on the trees and the tree removal; were you consulted, were you happy with the course in '94 the way it was?

And that helps us how? 

"There's a chance somebody with the USGA will take a look at it"

img10223160.jpgSteve Elling on Phil's wrist injury, with an interesting take on the support device he's wearing:

Mickelson received a cortisone shot last week, has been trying muscle massage, rehab therapy and various forms of stimulation to increase blood flow to the affected area, and is traveling with a shaman of sorts, former Green Beret Jim Weathers, whose business card lists him as "motivational speaker, shiatsu master and reflexologist."

The wrist is so iffy that doctors ordered Mickelson not to practice, sign autographs or participate in any "strenuous workouts." (Note to Tiger Woods fans: Insert punchline here).

Facts are, the Open isn't a place you come when you are nursing a hand injury -- it's a place you leave with one. Witness Woods at Shinnecock in 1995, when he hit a ball into the high rough, tweaked a wrist while hacking out of the hay, and had to withdraw.

Mickelson might face another uncomfortable hurdle, as in whether the wrist wrap is copacetic in the eyes of the golf rulebook. USGA rules official John Morrissett said Tuesday that he had not inspected the wrap Lefty is wearing, but said it appeared to be made of an "Ace bandage material with no rigid parts." Players are prohibited from using swing-aids and devices designed to restrict wrist movement.

The bandage covers part of Mickelson's left thumb, the back of his hand and encircles his entire wrist. Clearly, taping the wrist is intended to keep Mickelson from further straining the injury and any swing benefit would not be his directed intent. Mickelson joked there could be a crossover effect.

"I would say this will help me keep it one shot at a time, and this brace will help me alleviate any extra wrist break at the top of the swing that I may have," he said.

Then Mickelson turned to a nearby USGA media official and cracked, "Is it OK if I use this (bandage) now that I said that?"

Let's not dismiss it with a flip of the wrist. Morrissett said the bandage "doesn't appear to inhibit movement in the wrist," though it will likely restrict and support it to some degree. Otherwise, why wear it at all? Mickelson even indicated he would tighten the bandage before hitting shots.

"There's a chance somebody with the USGA will take a look at it," Morrissett said.

Okay rules aficionados, what do you think? 

Wednesday's Open Clippings: Phil's Wrist

2007usopen_50.gifThankfully no one hurt themselves Tuesday, but the boys sure had plenty to say about the course and setup.

John Huggan shares thoughts on the setup and several player reactions.

Has Oakmont, almost universally feared and revered as the toughest, most brutal and most unforgiving track on the US Open rota, been prepared in a way that will allow the best to prosper? Or has the USGA blindly done what it normally does and eliminated any semblance of strategy and flair in a misguided effort to make America's national championship 'fair,' while at the same time producing a winning score some way north of par?

Sadly, the initial signs are that the latter policy has yet again reared its tedious head.  

Monty tabs a local Oakmont looper to suffer for four days with him (well...assuming he doesn't fire him too).

Josh Massoud talks to Adam Scott, who has some interesting thoughts on the setup.

But Scott said the experts had confused greatness for toughness.

"That's not what the game is about. It's got to be fair in every area. I think everyone is so hung up with par; there's an obsession with par. If you put the world's best players on a golf course, they should be able to break par."

Rick Starr looks at the 12 amateurs in the field.

This AP story summarizes Johnny Miller's Tuesday press conference remarks.

Furman Bisher says things have never been better at the USGA under Walter Driver, and cites the Shinnecock Hills U.S. Open under Driver's Championship Committee watch as evidence of how Driver gets an unfair rap.

Driver was chairman of the USGA’s competition committee, which means the responsibility of setting up the course was his. “His arid setup,” as Golf World phrases it, “was an embarrassment,” a term to be questioned.

“Arid” refers to the rain which was forecast, but didn’t fall, and the winds which dried out the greens. Curses to the competition chairman.

Wow, I guess Google hasn't made it to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Rain in the forecast? Oy...

And finally, back on the planet earth, Craig Dolch blogs about the day's interviews and the demise of the scrum.

And finally, the USA Today's Joe Saraceno writes one of those so-over-the-top-it's-funny columns about Tiger's impending fatherhood.

A Few More Tuesday Clippings

2007usopen_50.gifThe John and Sherrie Daly matter is getting downright ugly.

In lighter news, Steve Elling looks at Oakmont's 8th and wonders if the USGA's 288-yard setup is within reason.

