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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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Morning 9: On-site betting coming to PGA Tour | Scott on LIV peace talks | Rory to play Irish Open

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By Ben Alberstadt with Gianni Magliocco and Matthew Vincenzi.

For comments: [email protected]. On Twitter: @benalberstadt

December 7, 2022

Good Wednesday morning, golf fans, as we inch closer to Tiger’s return this Sunday in the latest edition of the Match.

1. On-site betting is coming to the PGA Tour

Josh Weinfuss for ESPN…”The PGA Tour and DraftKings held a groundbreaking ceremony Monday at TPC Scottsdale, site of the WM Phoenix Open, on the first sportsbook to be located at a tournament venue.”

  • “It’s a big deal,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.
  • “The building, which has already broken ground and is set to open in October, according to Scottsdale Mayor David Ortega, will be 12,000 square feet and located to the east of the TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course, which hosts the tournament. It will hold about 390 people, be open year-round and serve food and drinks.”
  • “Five years ago, Monahan said Monday, he never saw the PGA Tour having a sportsbook at one of its tournament sites. But, eventually, as the sports betting landscape kept evolving and growing, the PGA Tour saw potential openings in building physical structures at courses.”
Full piece.

2. Adam Scott on talk of LIV peace talks

The AP’s Doug Ferguson…“Negotiations don’t start with one party getting to decide who speaks for the other. Most curious to Scott was the idea of any peace talks. LIV Golf has spent $2 billion to lure big names and start a rival league and the PGA Tour doubled down by suspending players who left. LIV Golf sued and the PGA Tour countersued.”

  • “What’s there to talk about outside of depositions?”
  • “I don’t know what this coming together is,” Scott said last week in Melbourne. “I don’t know, is someone making that up? Is that a possibility? I don’t know. I really am not involved at that level at all, and it seems like all speculation to me.”
  • “I genuinely feel like LIV should get on with what they’re doing and the PGA Tour should get on with what they’re doing and it will all sort out,” he said. “Whether that’s together or not, I have no clue. But I don’t necessarily think that it has to be together or not together for the good of the game. I think the good of the game will prevail, but it’s a big shake-up and we’re not used to that.”
Full piece.

3. New USGA president nominated

Golfweek’s Adam Schupak…“Fred Perpall has been nominated to serve as the 67th president of the United States Golf Association. He would be the first Black man to hold that post in the association’s history, dating to 1894.”

  • “If elected, Perpall, 47, will succeed Stu Francis of Hillsborough, California, who will conclude his three-year term in February 2023. Highlights of Francis’ presidency include helping to guide the organization successfully through the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing on Mike Whan as USGA CEO, and working to elevate all USGA championships and host sites, among many other contributions.”
  • “Perpall, a native of the Bahamas who now calls Dallas home, is completing his fourth year on the executive committee, and his first as president-elect. He chairs the Championship Committee, helping to usher in the inaugural U.S. Adaptive Open Championship and the site selection of several USGA championships to many of America’s iconic courses.”
Full piece.

4. ICYMI: A few notable Tiger quotes from the Bahamas

Kevin Prise from PGATour.com assembles some of TW’s remarks from last week…

  • “To get not only just one, but I’d like to get a big one too.”
  • “Woods was posed the question by Paul Azinger on Saturday’s broadcast of the Hero World Challenge: How motivating is the prospect of earning an 83rd PGA TOUR title to break a tie with Sam Snead as winningest player in TOUR history?”
  • “Woods was direct. It is motivating to be sure, and he doesn’t intend on limiting his ambitions to a standard TOUR event. He’s intent on pursuing another major title.”
  • “Woods built his 2022 schedule around competing at The 150th Open at St. Andrews. Not only did he achieve this goal, but he also competed at the Masters and PGA Championship, advancing to the weekend in each. He missed the cut at The Open but remains steadfast in his belief that he can go toe-to-toe with “the kids” and return to contention in TOUR starts, including majors, moving forward.”
Full piece.

6. R.I.P. Leon Gilmore

Golfweek’s Adam Schupak…“Golf industry veteran Leon Gilmore died Dec. 1. His family said he suffered a massive stroke. He was 52.

