Two Classics From Oakmont

Bill Fields does his Darwin thing and files another enjoyable essay from Oakmont with a couple of nice anecdotes.

As part of a magazine issue that featured a number of swing sequences, I wrote LPGA Hall of Famer Mickey Wright, who was among several legendary players Golf World asked to submit their five favorite swings in golf. Less than a week after sending Wright my request, I received a handwritten response from her. Along with Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Gene Littler and Louise Suggs on Wright's list was the name of Angel Cabrera. All Wright did was win 82 tournaments and 13 majors with one of the best swings--male or female--the game has ever seen. When Cabrera seized the halfway lead at even-par 140 last week, it felt like I had a bit of insider-trading information.

The fate of that tee ball was a metaphor for the whole week: The line separating success and failure was as fine as it ever gets in golf, a skinny thread of demarcation that separated the golfers left with a headache and the one that hoisted the trophy. "I just don't like the black-and-whiteness of the guaranteed one-shot penalty for hitting it in a bad spot," said defending champion Geoff Ogilvy, who finished T-42 at 19-over 299. "But as I said, I'm frustrated, so it's a bad time to interview a player."

SI's John Garrity goes in an entirely different but most enjoyable direction with a tongue-in-cheek (I think!) chat with an Oakmont member.

I had gotten a lunchtime call from a stranger, who told me the Oakmont members were angry because their course was playing too easy. "Two guys broke par yesterday," he said. His voice cracked on the word broke. "Paul Casey just shot a 66. A 66!" This last lament was pitched so high that I pictured the Hindenburg going down in flames.

I can't say I was surprised. Look up sado masochism in the Physician's Desk Reference, and you'll find a thumbnail photo of the Oakmont clubhouse along with footnotes on Church Pew bunkers, overgrown ditches and H.C. Fownes, the Pittsburgh businessman who designed the course more than a century ago. Fownes loved his golf course the way Torquemada loved the rack, and he passed his cruel streak on to his son Bill. "The virility and charm of the game lies in its difficulties," wrote Bill Fownes. "Keep it rugged, baffling, hard to conquer. . . . Let the clumsy, the spineless and the alibi artist stand aside!"

"So what are you saying?" I asked. "That the USGA comes in and sets up Oakmont to play easier than normal?"

His hands flew up. "Do I have to spell it out for you? Who ordered our super to cut the rough over the weekend? Who made him slow the greens to 13 1/2 or 14? Who told you media guys that Oakmont would be 'tough but fair?' " Realizing that his nose had popped out of the shadows for a second, Deep Rough drew back. "Fair? Who said golf was supposed to be fair?"

Regaining his composure, he let his voice drop to a melodramatic whisper: "Follow the dandruff."