2007 U.S. Open Preview

Oakmont Country Club, the site of the 107th playing of the U.S. Open this weekend, sits about 15 miles outside of Pittsburgh, Penn., and has been open since 1903. It’s hosted seven previous U.S. Opens, three PGA Championships and five U.S. Amateur Championships.

Oakmont will play as a par-70 this weekend at just over 7,200 yards. It’s best described as long, tight, hilly and, most of all, very tough.

Oakmont’s 18 holes consist of four par-3s, 12 par-4s and just two par-5s. One of those par-3s is the 8th hole, which at 288 yards will be the longest three-par in U.S. Open history. And one of those par-5s, the 12th hole, will become the longest five-par in Open history at 667 yards. The other par-5, the 4th hole, will play at right around 609 yards.

Oakmont’s fairways are narrowly cut, averaging between 22 and 26 yards wide. The rough is graduated, getting deeper the further from the fairway you get. Flat lies are hard to find, even in the short grass.

And while there is little in the way of water hazards at Oakmont, there are thigh-high areas of fescue and 180 bunkers.

The greens are crazy fast, and wildly undulating. They routinely roll at 13 and more on the Stimp Meter, and if no rain falls, that number could approach 15 and 16. Oakmont’s greens are very sloped, with few flat areas, and break subtly where it looks level. Getting up-and-down from around the greens, and two-putting from almost any distance outside of gimme range, will be challenging.

A trip around Oakmont begins with an opening par-4 that plays at 480 yards and necessitates an approach shot into a severely sloped green that’s very hard to hold. And from there it gets difficult.

Just a few holes can be described as dog-legs, either left or right. The vast majority of par-4s and 5s play straight.

Players must put their tee shots in the fairway, or lose shots and balls in the roughs. But while some players choose to hit less than drivers off the tees, that leaves long iron shots into those tilting greens.

Golf Digest’s most recent list of America’s Top 100 Courses ranks Oakmont at #5, behind only Cypress Point at Pebble Beach (#4), Augusta National in Georgia (#3), Shinnecock Hills in Southampton, New York (#2) and Pine Valley in New Jersey (#1).

The last time the U.S. Open was played at Oakmont was in 1994, when Ernie Els outlasted Colin Montgomerie and Loren Roberts in a Monday play-off to win. Play that week was influenced not only by the harsh conditions of the course itself, but also by temperatures and humidity levels in the 90’s.

Add it all up, and Oakmont could well be the most complete test of golf skills encompassed within 18 contiguous holes in the golf world.