  • “During his career, Gilmore served in various roles for First Tee, the Monterey Peninsula Foundation and PGA Tour Champions.”
  • “He began his career in the golf industry in Atlanta as director of the East Lake Junior Academy’s program for underserved youth in the community. After spending a year and half there, Gilmore assumed a role with First Tee, rising to director of development, where he was responsible for facility development and strategy in nine states and was involved in the successful launch of 35 facilities.”
Full piece.

7. Rory to return to Irish Open

Irish Independent report…”Rory McIlroy will return to the Irish Open at the K Club next year.”

  • The world number one, PGA Tour and DP Tour champion has confirmed his entry for next year’s event from September 7-10. McIlroy won the Irish Open at the same venue in 2016 with a stunning birdie-par-eagle finish to win by three stokes.
  • “The Irish Open is a tournament that I grew up not just watching on TV but attending as a kid, seeing all my favourite players there over the years,” said McIlroy. “It’s always been such a well-supported event. I’ve had my fair share of support and great memories at that tournament and going back to The K Club, it’s where I’ve had the most success and I’m obviously excited to get back there.
  • “The atmosphere was electric during that final round in 2016 and I’m looking forward to seeing the fans out in force at The K Club once again.”
Full piece.
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Morning 9: QBE Shootout to be mixed event | Rory reveals Sergio text rant | Screenshots of the year

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By Ben Alberstadt with Gianni Magliocco and Matthew Vincenzi.

For comments: [email protected]. On Twitter: @benalberstadt

December 6, 2022

Good Tuesday morning, golf fans, as we inch closer to Tiger’s return this Sunday in the latest edition of the Match.

1. QBE Shootout to become mixed team event

The AP’s Doug Ferguson…”Nelly Korda and Lexi Thompson are representing the LPGA Tour this week in the QBE Shootout. Next year, they will have plenty of company.”

  • “The QBE Shootout will become a mixed-team event starting in 2023, returning such a format to the schedule for the first time since the JC Penney Classic in 1999.”
  • “Players were informed of the change at a meeting last week in the Bahamas.”
Full piece.

2. Top three JGTO finishers to receive DP World Tour membership

PGATour.com staff report…“The DP World Tour and PGA TOUR jointly announced today a new landmark partnership with the Japan Golf Tour Organization (JGTO) that will see the top three players on the JGTO Order of Merit earn membership onto the DP World Tour for the ensuing season, beginning with the 2022-23 campaign.”

  • “The formal pathway further enhances the existing global pathway system, as the leading 10 players on DP World Tour’s Race To Dubai Rankings [in addition to those already exempt] will earn cards on the PGA TOUR, beginning with the 2024 season, as part of the operational joint venture partnership between the PGA TOUR and DP World Tour announced in June.”
  • “In addition to these new formal pathways, which also includes access to DP World Tour Qualifying School for leading players not otherwise exempt, the JGTO will work alongside the DP World Tour and PGA TOUR on other key business areas, including strategic development and commercial growth. Among those is a continued commitment to the ISPS HANDA – CHAMPIONSHIP, which is set to make its debut on the DP World Tour schedule next April 20-23, 2023, at PGM Ishioka GC in Omitama, Japan.”
Full piece.

3. ICYMI: Zack Fischer’s big day in Argentina

Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine…”A spot in next summer’s Open Championship was secured on Sunday in Argentina.”

  • “Zack Fischer, a Korn Ferry Tour member playing in his first PGA Tour Latinoamerica event, won the Visa Argentine Open by a shot at Nordelta Golf Club in Buenos Aires to earn an exemption into the 2023 Open at Royal Liverpool.”
  • “I’m just over the moon right now,” said Fischer, who will be making his major-championship debut July 20-23 in England.
Full piece.

4. “Shut up about LIV”

Our Matt Vincenzi…

  • “During the 2022 U.S. Open, Rory McIlroy woke up to a text message from Sergio Garcia telling him to “shut up” about LIV Golf.”
  • “Rory revealed that he received the text message while doing an interview with the Irish Independent, saying, “He was basically telling me to shut up about LIV, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”
  • “The 33-year-old said that he “was pretty offended and sent him back a couple of daggers and that was it.”
Full piece.

