Posts Tagged ‘olympic club’
If you’re an avid golf fan, you’re probably experiencing a combination of elation and depression this particular Monday, following the dramatic finish of the 2012 U.S. Open held at the Olympic Club Lakes Course in San Francisco these past four days.
First, let me send out my hearty congratulations to first time major victor and 2012 U.S. Open Champion, Webb Simpson.
Though Webb has certainly had a strong showing these past couple of years on the PGA, his was not a name widely circulated as being a likely victor for this year’s championship.
And though he wasn’t widely featured on the telecast coverage through the first three days of the tournament, he slowly crawled his way up the leader board and yesterday cemented his +1 victory over fellow golfers, Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell.
McDowell, who won his first U.S. Open at Pebble Beach two years ago, held fast to the bitter end, but his final putt wandered just a little too much to the left to earn a playoff with Simpson.
And Furyk, the grinder’s grinder, played steady and firm until that wayward hooked drive on hole 16 at Olympic, also sending his second U.S. Open Championship hopes into the rough along with his uncooperative Srixon ball.
But boy, what drama. If Shakespeare had the occasion to write about golf, he would have gotten at least a sonnet or two out of these past four days of play.
First, there was Tiger Woods’ return to rare form on day one and two, only to see him fade away into the pack with his early six over par on the first several holes yesterday.
Then there was this year’s Cinderella story, committed University of Texas (the new NCAA men’s golf champions, after a forty-year drought) golf aspiree and 17-year-old wunderkind, Beau Hossler, whose grace-under-pressure and whimsical but lethally accurate iron play left everyone wanting more. Standing ovations abounded for “the kid” by the crowds at Olympic, a kid from whom we will certainly hear a lot more and (I hope), soon.
But for my money, the real victor of this year’s U.S. Open was the Olympic Club course, and, of course, the fans.
Olympic played like a great U.S. Open course should — it seemingly brought the best players in the world to their knees, and forced them to play smart and steady golf in order to arrive on top.
That’s the kind of golf Webb Simpson (and a few others) played, and it’s the kind of golf that keeps golf fans coming back for more.
And, after Rory McIlroy’s pummeling of Congressional at last year’s U.S. Open, it was time for the U.S.G.A. to return to the essence of what makes a great U.S. Open — the matching of the best players in the world with the most challenging, but fair, golf course and playing conditions imaginable.
This year, they delivered in spades, and so did Webb Simpson.
Congrats to them both — it was a victory well deserved!
If you watched any of the first day’s play of the 2012 U.S. Open Championship, you know that the Olympic Club Lake Course has not been kind to the world’s best golfers.
And that’s just the way I like it.
From Tiger Woods to world #1 Luke Donald to last year’s U.S. Open champion, Rory McIlroy, virtually every player is struggling with the razor trimmed greens and tight fairways at Olympic.
It’s always fun to watch the seasoned pros get humbled on a golf course: Landing the ball, holding the ball, putting the ball…stopping the ball.
In fact, Olympic played at over 700 over par yesterday, 400 something in just the first 6 holes, which all the pundits had warned about.
Currently, Michael Thompson leads the field at four under, and Tiger Wood is tied for second at one under. But there’s still plenty of golf to be played.
Who I’m keeping my eye on for day two: Tiger, no question. But also former U.S. Open champions GraemeMcDowell, currently at two under for the tournament after 9 holes today, and Jim Furyk, who’s even after 7.
David Toms is also tied at −1, and yesterday’s Jason Bohn is still settled in at even.
I’ll also be keeping an eye on Hunter Mahan (+1 for the tournament, −1 for the day), and Ian Poulter (+1).
Angel Cabrera is only +3, as is Ernie Els and Matt Kuchar, so there’s lots of opportunity left to climb their way back and make the weekend.
As for Tiger Woods’ play yesterday, you could tell he was back in the zone. He played the course, not the other players, and played some gorgeous iron approaches that demonstrated not only his technical prowess, but his savvy at how the greens were accepting (or not) approach shots.
If he plays like that again today, Woods could easily be leading into the weekend.
Regardless, it’s going to be fun to watch.
If you’re an avid fan, be sure to check out some of the useful features of the U.S. Open Web site for “golf’s toughest test.” The live video is carrying coverage today of the Jim Furyk, Sergio Garcia, and Graeme McDowell threesome, and the “PlayerTracker” allows you to follow and review the play of individual players or groups by hole. I’m just learning my way around that particular course, but thus far, it’s extremely cool.
Finally, don’t forget to keep your eye on the amateur players. California’s 17-year-old Beau Hossler is even for the tournament, and Arizona’s Alberto Sanchez is only four over for the tournament.
It’s going to be one heck of a weekend of championship golf.
I promised last week to bring you at least a little of the history behind one of golf’s greatest tests, the U.S. Open, which was first played on October 4, 1895 at the Newport Country Club in Newport, Rhode Island (If you’ve never been to Newport, I highly recommend it. Make sure you take in some of the local seafood!)
