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Oakmont Returns to Its Roots

No other venue has hosted as many U.S. Opens as Oakmont Country Club, what makes this course so unique and what is its history with the U.S. Open?

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U.S. Open Oakmont 2007The Oakmont story begins in 1903 when avid amateur golfer Henry C. Fownes purchases 200 acres of farmland in the Pittsburg suburb of Oakmont nestled in the Allegheny River Valley. Fownes longed to build a true links style course and with a minimal crew of men and machines fulfilled his dream.

Fownes and his son worked hard to utilize the existing landscape to create a course rife with challenge and difficulty. At its opening in 1904, Oakmont played to a par of 80 at 6400 yards. Fast forward to 2007, Oakmont has hosted eight more U.S. Opens, its list of winners is a who’s who of golfing royalty, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Ernie Els, and Johnny Miller have all been crowned U.S. Open Champion at Oakmont Country Club, and the this year, the course will play a staggering 7,230 yards at par 70.

Oakmont has always been known for one thing – its difficulty. This feeling was instilled early on in the club’s life. Although it has no water hazards, Oakmont makes up for it with devilish bunkering. The first U.S. Open was held at Oakmont in 1927. W.C. Fownes set out to make it the most challenging course in the world by allowing the rough to grow up past player’s knees and increasing the number of bunkers to 220. Fownes had one more trick up his sleeve, the bunker rakes he used had widely spaced teeth in them to create furrows inside the bunkers making escaping the sandy hazards incredibly difficult even for the best players in the world. Jack Nicklaus has once again brought these rakes to the forefront of the golfing world by using them at his Memorial Tournament. While the bunker rakes are now gone, their legacy of penal bunkers and difficult course setup remains to this day among the members and management of Oakmont.

Of all the lasting images of Oakmont, none is as iconic as the Church Pew bunkers placed between holes 3 and 4. The exact origin of the Church Pews is difficult to ascertain, no one is quite sure if it was Henry Fownes or his son, W.C. who came up with the idea. What is certain is that there may not be a more penal bunker in the United States. Within the heart of the bunker lies twelve mounds planted with long fescue grass. Originally the bunker contained 8 pews, but over the years the entire bunker has been widened and the number of pews increased to 12. In preparation for this year’s U.S. Open, Head Greens Keeper John Zimmers has made some other changes to make the Church Pews even more difficult. The coarse sand formerly found in the Church Pews has been replaced with a finer grained sand to increase the chances of finding a buried lie. The former mixture of grasses found on the pews themselves has been replaced with pure fescue making even the simple task of pitching out a difficult proposition.

Oakmont Church Pews

Yet the bunkers aren’t the only defense of Oakmont. The Oakmont greens hold the unique distinction of having the most tilt of any golf course in the world. Combine that with the USGA’s pension for ramping up green speeds into the 13 foot range on the stimpmeter, Oakmont will likely be an incredibly difficult test this year. Last week, defending champion Geoff Ogilvy played his first practice round and his caddie estimated his score around 85. Ogilvy said, "It’s pretty tough, the hardest course I’ve ever seen . . . A lot of things can happen before next week, a lot of grass can be cut and a lot of rain can fall, but Oakmont is pretty tough."

Oakmont 8th HoleAs if the hazards and greens weren’t enough to cause trepidation among the best golfers in the world, one major topic of conversation has been the par 3 8th hole. While the 8th hole has traditionally played at 252 yards, it has now been stretched to a staggering 289 yards at its greatest. Reactions among players has been mixed to say the least, Retief Goosen said, "Sounds to me like it’s a bit silly, but we’ll find out when we get there." Mike Davis, Director of Rules and Competition for the USGA has said the back tee will be rotated with the shorter one playing at 252 yards, he explained the reasoning of the hole by saying, "When we were here in 2003 and we started watching players in the U.S. Amateur routinely hit 2-irons, 4-irons, 5-irons [from 252 yards], a few of us shook our heads and said, this doesn’t need to be done for the Open. We thought this distance would really put, you know, 1-irons, 3-woods, even drivers, back in the players’ hands. If we have a few players who can’t get it there, so be it."

