When the U.S. Open was last held at Oakmont, the Tiger Era was just around the corner. Commentary: My how the times have changed since '94 U.S. Open at Oakmont

OAKMONT, Pa. - What's changed since the U.S. Open was last held at Oakmont Country Club, just 13 years ago in 1994?

Only everything.

The boom in club technology has rendered most layouts under 7,000 yards obsolete. Oakmont played about the same length in each of its seven previous U.S. Opens, around 6,900 yards. This year, it's been lengthened to 7,230 yards and par has been dropped to 70.

Ernie Els' win that year helped usher in a new generation of international golfers who today dominate the world rankings.

But that's just the beginning. Whatever happened to "spike marks"? Who is this Tiger Woods guy? And have you seen this "Internet" thing?

U.S. Open at Oakmont: Then and now

Then: Ernie Els was awarded $320,000 for his U.S. Open victory.

Now: This year's winner takes home $1.2 million.

Then: Ernie Els played the hot new Callaway Warbird driver at Oakmont.

Now: The Big Bertha series was among many breakthrough drivers that eventually revolutionized the game of golf and gave many course architects plenty of redesign jobs.

Then: Oakmont was shaded with about 4,000 trees. Most were planted during America's tree-hugging hippie-fest in the 1960s and '70s, but that's not how founder H.C. Fownes had intended the course to be when he built the club.

Now: Oakmont has been removing trees since the mid-'90s, sometimes even in the middle of the night so as to not awaken environmentalists and members of the local community who didn't understand the potential harm these trees could cause the course.

Then: The par-3 eighth hole played 255 yards, the same length it played in the 1927 Open. It was the longest par-3 at a U.S. Open venue.

Now: It plays 288 yards and remains the longest par-3 in a U.S. Open.

Then: The summer blockbuster was the Lion King. It grossed $40 million opening weekend.

Now: It's all sequels: Shrek 3, Spiderman 3, another Fantastic Four, etc. You know when they decide to bring Bruce Almighty back around for a second run they're getting desperate.

Then: Jesper Parnevik joined the tour in 1993 and brought some color to the PGA Tour's dull dress code.

Now: Not only have international players climbed the world rankings, but the practice tee is a colorful place. Ian Poulter (pictured) is the most fashionably liberal of them all this week.

Then: Tiger Woods became the first player to win a U.S. Amateur Championship at the age of 18. It was his first of three U.S. Amateur titles.

Now: Tiger has 12 major championships and two U.S. Opens and is expecting the birth of his first child.

Then: Colin Montgomerie made the playoff but lost to Els.

Now: Montgomerie finished tied for second again last year and is a definite contender this week at Oakmont.

Then: Music group Ace of Base had three of the 10 biggest hits of the year - "All That She Wants (Is Another Baby)," "I Saw the Sign" and "Don't Turn Around."

Now: Nobody younger than 50 buys CDs anymore and the record industry lets America decide who its next talent will be on American Idol, (at least for one or two singles).

Then: There were eight Church Pews in the famous bunker between the third and fourth fairways and the bunker was three feet deep.

Now: Four pews were added, bringing the total to 12 and the bunker has been deepened as well to 4 feet.

Then: The Internet was something only a few tech geeks and maybe Al Gore knew about.

Now: When was the last time you could go 24 hours without checking your e-mail before your entire body started shaking from withdrawal? Or is that just me?

June 14, 2007

Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker.

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