At 7,230 yards, the course isn't punitively long by modern standards, but the crazy eighth should generate a cacophony of complaints. From the back tee, the 288-yard par 3 is the longest in U.S. Open history -- funny how that general theme is repeated each June in some respect -- and stands an attention-getting round-wrecker.

Moreover, if the USGA set-up sadists put the flagstick on the back of the green, the hole can measure an intimidating 300 yards. Mind you, technology gains or not, the average driving distance on the PGA Tour is 285.1 yards.

In other words, this hole, as they used to say in the mills hereabouts, will separate the steel from the slag. Pittsburgh has morphed into Titanium Town.

And this from Phil Mickelson...

 "I love the hole because, in architecture -- and I've been slowly getting into architecture -- the longest par 3 you ever see is about 240 or 250 yards, and the shortest par 4 is about 330," Phil Mickelson said. "There's 80 or 90 yards there, where you don't know what to call them." 

Scott Michaux weighs in on the tree removal with this.

Ford says that the greatest irony of it all is the fact that the same course architect who oversaw the conclusion of Oakmont's deforestation project is the same one resembling Johnny Appleseed with mature trees cropping up all over Augusta National Golf Club.

"It's very coincidental that Tom Fazio is our architect who help cut them all down and he's the architect at Augusta National and they're planting trees," Ford said. "It's pretty wild, isn't it?"

It's quite a lark considering that Augusta National played the defining role in Oakmont's shaded canopy era to begin with.

"If it weren't for Augusta, we never would have planted the trees in the first place," said Ford.

Mike Dudurich explores some of the wild and weird occurrences on the wonderful short 17th. He also has this interesting playing strategy from Phil Mickelson, who you may recall, bungled Riviera's 10th earlier this year with a similarly peculiar approach.

It looks like the majority will play aggressively on the 17th. At least that's what the No. 2 player in the world, Phil Mickelson, is thinking.

"You drive it up the left of the 17th fairway and then we'll see how thick that rough is," Mickelson said. "I had a tough time hitting the green with a wedge out of there. But it's still the play, hitting it over there because it takes bogey out of play. If you don't hit a driver, you're risking a five. I'll be trying to hit it in the left rough if the pin's in the back right or in the "Big Mouth" bunker if it's front left." 

Rory Sabbatini's philosophy is even more confusing:

"Take out the driver and go for the green," the South African said without hesitation. "The rough front left of the green is the thickest on the golf course. I think you only make things more difficult on yourself if you lay up in the fairway."

Ok! Whatever floats your boat.

Questions For Walter Driver

Scribblers: food for thought for Wednesday's sitdown with USGA President Walter Driver and Executive Director David Fay. Naturally, it quick read of Chris Millard's Golf World cover story would be wise preparation for the news conference (though my press room sources noted that it was conspicously absent from the toilet reading giveaway table).

  • In the recent Golf World profile, you stated that one of the roadblocks to a COR rollback would have been the formulation of some sort of compensation program for golfers who owned to-be-illegal clubs that had been manufactured and purchased in good faith. Yet on the issue of square grooves, the same good faith manufacture and purchase was the case, yet the USGA plans to change the rules on grooves without any announced form of rebate or return program. Will you be looking at some sort of compensation program for golfers to replace their illegal clubs purchased in good faith?
  • Five years ago the USGA was annually depositing $10-15 million in reserve accounts, but last year the organization added two corporate sponsors and lost $6 million. In light of the R&A making an announcement yesterday that they netted nearly $18 million (US) in 2006, what specifically in the last five years has led to such a drastic change in the financial picture?
  • Follow up: why did the USGA championships cost an additional $32 million to operate in 2006?
  • The R&A, since becoming independent of the golf club, now makes an annual announcement about its financial condition. Why doesn't the USGA do the same thing?
  • Regarding your use of a private jet which you defended by saying it was suggested by the past presidents, you responded to those saying it was inappropriate that you and future presidents won't do "those things." Could you elaborate on "those things" and why they are important to the game. And perhaps you could also give some specific examples of trips on the jet to help us better understand "those things"?
  • In Tod Leonard's story on the dual role that Executive Committee members Cameron Jay Rains plays in serving on the committee while personally profiting from the 2008 U.S. Open head of the Friends of Torrey Pines, you responded to conflict of interest questions by saying, "Doesn't work that way."  Could you elaborate on why this is the case when the story reveals that Mr. Rains will actually be the direct beneficiary of a payment from the USGA?

