Oakmont has been stretched to a menacing 7,230 yards, including the longest par-5 in U.S. Open history. But the par-4 17th, which was playing to a pint-sized 313 yards on Thursday, was actually shortened a bit on Friday to 308. (That’s only 20 yards longer than the par-3 8th.)
The shortened 17th enticed many players to try to drive the green, but it usually didn’t pay off.
More than half of the players on Friday busted out their drivers and went for it. But it was a crap shoot. Players had to get their shots through a 20-yard gap flanked by severe bunkers in front of the green and roll the ball to a back pin position.
When they got near the green, the danger wasn’t over. Some four-putted, others chunked their chips, and no one walked away with eagle. The 17th ended up playing slightly harder than Thursday because players found so much trouble with their drivers. In the first round, almost everyone played a hybrid or iron to the fairway.
Padraig Harrington’s ball was in such an awkward lie after his drive that his caddie slipped after handing him a wedge. That at least gave Paddy something to laugh about — he shot 80 Friday and missed the cut at 13 over.
From the tee, it’s impossible for players to see if they’ve hit the green, so the fans let them know — huge applause for an eagle putt and complete silence for everything else.
Bubba Watson, the longest driver in the tournament, hit his driver pin-high just off the green and chipped it to within two feet. That set up an easy birdie, and Watson finished the day in second at one over.
Johnson Wagner walked away with a triple-bogey 7. John Kelly hooked his drive badly and nearly hit fans near the grandstand. That led to a bogey.
The man with the round of the day, Paul Casey, said he wasn’t even tempted to pull out the driver because of the back pin position. “I didn’t feel that I could get there,” said Casey, who shot a four-under 66 today. “And having practiced thoroughly in the rough short and left of the green, it’s not a nice place. So I thought I’d take my medicine.”
Charles Howell III had the best tee shot of the day, hitting his driver to about 8 feet, but he still couldn’t make eagle.
So how will the hole play this weekend? It all depends on pin position and the location of the tee box.
“It’s a day-by-day call,” said Justin Rose. “I didn’t think I was going to go for the green at all all week.”