Oakmont: The Hardest Test in Golf
Post by Sports Writer Derek Clements
WE ARE used to seeing tournaments being won with scores of 20 under par or better but if anybody manages to break par over four days that man will win the 2016 US Open.
When Angel Cabrera stunned the golfing world by winning the tournament over the same course in 2007 his winning total was 285, five over par, and that sort of total could quite easily be good enough to win it again this time round.
Oakmont measures 7,255 yards and is one of the most difficult golf courses in the world and surely the toughest on the US Open rota. It features next to no water and very few trees. However, there are more than 200 bunkers, the rough will be punishing and the greens will reduce grown men to tears. They all feature some crazy undulations, which would be enough of a challenge were it not for a combination of horrible pin placements and the fact that they will be running at somewhere around 15 on the stimp-meter. Imagine trying to putt on a pane of glass that is sloping away from you, and just try to work out how on earth you will ever be able to stop the ball.
It is a given that we will see players four-putting, and there could be a lot worse than that. Ernie Els won one of his US Opens here back in 1994. Back in those days, Els was one of the best putters in the business. After his six-putt shocker at Augusta in April, how much do you think he is looking forward to coming back here?
It is just as certain that seemingly perfect shots will stop, teeter and run off the putting surfaces, that shots will be hit and roll back to the feet of the men who have just hit them and that we witness the best golfers on the planet putting the odd ball right off the green.
Johnny Miller shot a barely-credible round of 63 at Oakmont during the 1973 US Open that is still widely regarded as being the best round ever played in any major championship.
This will be the ninth time the US Open has been played at Oakmont, and it has also hosted the US PGA Championship three times, the US Amateur five times and the Women's US Open twice. Past winners here include Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead, Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus, as well as Els and Cabrera. That would indicate that this year's champion is likely to be somebody who has either been there and done it before or who has come very close to doing so.
It opens with a 484-yard par four featuring trees on the right, bunkers left and right and a green that slopes away from the golfer - a feature of the course. There is also a par three measuring 288 yards and the eighth hole is certain to sort out the men from the boys.
The finishing stretch is fearsome. The 16th is a par three measuring 231 yards, with bunkers left and right and a huge green that slopes from left to right. The 17th only measures 317 yards and while some players will drive the green, others are certain to come to grief in the six bunkers just short of the putting surface and four more that surround it. The 18th is a fearsome par four. Like the first, it measures 484 yards and it is essential to hit the fairway because anybody who finds one of the five fairway bunkers won't be able to reach the green in two. The green features lots of undulations and will provide a huge challenge to anybody who needs two putts to win.
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