Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Oakmont Ugh

After nine holes at Oakmont yesterday, I could finally identify with what the players were saying all week.

Given the traditional media pass to play the course the day after the U.S. Open, I intended to play all 18. But it was pushing 90 degrees, I was carrying my own bag, we had no forecaddie and, frankly, you couldn't find a ball in the rough unless you practically stepped on it. There was also the drive back to Philadelphia.

After the front nine, my threesome of writers had experienced enough. We called it a round, grabbed a 'dog and a cold beer at the halfway house and chilled.

It's always a thrill to play these brutally tough golf courses that the USGA has set up for an Open. But when golf is that hard, that unforgiving and that discouraging, it takes a lot of the fun out of it.

You hit a shot that you know is dead-on perfect only to watch the ball trickle across the green and disappear in the rough. Two feet off the green and you can't find it. Without a forecaddie, if you hit a tee shot into the rough, good luck finding that ball.

The players talked about the linoleum-fast greens. True, they are extremely hard to putt. But at least you can get used to them after a few holes. You know to barely touch a three-foot downhill putt and still expect the ball to roll six feet past. But I found the rough to be the toughest challenge of all. If you find the ball -- and that's a big if -- you have no clue and no control over how it's coming out, where it's going. When you've only missed the fairway by three feet, that strikes me as too much of a penalty.

That all said, I started well: 1-over par through three holes. On the 4th, I visited the church pews on the left. Actually, with a decent lie and the ball not up against a lip, that turned out to be one of the easier shots of the round.

I made my first of two doubles at the 5th, where a blind uphill tee shot left me whacking away in knee-high fescue; I made another double at the par 3 6th when I missed the green to the right and my flop shot over the bunker trickled off the green on the other side and sank into the rough.

The famous par 8th, we played from 245 yards. I hit a 3-wood to the back of the left bunker, blasted to 12 feet and two-putted for bogey.

All in all, I was 7-over on the front nine.

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