5. Devastated by DQ at Q-Series, Alana Uriell is determined to bounce back

Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine…”It had been an emotional 48 hours for Alana Uriell.”

  • “Two days earlier, the 26-year-old professional golfer had made the costliest mistake of her career, signing for an incorrect score and subsequently being disqualified from LPGA Q-Series after just two rounds. Now, she was tasked with making sense of it all.”
  • “I’m still reeling from the whole thing,” Uriell told GolfChannel.com on Sunday afternoon.
  • “I’ve never done this before; I’ve never signed for a lower score and gotten disqualified,” she added. “I don’t think I’ve ever been disqualified. This is new … and terrible timing, too. It could’ve just been a normal LPGA event and I would be like, Well, I lost out on a week, but I can compete next week. This was a little more at stake, and that’s the part that really is the butt-kicker in all this.”
Full piece.

6. Screenshots of the year

  • No words for this fine item from Golf Digest’s Christopher Powers, just check it out.
Full piece.
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WOTW: Viktor Hovland’s Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Diver in Khaki Green

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Viktor Hovland successfully defended his Hero World Challenge title this weekend. Hovland fired a final round 69, giving him a 2 stroke win over Scottie Scheffler. After the round, Victor received his trophy from Tiger Woods and on his wrist was a green Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Diver.

WOTW Specs
Name: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Diver
Reference: 15720ST.OO.A052CA.01
Limited: No
Date: 2021 – Present
Case: Stainless Steel
Bezel: Stainless Steel
Dial: Khaki Green “Méga Tapisserie”
Size: 42mm
Movement: Calibre 4308, 32 Jewels
Power Reserve: 60 Hours
Glass: Saphire Crystal
Waterproof: 300 Meters
Bracelet: Khaki Green Rubber Strap
Price: $29,000 (~$35,000)

Audemars Piguet has been making the Royal Oak Offshore line of watches since 1992 as the larger and more capable version of the iconic Royal Oak. The larger cases, bezels, and straps give the Offshore a stronger look and stand out more on the wrist. The Offshore Diver line was introduced in 2010 and was the first Audemars Piguet watch to be ISO certified.

The case on the Offshore Diver is 42mm and made from a solid block of stainless steel but it does sit tall on the wrist at around 14mm thick. The caseback on the new Offshore Diver features a large display window, made from sapphire crystal, that allows you to view the mechanical movement inside. The caseback is held in place by 8 screws and is sealed to give the Diver a 300 meter water resistance rating. On the right side of the case is the tradition screw-down crown, finished in black ceramic and ping gold, that is used to set the time and day on the watch. The second crown sits at 10 o’clock and it is used to to set the inner rotating bezel. This bezel is around the dial and can be used for timing during dives. On top of the case is the legendary octagon Royal Oak bezel that sits on a large rubber gasket and is held in place by 8 hex screws. Under the sapphire crystal is a Khaki Green dial the the Royal Oak Offshore’s Méga Tapisserie texture. Méga Tapisserie is a sequence of raised squares with a matte finish. The hour markers and hands are made from pink gold and filled with larger amounts of luminescent material for easy reading underwater. A date is located at 3 o’clock and has a magnifying cyclops lens integrated into the glass.

Inside the stainless steel armor is a self-winding mechanical movement that was designed and built in-house by Audemars Piguet in 2021. The Calibre 4308 is an upgraded movement with a date that moves to the next day instantly a new setting mechanism for added durability. The 4308 contains 234 individual parts, offers the wearer 60 hours of power reserve and features an oscillating rotor made from solid 22k pink gold. That rotor is then given a dark grey finish and perfectly hand polished.

Holding this dive watch on Viktor’s wrist is a Khaki Green rubber strap with a stainless steel pin buckle. You are able to quickly change out the strap with quick release buttons on the lugs and pin buckle. Each strap then has steel latches built into them to snap into the lugs and pin buckle. Audemars Piguet makes plenty of $600+ rubber and leather options to dress up, or down, your Offshore Diver.

These Royal Oak Offshore Divers are gaining popularity and at one time pretty easy to get your hands on. This isn’t the case currently and if you can get one at your local Audemars Piguet dealer for the $29,000 retail price, consider yourself lucky. On the secondary market you can expect to add around a $6,000 premium to that retail price.

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