Players Prepare to Confront Big, Bad Oakmont at Next Week’s U.S. Open. You are now entering The Oakmont Zone. United States Open thoughts only, and please, no mention of the P-word. (Playoff.) Shhhh! What did I just say?
DATE: Jun 16 – Jun 19
TOURNAMENT: U.S. Open Golf Live
Oakmont Country Club, Oakmont, PA
DEFENDING CHAMP: Jordan Spieth
He knows Jack: Jack Nicklaus hasn’t forgotten about the tribulations of trying to win a major championship and he tells a story about it by way of trying to explain Jordan Spieth’s Masters disaster at Amen Corner in April.
“In 1960, I was 20 years old and leading the U.S. Open,” Nicklaus said. “I was leading the Open and playing with Ben Hogan. I had a very good chance to win, nine holes to go. I was still leading with six holes to play. I looked at a leaderboard, which had Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Mike Souchak, Ted Kroll and Jack Fleck one shot behind me. And I proceeded to fall apart like a three-dollar suitcase. I three-putted 13, three-putted 14, missed a couple of short birdie putts and bogeyed the last hole to lose by two shots.
“I would have loved to win that tournament, but maybe the best thing that ever happened to me was the learning experience. Did it destroy my life? No. And it won’t destroy Jordan’s life.
“I came back and in ’63, I was trying to win my first British Open. And I had what I thought was a two-shot lead with two holes to play at Lytham. I remember it like it was yesterday. I had a shot off the tee in perfect position. I had 212 yards to the hole. Pin was at the back of the green. And my caddy, Jimmy Dickinson, says, 3-iron is plenty. I said, No, I can’t get 3-iron back there. Jimmy said, You don’t need to. I wasn’t smart, I was too young. So I hit 2-iron through the green and didn’t get up and down. I made bogey, and bogeyed the last hole. I lost the tournament by a shot. I learned from that. But you have to make that mistake to learn it.”
Parting shot: One last thing from Furyk about Oakmont from his memories of 1994 and 2007, when Oakmont last hosted men’s Opens. “The only thing you could argue about the setup in 2007 was the length of the rough and how penal it was,” he said. “In ’94, the course was unplayable on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I couldn’t have broken 80. It rained Wednesday night and that was the only thing that made the course playable. The length of rough was brutal in ’07 and it’s not going to be any better this year, I can promise you that.”