However, Oakmont might not even be hosting the U.S. Open this year, were it not for the efforts of Mark Studer. During the 1960’s Oakmont underwent drastic changes thanks to a major tree planting effort that rewrote Oakmont’s links style character with a decidedly parkland flair. In 1995 Studer presented a plan to Oakmont’s Board which attempted to persuade them to restore the course to the links style layout H.C. Fownes originally intended. The plan was accepted over the next ten years, over 5,000 trees were removed from Oakmont. Oakmont’s plan to recapture its former glory stands in stark contrast to several other famous golf clubs which have continually made changes which take them further and further away from the intents of their founders. Yet, there is little doubt from all the pre-tournament talk this week that the Oakmont plan has produced a remarkable course, one which stays true to its original design intents, and one that will be a fitting challenge to the best golfers in the world.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. taylormadefan

    Jun 13, 2007 at 11:25 am

    Peter, you’re correct, Sam Snead won the PGA at Oakmont, not the U.S. Open, I’ve edited my article to clear that up.

    Thanks!

  2. Peter Coffey

    Jun 13, 2007 at 1:16 am

    I love the test of metal the U S Open is…. I don’t remember Snead winning one…& His is my favorite swing…

  3. Andre van der Post

    Jun 12, 2007 at 10:58 am

    This is a well written, informative piece. Really well done!!!!

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Tour Photo Galleries

Photos from the 2024 U.S. Open

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GolfWRX is live this week from the third major of the season: the U.S. Open at historic Pinehurst No. 2.

Qualifier WITBs are the stars the the show so far — along with in-hand looks at what Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau are playing.

Check back throughout the week as we continue to add more galleries.  

General Albums

WITB Albums

Pullout Albums

See what GolfWRXers are saying about the photos from the U.S. Open in the forums. 

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Morning 9: Scott, Garcia in for U.S. Open | Clark: Greens already borderline | Harrington inducted to HOF

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By Ben Alberstadt with Gianni Magliocco.

For comments: [email protected]

Good Tuesday morning, golf fans, as we look ahead to what is sure to be an exciting U.S. Open!

1. USO field additions

Brian DePasquale for the USGA…”Two additional players, including Adam Scott, have earned full exemptions into the 124th U.S. Open Championship…Additionally, four alternates from final qualifying were added to complete the 156-player field.”

  • “Robert MacIntyre earned an exemption based on the current Official World Golf Ranking®/OWGR®…”
  • “Scott, who is No. 61 in the OWGR, became exempt when the late Grayson Murray (No. 59) was removed from the list for purposes of determining the top 60. Scott will compete in his 23rd consecutive U.S. Open…”
  • “The USGA held six spots in the field for those players who could potentially become exempt. Since MacIntyre and Scott were the only players to earn an exemption, four alternates from final qualifying were added to the field. They are Sergio Garcia, amateur Brendan Valdes, Otto Black and Maxwell Moldovan.”
Full piece.

2. Charlie on hand to assist dad with U.S. Open prep

Justin Tasch for the NY Post…”Tiger Woods was all smiles Monday morning in Pinehurst as he practiced for this week’s U.S. Open with his 15-year-old son, Charlie.”

  • “Charlie helped his dad prepare as they traversed Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina, where Woods is set to tee off Thursday for the first time since missing the cut at last month’s PGA Championship in Louisville.”
  • “The father-son duo was spotted at various points Monday morning with Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler.”
Full piece.

3. Clark says U.S. Open greens already ‘borderline’

Elliott Heath for Golf Monthly…”Defending US Open champion Wyndham Clark says that this week’s greens at Pinehurst No.2 “already are borderline” ahead of what is set to be a stern test of golf at the USA’s 124th national open.”

  • “Clark won his maiden Major title at LACC last year, where he pipped Rory McIlroy by a single stroke. He won his third PGA Tour title at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am earlier this year and moved up to a career-high of 3rd in the world.”
  • “The greens are extremely fast and penal. You hit it on the green, the hole is not done. I was just amazed how fast the greens are. Yeah, I mean, they are extremely fast. If they get any firmer and faster, the greens, I mean, they’d be borderline. They already are borderline,” Clark said on Pinehurst’s famously undulating putting surfaces, before admitting that sometimes it’s better to miss a green in the right spot than hit it in the wrong position.”
Full piece.

4. Harrington reflects ahead of HOF induction

PGATOUR.COM: What comes to mind as you prepare for your induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame and reflect on your career?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: When you’re winning, when you’re going through it, you kind of expect that it’s going to continue to happen so you don’t get too caught up in it. You tend to just get on with it. You’re always thinking about the next win. Whereas at this time in my career and with the Hall of Fame looming, it is very much time to take stock and have a nice reflection on what I’ve done. And it’s very satisfying.

PGATOUR.COM: What is the source of that satisfaction?