  • With apologies to Colbert...Golf World, a great golf publication, or the greatest golf publication?

Tuesday Open Clippings: Another Wrist Injury

2007usopen_50.gifDavid Howell, making his comeback at the U.S. Open after a back injury "hurt his wrist practising and confirmed today that he won't play."

Meanwhile the first high-profile Oakmont casualty is not hitting many balls, according to Gerry Dulac on the Post-Gazette blog: 

It's beginning to look as though Phil Mickelson's wrist injury might be more bothersome than indicated. At the very least, it appears it could jeopardize his chance to be a serious contender in the 107th U.S. Open.

The world's No. 2 player, who has withdrawn from the past two PGA Tour events, did not play a practice round yesterday on the first day for spectators at Oakmont Country Club -- the third day in a row he has failed to play because of an injury to his left wrist.

Mickelson hit approximately 30 balls on the practice range and spent nearly 45 minutes on the putting green. But he never hit a full shot on the range -- he hit his driver once -- and never went on the course.

Mike Dudurich talks to Tommy Roy and the NBC point man likes the look of Oakmont.
"The final four holes at Winged Foot were long, hard par-4s that nobody could distinguish one from another," Roy said after a production meeting before the start of The Players Championship in May. "At Oakmont, there are some drastically different holes. There are holes that are very recognizable, I think."
And for those of you betting that Johnny will sob when NBC does the inevitable 63 feature, think again.
Roy said NBC won't be doing any major coverage about Miller's history at Oakmont, including his record 63 in the final round in 1973.

"We've pretty much made the decision that I think Johnny is going to get so much attention by newspapers, TV stations and magazines, the Internet -- you name it -- we're not going to do a big blowout feature on him, because I don't think it's going to be necessary," Roy said.

According to Julian Taylor, Sandy Lyle thinks Monty's got a great chance. Hey, if he doesn't hurt his wrist, I might be inclined to agree.

Monty's future biographer, John Huggan, recalls his red and chubby cheeks in 1994 (Monty's, not Huggies!).

While Alistair Tait says Monty's pretty much lost his mind after firing his caddy following a poor showing at the Austrian Open. That's the Monty we know and love!

Jason Sobel at ESPN.com looks at the correlation between high scoring at majors and the governing bodies who run them while also having done a lousy job regulating distance. It's interesting to see this connection made more often than ever.
Everywhere, that is, except at golf's four majors, where demanding, devious, deceitful course setups have never been more en vogue.

"I think the people who set the courses up use that technology debate as their reasoning for making the courses harder," said 2004 British Open champion Todd Hamilton. "Their reasoning is, 'Well, you guys are hitting shorter clubs in, so we can make the greens harder and faster.'"

And this... 
Even Woods, whose four most recent major victories have all seen numbers under par into the double-digits -- 2006 PGA (18-under); 2006 British (18-under); 2005 British (14-under); and 2005 Masters (12-under) -- acknowledges that red numbers shouldn't be so tough to come by in the four biggies.

Finally, Ron Green Jr. confirms reports that Pinehurst is getting the 2014.

Questions for David Fay

To those scribblers choosing to attend the USGA's annual Wednesday press conference (and please ladies and gents, no emails that you forgot to go like last year!), here are a few questions you might consider for USGA Executive Director David Fay.  I'm sure readers will chime in with a few (please, no bowtie jokes).

  • You were very involved in making sure that the Bethpage U.S. Open benefitted the state of New York with minimal cost increase to the regular Bethpage golfer, and that was viewed as a tremendous success in virtually all regards (well, there is Rees's bungling of the 18th hole...). In light of Tod Leonard's San Diego Union Tribune story detailing losses that the city of San Diego will incur and the inconvenience to local municipal golfers, do you feel that San Diego and its golfers have been treated fairly?
  • After USGA staff benefit cuts were announced, you recommended that staff members personally write to the Executive Committee to voice their displeasure. Did you voice concerns internally about these cuts, and why did you recommend the staff members do this, possibly risking alienation or retaliation?
  • What exactly does lobbyist Powell-Tate do for the USGA and the game of golf?

  • Why has the USGA ball study taken 5 years to this point and when do you think it will be concluded?
  • And with apologies to Colbert, Brian Cashman, great GM or the greatest GM?