Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Unforgiving Oakmont

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Unforgiving Oakmont

Article excerpt

All major championships are momentous. For four weeks a year, history is up for grabs and golf captures the imagination of the entire sporting world.

But the U.S. Open seems to hold a special place in the heart of fans.

It's the one week of the year when the best players in the world play like us -- mere mortals.

That will be especially true this week, when the U.S. Open is contested at the famed Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa.

Oakmont is one of the most famous tracks in the game. It's also widely regarded as one of the toughest. Here's a look at how Oakmont got that reputation, and what to expect this week.

Tough stuff

At Oakmont there's only one word that matters: difficult.

The venerable club's fairways are fast and grueling to hold. Its rough is deep and tough to negotiate. And the greens, which are firm, fast and glass-like, can be a torture chamber for anyone with an unsure putting stroke.

The course has such a reputation for being tough, if you figure it out, you can become a legend. In 1973, Johnny Miller shot a 63 to storm from behind and win the U.S. Open. It's still regarded as one of the greatest rounds in history

"Oakmont, I have such respect for it," Curtis Strange said in a conference call last week for Fox Sports. Strange is a two-time U.S. Open champion and finished one shot out of a playoff at Oakmont in 1994. He'll be on the Fox broadcast this week.

"You can have a U.S. Open there without much preparation at all," Strange said of Oakmont. "It's a challenge every day for the members. And [it would be] a challenge for the professionals if they show up there."

The USGA, of course, makes it just a little bit tougher for the Open. Then there's the matter of throwing thousands of fans into an already pressure-packed environment.

It's no wonder players have been showing up at Oakmont for weeks to hone their games. …

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