2007 U.S. Open venues: I'd rather play Pine Needles than Oakmont
Now don’t get me wrong. I didn’t say Pine Needles is “harder” - and I will brag to colleagues I’ve played Oakmont - not Pine Needles. But there are many appealing qualities that make me like it over Oakmont.
First off, there are trees - and ponds. Barren Oakmont chopped almost all of its trees down and the many waterless ditches that weave through the course look like the course has a severe gopher-burrowing problem. It’s supposed to look like a “links” course. I think it looks like an ugly links course.
Pine Needles is far prettier. The greens also do this peculiar thing where if you land an approach shot, it makes this little indentation and some mud flies up.
My sources tell me that’s a “ball mark” - something you don’t see at Oakmont.
Also, Pine Needles is a Donald Ross course - not some one-hit wonder H.C. Fownes. Ross is the golf designer equivalent to the Beatles when they were making 4-5 records a year in their prime: his quantity of courses is only surpassed by the several dozen timeless classics he’s left behind.
Fownes is Jefferson Starship.
The difficulties in Pine Needles won’t be thick rough or rock-hard greens. Many of the greens are crowned and have deep collection areas. They are also on the smaller side. Fairways, while not Oakmont-tight, aren’t generous either.
There are more differences in favor of Pine Needles. The media center has canned soda this time - not a fountain machine with insufficient carbonation levels.
I had a chance to play Oakmont after the men’s U.S. Open. With a little schmoozing, I hope to be able to do the same Monday and provide a more accurate assessment.
Until then, first round action kicks off Thursday morning. Stay tuned to WorldGolf.com for blogs, commentaries, reports and more from myself and one of Michelle Wie’s waning supporters, Jennifer Mario.
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