HARRINGTON: Well, I think I’ve always felt I’ve far exceeded my own expectations. But when you get to the Hall of Fame, you realize that actually you’ve achieved on a whole different level. There’s not that many golfers that get into it. You don’t get into the Hall of Fame for anything but your performances. That’s it. This is an opportunity to look back and say, ‘You know what? You did well.’

PGATOUR.COM: You’ve said before that you weren’t the guy who looked destined to be great. What was your secret to getting the most out of your talents?

HARRINGTON: I was always somebody who just did it, got it done.

Full piece.

5. More bad news for Hataoka

Golf Channel staff…”After being disqualified from last week’s ShopRite LPGA Classic, Nasa Hataoka has slipped from Japan’s final qualifying spot for the Olympic women’s golf event.”

  • “Ayaka Furue now holds Japan’s second of two currently available positions. Furue tied for second this past week to move to 19th in the latest Rolex Rankings. Hataoka dropped to 20th.”
  • “Hataoka opened in 65 at the ShopRite but was DQ’d ahead of Saturday’s second round when officials determined that she took too long to find a lost ball on Friday, and subsequently, played her next shot from the wrong spot.”
Full Piece.

6. Weather ahead at Pinehurst

PGATour.com staff report…

  • Thursday: Low chance of rain beginning in the afternoon with increased temperatures in the evening. Low: 68F, High: 90F. Winds: 4-10 mph, gusting at 15 mph.
  • Friday: Rising temperatures and scattered thunderstorms in the afternoon, 40% chance of showers. Low: 68F, High: 92F. Winds: 4-10 mph, gusting at 15 mph.
  • Saturday: Rising temperatures and scattered thunderstorms in the afternoon, 40% chance of showers. Low: 68F, High: 92F. Winds: 4-8 mph, gusting at 12 mph.
  • Sunday: Heat expected throughout the day with 20% chance of showers. Low: 68F, High: 92F. Winds: 4-10 mph, gusting at 15 mph.
Full Piece.

7. Ortiz: I deserve to be at U.S. Open

Joel Kulasingham for Golf Monthly…”Carlos Ortiz says he deserves to be teeing off at this week’s US Open, despite failing to qualify for the tournament at Pinehurst No.2.”

  • “The 33-year-old Mexican claimed his first LIV Golf victory in Houston on Sunday thanks to a five-under final round to hang on to a one-shot win over Adrian Meronk, who missed a birdie on his last hole to miss a playoff.
  • “The world No.237 still had a chance to get into the tournament through US Open qualifying in Dallas three weeks ago, but a double bogey on the final hole scuppered any hopes of joining the 13 other LIV players teeing it up in Pinehurst on Thursday.
  • “I’ve been playing great. It’s a shame I doubled the last hole to miss the qualifier. It hurt a lot,” Ortiz admitted.
  • “But despite not doing enough in qualifying, Ortiz – like many of his LIV colleagues – lamented the current state of professional golf, and says he deserves to be playing at the US Open as “one of the best players in the world right now”.
  • “I think with time, we’re going to get back into the Majors because I know that I’m one of the best players in the world right now, and I deserve to be there. But the way things are happening right now, it’s kind of hard.”
Full Piece.

8. Carnage on the way?

9. U.S. Open photos

  • Check out all of our galleries from this week’s major event!
Full Piece.
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Tour Rundown: Full hand for Scottie | Where’d that Strom come from?

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The week prior to a major championship is typically replete with anticipation … for the coming event. Not so for the first full week of June, 2024. Golfers gathered to pay homage to history’s greatest major champion, to Wisconsin’s greatest champion, and to each other. The DP World Tour held its annual, no-gender championship in Sweden, while the LPGA traveled to coastal New Jersey for an old-school face-off. If you held a pair of Linn’s in your hand this weekend, you hit the jackpot. If none of that seems to connect, don’t worry. We have the pen, so here go the dots, in this week’s Tour Rundown.

PGA Tour @ he Memorial: Full hand for Scottie

What do they say about scar tissue? The more you lose to a certain player, the more difficult it is to beat that player. Scar tissue is building up across the PGA Tour, thanks to the wizardry of the young Texan, Scottie Scheffler. We’ll reserve judgment until after Pinehurst, but as things currently stand, all that can stop his caravan of triumph is a misunderstanding.