That first competition was only 36 holes, and was played in a single day. In that first competition, there were ten pro golfers, and one amateur. The winner was a 21 year-old Englishman named Horace Rawlins, who had arrived in the U.S in January that year to take up a position at the host club.
His winnings: $150 cash and a $50 gold medal…and, the Open Championship Club trophy.
It went on that way for a number of years, with the Brits dominating until John J. McDermott came along to become the first native-born American winner, and soon, the U.S. Open found itself joining the ranks of golf’s majors.
Since 1911, the title has been won almost exclusively by U.S players. Since 1950, players from only six countries other than the U.S. Have taken the Open trophy, most notably South Africa, which has taken it five times since 1965.
Today, the U.S. Open is the second of the four major golf championships, and is staged by the United States Golf Association in mid-June, with the final round typically played on Father’s Day.
The tournament is staged at a variety of courses, often set up in a way that scoring is very difficult with a premium placed on accurate driving. The tournament’s play is typically characterized by tight scoring at or around par by the leaders (with Rory McIlroy’s −16 finish last year a very rare exception!).
A U.S Open course is very rarely beaten by such a margin, and in fact, there have been a number of over-par wins. Often, Open courses are very long in yardage, and have a very high cut of primary rough, undulating greens (making putting and approach placement critical), and tight fairways.
The U.S. Open is the only one of the four majors which does not go immediately to a playoff if two or more players are tied at the end of the four rounds, instead having the players play a fifth 18th-hole round the following day (Monday). After that, if a tie still exists, then a sudden-death playoff is held, much as happened in 2008 when Tiger Woods defeated veteran golfer Rocco Mediate on the first additional playoff hole, a finish rife with drama and much pain incurred by Woods with his weakened knee ligament.
In San Francisco this week, at the Olympic Club, the site of the 2012 U.S. Open, that course’s history exceeds that of the Open itself. It was established in 1860 and enjoys the distinction of being America’s oldest athletic club, wtih some 5,000 members who compete in 19 sports out of its downtown San Francisco clubhouse. Its 45 holes of golf include the Lake Course, originally designed in 1924 by Willie Watson and Sam Whiting, and redesigned by Whiting in 1927 after suffering storm damage.
The Lake Course remains true to its 1927 design, with minimal renovations in the intervening years, save for the creation of a new 8th hole, a 200-yard par 3. The course is hosting its fifth U.S. Open and should provide a substantial challenge with its narrow, tree-lined fairways and small, well-bunkered greens.
It should prove to be a compelling four days (or, pending any ties at the top of the leaderboard, five days) of championship golf!
Okay, golf fans, if you watched the Tournament Players Championship this weekend, you know you hardly have reason to complain.
Other than Kevin Na’s “yips,” which seemed to bother co-playing partner Zach Johnson during Saturday’s third round more than it did anyone else, weren’t quite enough to keep Na from leading as they walked into the final round yesterday.
But it was Matt Kuchar (everyone on the course just yells at him, “Kooch!”) who walked away with his biggest ever title on Mother’s Day, a sweet birdie putt on the 16th at Sawgrass all but cementing his victory.
Scotland’s Martin Laird and the ever fashionable Ricky Fowler, who finally won his own first PGA Tour victory just last week at the Wells Fargo Championship, were hot on Kuchar’s heels, but they’d fallen too far away by the time they reached 16, 17, and 18, the winding hat trick of a finish at Sawgrass that includes the infamous 17 “island” green.
Zach Johnson had been on a bit of a tear of his own, starting the round at 7 under and only four behind Kuchar, eagling the par-5 second and getting to 11 under with a birdie on the par-5 16th — no Master’s par 5 layups for Johnson at Sawgrass!
But Kuchar refused to fall back to the pack.
In terms of drama, there was plenty of it, but most of that drama came from other players.
As Kuchar approached 17, the victory clearly in view, I could only pray, “Kooch, don’t slop another one in the water!” which so many others had done during the week. But no, he put it safely in the middle of the island green and two-putted for his par.
On 18, he hit a nice solid drive in the middle of the fairway (remembering there’s water all along the left side of the hole) and talked sports with his caddie as they walked up towards the green.
No biggie, Kooch seemed to be saying, but it was a biggie indeed, and elevates the well-liked Kuchar into a whole new class of the game.
Which is perfect, because it’s just in time for the coming U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. If there’s not been enough drama for you this year on the PGA Tour, I hope and expect June 14-17 at the Olympic Club to be about as much drama as a golf fan can stand.
More on that in future posts…but for now, let’s celebrate Matt Kuchar’s well-deserved and long overdue “big win” — the 33 year-old “kid’s” been at since he won the U.S. Amateur in 1998, and finally he can say he belongs in the big leagues.
And it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy!