OAKMONT, Pa. - The Men's U.S. Open is the only remaining major golf tournament on all tours with a full, 18-hole playoff. The U.S.G.A. chose to eliminate the extra session from the Women's Open after Annika Sorenstam and Pat Hurst's playoff duel last year.
Oakmont Country Club saw a playoff in 1994 between winner Ernie Els, Loren Roberts and Colin Montgomerie. Jack Nicklaus also defeated Arnold Palmer in a playoff here in 1962.
The Monday playoff, which was instituted far before worldwide TV audiences, has been criticized for being buried on weekday afternoon TV rather than in front of a bigger, Sunday primetime audience. One of this year's favorites, Jim Furyk, seems reserved to the fact that it's consistent with the Open's extreme pedigree.
"If you've ever seen a U.S. Open, they don't really care about falling in line," said Furyk Wednesday. "They do their own thing. Our only job is to do the best we can."
Rory Sabbatini likes the extra session. "You don't want a one-game NBA finals. It's justified. You can still make mistakes but recover and win."
Hampered by a wrist injury suffered at Oakmont in a practice round, Phil Mickelson says he knows of at least six other players who tweaked wrists in the rough here and had to be serviced by trainer Jim Weathers.
He also met with U.S.G.A. officials to discuss a joke he made Tuesday about his protective brace giving him an advantage in the rough. U.S.G.A. officials inspected the brace and said there was no problem.
A severe thunderstorm swept through Oakmont, suspending practice play Wednesday afternoon. It dropped about a half-inch of rain on the golf course. The committee says they'll do everything they can to restore the greens to where they were today, but they may not be as fast on Thursday as initially predicted.
1994 champion Ernie Els says he likes what he's seen so far in the changes this year at Oakmont.
"I like what they've done with the course," he says. "They've added length but it's not ridiculous. It's in all the right places."
Europeans haven't won the U.S. Open since Tony Jacklin did 37 years ago. Europeans have won the last two U.S. Amateurs, however. Italian Edoardo Molinari won in 2005 and Scotland's Richie Ramsey, who will play with Tiger Woods and last year's champ Geoff Ogilvy the first two rounds, won last year.
Sabbatini and Ian Poulter have been the two biggest hams at Oakmont this week, picking up the slack for the usual fan-friendly Mickelson, who isn't signing autographs as a precaution for his wrist.
The always fashionable Poulter hasn't seen a film crew he doesn't like.
Sabbatini spent more time interviewing and signing autographs around the practice green than actually putting.
Tiger Woods was scheduled to play a practice round with Sabbatini at 7 a.m. Wednesday morning, but Woods rescheduled. Trip Kuehne played with the outspoken South African instead. A few months ago, Sabbatini called Woods "beatable" after finishing behind him in the Wachovia Championship.
There are only twelve players in this week's 156-man field who played in the 1994 Open.
"I don't think the players will be ready for Oakmont," says Arnold Palmer of the inexperience. "It's a course that requires a great deal of thought."
June 14, 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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