Tuesday, May 1, 2012
The U.S. Open revisits the Olympic Club in San Francisco June 14th. In the 5 previous National Championships held at the Olympic.. upsets, playoffs and failure for favorites has been a common theme. In 1955, Jack Fleck beat Ben Hogan in a playoff. 1966 had Billy Casper prevailing over Arnold Palmer in a playoff. Scott Simpson beat Tom Watson by a shot in 1987, and 11 years later Lee Janzen did the same to Payne Stewart. 156 players will tee off in the Tournament's 112th edition, but unlike Pebble Beach, where Watson, Nicklaus and Woods have prevailed, the Olympic Club Champions have been of the "no-name" variety. The course for this year's U.S. Open is not particularly long, although it touts the longest hole, #16, which measures 670 yards from the tips. The rough is not diabolical, but will penalize all players who venture off the fairway as balls tend to sink down deep, the greens are small requiring precision approach shots for birdie chances yet will not run quite as fast as the masters, and fairways tend to slant require players to shape their shots in both directions. Collectively, the set-up created by USGA Executive Director Mike Davis offers all the "major" championship challenges, and a few others. Many areas around the smallish greens will be cut extra tight, so if a ball runs through the green, it's likely to keep going and present added complications. Weather at the Olympic Club will determine tee box and pin placement positions daily, and all of the greens have a new hybrid strain of grass that will roll smoother than in past championships throughout each day. There will be many risk-reward chances, a new sand trap on #17, and a complete new par 3 8th hole that will now provide viewing for thousands of fans in a amphitheater setting adjacent to the 18th hole below the Olympic Club clubhouse. Many officials and players anticipate and even par score to be in the hunt, but if history repeats itself, the eventual winner will not be someone expected to emerge.