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Inside The Olympic Club – Lake Course
It’s been said that the first six holes of the course are among the toughest of any course, anywhere, and that will certainly prove to be an immense test for players going into the weekend. The first hole is playing 520 yards, and in the last Open in 1998 it was played as a Par 5. With a scoring average of 4.7 it was among the easier scoring holes on the course. That will not be the case this time around however, as the USGA has #1 playing as a Par 4, so that scoring average of 4.7 might still be the case. Followed immediately by a 428 yard Par 4, that will play much longer than it would appear to. Because the fairway narrows significantly at about 270 yards off the tee, it was force some players to play a 3-wood off the tee, leaving a much longer approach shot. It doesn’t get any easier with the 3rd hole that can play as long as 247 yards for what it expected to be the toughest Par 3 of the championship.
The first “breather” comes in the form of the Par 4, 7th hole, a drivable hole that can play as short as 256 yards, bringing birdies and potentially some eagles into play. As players make the turn and start the back nine they will be given opportunities to score on holes like the Par 4 10th, which with an accurate tee shot will leave a short iron into the green.
Moving on to the tricky 13th hole, which has been changed from 1998; the rough to the left of the green has been converted into a closely mown area that funnels down into a dry lateral hazard.
Things get interesting as players will come to the 16th hole, which is the longest in US Open history, at 670 yards. I can tell you from watching multiple groupd tee off on this whole that this hole will bring controversy. When a player like Bubba Watson hits driver, driver and has 60 yards left for his 3rd shot, you know the hole is long. Birdies will be nearly impossible to come by, and with the severe right to left dogleg, poor first and second shots will make par hard to come by. Not all players are going to be happy with not having any chance of reaching a Par 5 in two, even with two perfectly executed shots.
Once through that monster, perhaps the only “guaranteed” birdie on the course awaits players. The 520 yard Par 5 17th hole plays downwind, and provides a true risk-reward opportunity. In all the previous Open’s it played as a Par 4, making it significantly harder. Nick Watney on Friday had what could prove to be the shot of the tournament when he holed out from the fairway for a double-eagle, only the third in US Open history, evoking recent memories of Louis Oosthuizen in the Masters.
It all culminates into perhaps one of the most famous finishing holes in all of golf. The 18th hole plays as a short 344 yard Par 4, but a narrow drive and narrow approach shot to an uphill green make it much more challenging. With a near blind second shot to a back to front sloping green surrounded by thick rough this hole would prove to be a test at any tournament. But the history that this hole holds, with Billy Casper beating Arnold Palmer in a playoff in 1966, and Jack Fleck beating Ben Hogan in a playoff in 1955, both had legendary putts on the 18th hole.
The players may be competing against one another, but at the Olympic Club, as with any US Open they all know that they’re really competing against the course. This year the iconic Olympic Club will prove to be as tough a test as any there has been in history. It’s certainly proved it thus far, and as it moves into the weekend it will only get tougher. Good luck besting this course, the winner will have merely survived better than anyone else.
Read More from Tim at his golf blog, LifeFromTheShortGrass.com