OAKMONT, Pa. - No course in professional golf draws more attention to itself than the year's U.S. Open venue. It is the one championship on the planet where the golf course - not Tiger Woods - is the main event.
Despite plenty of complaints, accusations and excuses, the USGA set up a perfect U.S. Open golf course in 2007.
"Demoralizing," Ian Poulter summed up on Sunday.
"I hit a couple of good drives today, good drives. They were a yard offline, and it's a bogey or double-bogey," said last year's champ Geoff Ogilvy. "It's no fun."
But, here we are Sunday night, and the winner of the championship, Angel Cabrera, is at 5-over, just like Ogilvy last year at Winged Foot.
Tell Cabrera the course was unfair. He was the only player to shoot two rounds under par. The reward? A U.S. Open trophy.
Don't think Cabrera is a fluke champion. Zach Johnson is more of a fluke than Cabrera. Cabrera is a proven veteran all over the world with many close calls in majors. He finished just outside the 1999 three-way playoff in the British Open at Carnoustie.
Guys like Cabrera should win majors - and the most difficult of them all.
If anything, maybe it would have been best to give the field two weeks or even three to prepare for the Oakmont Country Club. Even on Sunday, it was still making them look silly - no one more so than Aaron Baddeley's catastrophic first hole, where he left a chip shot left of the pin - and it rolled right off the green.
Baddeley never recovered.
Woods said earlier this week, "A 10-handicapper wouldn't break 100 here," but how many 10-handicappers get the chance to study a golf course for a whole week or more before playing their round?
The weather certainly helped the players' cause as well. A one-hour thunderstorm Wednesday night was enough subject matter for a day's worth of questions.
If anything, Oakmont simply frightened the field beyond repair early - especially with greens that were running 13-14 on the Stimpmeter despite nightly watering.
How can you call a course unfair with three realistically drivable par-4s, two of which are on the back nine? The par-3 8th hole, which played 300 yards on Sunday wasn't even the hardest par-3. That belonged to the 255-yard 16th hole.
Woods can show up on Sunday wearing the tightest-fitting, muscle-rippling, most intimidating mock-necked red shirt Nike can muster up, but it means nothing if you're not making putts and hitting fairways. The championship was on the table for him as scores fell. He put himself in position and his putter let him down.
It was the short game - including poor chips that lead to a double bogey on the 3rd hole Sunday, not the golf course - that kept the world's No. 1 from his 13th major.
Early in the week, Rory Sabbatini called Oakmont "Shinnecock on Steroids," referring to the severity of the 2005 U.S. Open. He also said "290 wins it." Ogilvy said "plus-10 wins by far".
Clearly, Sabbatini and most others were fooled by the placebo.
June 17, 2007
Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Channel Courses & Travel. 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.
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