Ben Hogan referred to Oakland Hills Country Club as a monster when he won the U.S. Open in 1951. Imagine what he would say about it now.
Midway through the final practice round Wednesday, a small clap of thunder signaled the start of a downpour that pounded the course for nearly three hours.The result was a steep bunker at the 18th green that caved in, knee-high water in the landing area of at least four fairways - and a lot more to worry about than long, tight fairways, severely sloping greens and shoe-covering rough.
The 96th U.S. Open began today under mostly sunny skies on the soggy, squishy terrain of Oakland Hills. Ken Green hit a drive down the middle that hopped and stopped, and some delays were expected because of rulings required for whatever casual water remains.
"Yesterday afternoon, the No. 8 fairway had 5 feet of water in the deepest part, and they mowed it this morning," USGA agronomist Tim Moraghan said. "It looks very well. I'm amazed."
The forecast for the rest of the week is promising, but the deluge Wednesday, on top of showers earlier this week, has made the par-70 Oakland Hills play even longer than its 6,974 yards.
At the same time, it has made the greens soft and much more susceptible to approach shots at the pin, something not often seen in the U.S. Open.
"Are you going to play short and hit longer shots into the greens, which are softer?" Tom Watson asked as rain pelted the tent where he was speaking. "Or do you take a risk with the driver and put it in between the bunkers and the rough? This course narrows down in the landing areas quite a bit."
And while the greens are soft, Watson and Jack Nicklaus worried not about spike marks, but footprints around the cup.
"They are going to have to be pretty careful the first couple of days with pin placements," said Nicklaus.
"This is a patience test without the rain," Davis Love III said. "So then you add the wet conditions and tough lies and mud on your ball and all that, it is just going to test your patience even more.