Spineless Beware: Oakmont Begins to Sharpen Its Teeth

By Dulac, Gerry | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), May 29, 2016 | Go to article overview

Spineless Beware: Oakmont Begins to Sharpen Its Teeth


Dulac, Gerry, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


When W.C. Fownes, son of the founder of Oakmont Country Club and an accomplished player in his day, heard complaints how difficult the course played, he sniffed at the whining with these biting words:

"Let the clumsy, the spineless, the alibi artists stand aside," Fownes said.

Those same words hang true today as Oakmont prepares to play host to its record ninth U.S. Open championship in a couple of weeks.

The recent spate of dry, warm, weather has sharpened Oakmont's teeth and has the course playing at its nasty best, or, in this instance, difficulty. Anyone who played there this past week has felt as though they took a beating from Tyson Fury.

"We're in pretty good position," said John Zimmers, Oakmont's course superintendent and the man in charge of maintaining and protecting Oakmont's reputation.

Now all Oakmont has to do is hope the weather stays in a very similar pattern for most of the next couple of weeks before tournament begins June 16. That is Zimmers' main concern right now. Everything else - the bunkers, the rough, the health of the greens - is where it should be.

"What I tend to get worried about are things I can't control, such as the weather," Zimmers said.

If the course stays near where it is right now, Jordan Spieth's assertion that he would take even par right now means he would defend his title by at least five . and maybe more.

"You know, if somebody's going to shoot 63s and 65, I can assure you it's going to be on a soft Oakmont," USGA executive Mike Davis said. "The golf course just won't give up that - particularly the 63 - on a dry Oakmont."

Spineless take note.

A UNIQUE EXPERIENCE

Before he was even paired in the final twosome with Jordan Spieth on the final day at the Masters, Smylie Kaufman said his playing partner was "probably 1,000 and zero" against him in their playing days that stretched back to junior golf.

Make that 1,001-0.

Even though Spieth blew his five-shot lead with a meltdown at the 12th hole, he still beat Kaufman, who shot a final-round 81 and learned a big lesson what it was like playing with Spieth at Augusta National. Especially when Spieth birdied the final four holes on the front nine to build his five-shot lead.

"He putted unbelievable," Kaufman said when he played a practice round at Oakmont in advance of the U.S. Open. "He outputted me by six on the front nine on Sunday and that's when he separated with me. I felt I hit it just as good as he did and he beat the heck out of me just by putting, just because he's one of the best putters in the world and he's been in that situation. He has seen a lot of his putts go in in major championships, which I hadn't at the time. …

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