I recall when our son used to play fullback in soccer. He often let opposing players get past him, for the sheer joy of chasing them down. Scottie Scheffler may not have that odd move in his gameplay, but he doesn’t run away with tournaments. He usually finds a way to let golfers back in, although I suspect he does not do so with purpose. At the Memorial, Scheffler held a four-shot advantage through 54 holes, but he didn’t run off on Sunday and leave the opposition playing for second. His play on Sunday was more survival than celebrity, and he nearly went to a playoff.

Collin Morikawa fought bravely back, but didn’t have the requisite skills to break through the scar tissue. Morikawa has been in the mix a few times this season and has yet to find a way to come homeward with his best game. The same happened again on Sunday. As Scheffler played the final twelve holes in two-over par, Morikawa gained five shots on the leader, only to give a crucial one back on 17. Muirfield Village has become a 1970s-throwback course of late, adding length and super-thick rough as protection. As a result, the excitement comes from bogey avoidance down the stretch. Collin was close, but Scheffler found victory number five on the year, in the nick of time.

LPGA @ ShopRite: Where’d that Strom come from?

Forgive the pundits if they transpose the “s” and the “r” for an easy headline. A storm called Strom blew in off the Atlantic and took over the Wilson/Ross course at Seaview Resort. Linnea Strom did just about everything right on Sunday. She posted nine birdies and one eagle (coming at the par-5 ninth hole) and ignored the prospect of bogey or worse, throughout the entirety of the round. Her win came by a single shot, with a quintet of golfers passing through astonishment, to gob-smackery, to outright dumbfoundment.

Imagine being any one of the following: Ayaka Furue @ 65; Megan Kang @ 66; Atthaya Thitikul @ 65; Morgane Metraux @ 66; or home-state girls Marina Alex @ 64. That fivesome played as well as they might have hoped, yet none was able to wrest the tournament’s trophy from the unlikely hands of Linnea Strom. Inconceivably, the victory was her first on the LPGA circuit. What a way to get the job done.

DP World Tour @ Scandinavian Mixed: Linn’s request is Grant-ed

Low-hanging fruit is what they call that headline. Linn Grant went into Sunday with eyes set on a nice finish to a nice week. The Scandinavian Mixed pits all genders in one field, and has seen some terrific wins by women and men, during its brief history. Sebastian Soderberg had the tournament wrapped up on Saturday. Somehow, on day four, the bow dissolved and Soderberg melted to a score of 77. Keep in mind that he had posted 63-66-66 over the first 54 holes. Golf is baffling.

Linn Grant went out on day four and ran off four birdies for 31 on the front side. She kept her head coming home, added two more for 65 and a total of 17-under par. She edged past Calum Hill, who closed with 69 for minus-16. All of that should have been pleasantry, except for the goings-on in the final pairing. Soderberg was never on his game over the course of the final day. He had a pair of birdies, but more than his share of bogies. On the final hole, from the middle of the fairway, he missed the green in the right side bunker, then splashed to 24 feet. His putt for the outright win missed by 15 inches. His putt for the playoff missed by one inch. In the blink of an eye, a careless close had awarded the trophy to Grant.

Tour Champions @ American Family: Big ChEasy in Wisconsin

Ernie Els really had no shot on Sunday in Madison. Steve Stricker was at home, comfortable, and trending. The former Ryder Cup captain was three-under on the day through 13, two ahead of Els, closing the deal. When Els made a third consecutive birdie at 14, Stricker posted bogey. In a moment’s hesitation, the game was afoot. Each added one more birdie coming home, and finished in a tie at minus-twelve, three clear of Cameron Percy.

There would be another, moment’s hesitation, and it would spell the unimaginable end of the home-state lad. After Els tapped in for par on the first playoff hole, Stricker addressed a wee, three-feet putt to match … and missed. A stunned Els was a winner for a second consecutive week, and his affection for the American midwest grew large.

Korn Ferry Tour @ BMW Championship: Gerard goes off

Ryan Gerard had compiled a sizable lead through 54 holes in the Palmetto state of South Carolina. With, or despite, the knowledge that his inspirational father was en route to the tournament site, Gerard remained focused and closed in proper fashion. He posted 66 on day four, and finished off a six-shot triumph over Seth Reeves. The win was Gerard’s first, important professional victory, and closed a circle of father-son-golf.

There was never a time at the Thornblade Club, that Gerard seemed anywhere other than in charge and control. He began the week with 64, followed with 66, then ignited on Saturday with 63. Knowing the potential for concentration loss, Gerard kept his vision focused on each shot, and no other. After that opening 64, which featured two eagles, a bunch of birdies, and a handful of bogeys, Gerard settled down to a mere two bogeys over the final 54 holes.

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