TEED OFF
By Robert Bicknell
 

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June 17, 2007

Its US Open time - Let the carnage begin!

I love this time of year more than any other for the simple reason that I have the opportunity to take sadistic delight in watching the best players in the world brought to their knees once again by the USGA tournament committee.

For the first time in 13 years, the US Open will return to Oakmont, a 7,200-yard course that really doesn’t need too much tricking up to have players seeking both mental and physical therapy.

Mickelson beat everyone to it by injuring himself trying to get out of Oakmont’s rough a few weeks earlier during practice. Yes, Oakmont does cut their rough…they just don’t say when or how often, but I’m pretty sure its been cut at least once this year.

While Augusta’s greens are probably the most famous, Oakmont can lay claim to being the most fearsome. Miss the correct putting line at Oakmont and the ball could end up rolling all the way into the next state. Early reports had practice round green speeds at about 13 ½ - 14 1/2 on the stimpmeter, which is no surprise to the members who swear that’s Oakmont’s "normal" speed.

As the USGA likes to speed things up, especially on the last day, it might be a safe to believe the players are praying for heavy nightly downpours.

During practice rounds, Tiger Woods, who has never played a competitive round at Oakmont, came off the green with an unhappy look on his face. His only comment was that "he broke 100" which is probably music to the ears of the members, of which, one-third have handicaps under 10. This is a real "golfers club" and duffers don’t survive.

Oakmont’s bunkers are another story as well. Suffice it to say their bunkers are large enough to hide a nuclear submarine.

According to Johnny Miller, who won the 1973 US Open there, only a few players broke 70 at Oakmont during the 2003 US Amateur. Miller also thinks its possible that some players will get so rattled by their first round that they never recover.

He might be right. The first hole is a 482-yard Par 4 with a green that you’d be lucky to hit with a wedge if you miss the fairway and get stuck on a down slope and the 10th hole, where half of the players will start from is no bargain either. A 462 yard Par 4 with a green that can have players talking to themselves in disbelief for the rest of the day.

Ok, now for my usual prediction, which is always wrong and can spell disaster for whoever it is, so I will forgo the usual cast of characters, i.e., Tiger, Phil, Retief, Furyk or Adam Scott, and go waaaaay out on a limb.

Yes, Furyk has the kind of game which fits Oakmont quite well and Retief Goosen has been driving the ball exceptionally well lately, but I think this year, the US Open winner will be…Rory Sabbatini.

Just don’t ask me why…

Last week, I promised that I would have a list of excuses why I didn’t win anything at Barry Knaggs’ 50th birthday tournament at Van Tri…

Instead, I’ve got a few excuses why I didn’t even FINISH the event.

If you remember, Friday of last week over 40 degrees C and, much to my horror, I discovered that what happened to me at the Norfolk Tournament at VGCC a few months ago was no fluke. I simply cannot handle the heat too well anymore and felt, once again, that I was gonna fall over on the course.

My playing partners, Lars Holden and Grahame Harris showed proper concern and demonstrated their undying friendship by remarking, "You look terrible, better head in because we are NOT giving you mouth-to-mouth if you drop dead. We’ll just bury you here."

I know it’s the heat because I can walk 18 holes during cooler weather without any problems and, fortunately, two other players also threw in the towel as well.

But this does mean that I have to give serious thought about the Gannon Vietnam Open in Phan Thiet next August.

I wonder if Jeff has air conditioned buggies…


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