Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Oakmont set to bludgeon golf's best

Oakmont is such a pretty place for a massacre.

It’s big and green and standing behind the Tudor-style clubhouse, it’s possible to see portions of 17 of the 18 holes on what club members and many others believe to be the toughest test in golf this side of Carnoustie.

But the U.S. Open is golf’s version of body punching an opponent into submission or intensive care.

That’s where Oakmont is expected to shine – like a really deep bruise.

We’ll of course have to wait and see if all the predictions of ballooning scores come true. There has been idle speculation that someone will post a score in the 90s this week. Since John Daly is not here, it’s tough to guess exactly who that unfortunate soul might be if it comes to pass.

Speaking of Daly, his act has grown tired. What once made him a colorful character has long since lost its charm.

But this Open doesn’t include Daly. It includes Phil Mickelson’s injured wrist, which is getting more attention than Michelle Wie’s bad wrists.

Mickelson had practiced but not played for two days at Oakmont before Tuesday morning, when he played a practice round with no apparent difficulty other than trying not to smile when he’d bust his driver 50 yards past playing partner Fred Funk.

Among the many interesting things about Oakmont is the fact the Pennsylvania Turnpike literally runs through the middle of the course; Nothing quite like hitting a tee shot to the 288-yard par-3 (yeah, right) eighth hole with the rumbling noise of 18-wheelers in your ears.

But then, Oakmont isn’t like anyplace else. The members love how tough their course is, brag about it in fact.

They cut out, depending on whose count you pick, somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 full-grown trees since the last Open was played here in 1994. The course was designed without trees and all those that had been planted to beautify the place had changed the character of the beast, so they were done away with.

Environmentalists may cringe but it a brilliant bit of work with chain saws. The place is spectacular.

Perhaps this Open will be as well.