There’s snow on the ground at Augusta National and no sign of Tiger Woods playing in the immediate future, so naturally your thoughts turn to… the 2012 U.S. Open at San Francisco’s stately Olympic Club?
It’s the fault of Ron Kroichick of the San Franisco Chronicle, who’s got the inside scoop on how Mike Davis of the USGA is going to set up the course. Davis continues to prove that he’s the best thing to happen to the USGA since starched shirts.
Kroichick writes that Davis plans several significant and intriguing changes, including turning the opening hole from an easy par 5 into a long par 4, the 17th into a short risk-reward par 5 (it was played as a bad par 4 in the ’98 U.S. Open, where balls rolled out of the fairway) and the 16th hole as a monster par 5 of 650 yards.
“He (Davis) sees things a lot of people don’t see,” said Pat Murphy, Olympic’s green committee chairman.
The Lake Course already had undergone a significant transformation. Club officials replaced all the greens
(out with poa annua, in with bentgrass), restored slope to the putting
surface at No. 18 (site of much debate in ’98) and rebuilt No. 8, the
par-3 climbing toward the clubhouse. That work was completed in May
So how to arrange the course on the
scorecard fell to Davis… who is not instinctively lengthening
No. 17. The club will build a new tee at only 505 yards, left of the
current championship tee, forcing players to hit their drives at an
awkward angle and making it harder to hold the fairway. Plus, the green will be severe and the right side will be shaved so
wayward approach shots tumble down the slope. Or, put another way: Go
for it in two at your own peril.
“The idea is to build a tee short enough that even the
average-length player can get there in two shots,” Davis said. “But
that hole plays into the wind and uphill, so 505 yards is effectively
more like 545 to 550. … We want to make it an interesting,
treacherous par 5.”
So the Lake Course at Olympic will be par 70 –34 on the front and 36 on the back, and at 7,170 yards, it will play almost 400 yards longer than when Lee Janzen won the Open there in ’98. It’s interesting that the 18th green’s slope was restored–that’s where Payne Stewart hit a putt to the edge of the cup and watched it roll back to his feet, a controversial pin placement that Davis’s predecessor, Tom Meeks, later admitted was a mistake.