Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Playing Olympic: One man's struggle

So you're wondering how hard The Olympic Club really was if Webb Simpson won the U.S. Open at 1-over par?

Well, let me tell you.

Tougher than the ice road truckers. It would scare the swamp people.

Because there wasn't a Monday playoff, I was among the media people whose name was pulled in a lottery, giving me the chance to tee it up at Olympic.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. And, to fully appreciate the challenge of playing a U.S. Open, our group decided to play Olympic just as it was played in Sunday's final round. That means the same tees, the same hole locations, the same trapdoors to step through.

I won't bore you with my scorecard. No one wants to hear someone else's hole by hole account of their round of golf unless they're getting paid caddie fee.

Let's start this way: Tiger played the famously difficult first six holes in 6-over par on Sunday. He beat me. By four.

But I did make a beautiful par at the tough, uphill par-4 second which seemed to be missing a fairway.

That was one highlight. We'll get to the other one momentarily.

A couple of things became clear while playing Olympic. It's the most visually intimidating driving course I've ever played. When the players talked about having to shape shots off the tee (sometimes hearing that can make my eyes glaze over), they meant it.

Imagine hitting a tee shot down a hotel hallway and having to turn it around a corner -- with ball-swallowing cypress trees on both sides. And if you miss the trees and the fairway, the rough is thicker than good clam chowder.

Trust me.

A playing parter missed the par-3 15th green by four inches -- four inches -- and we'd given up his ball for lost until someone almost stepped on it as he was preparing to drop another ball.

The greens were also smaller than they appeared. I've had dinner at tables bigger than the 18th green.

 Speaking of the 18th green, that was part of my other highlight. Nice 4-iron off the tee. Nice choke-down 8-iron up the hill and the same birdie putt Graeme McDowell had to force a playoff. His never had a chance. Mine hit the back of the hole and refused to fall in but it was an easy four.

One other thing worth noting: The burger dogs at the turn are as good as advertised. They're essentially cheeseburgers shaped to fit a hot dog bun but that's like calling the Mona Lisa a painting of a lady. The club doesn't own the halfway house. It's operated by an outside vendor who's been making the burger dogs for years, clogging arteries for decades.

They're fresh cooked when you order them and they're as good as hitting every fairway.

So what did I, who carries a 6.7 handicap index at Cedarwood Country Club, shoot?

It's not important.

The handicap computer will kick out that 96 anyway.

Photo: Lee Westwood uses binoculars to look for his ball in a tree on the fifth hole during the fourth round of the U.S. Open Championship golf tournament Sunday, June 17, 2012, at The Olympic Club in San Francisco.


Anonymous said...

96 is sure better than 100+

Anonymous said...

I got to play Olympic about 14 years ago and was ecstatic with my 104 (and that was without US Open hole locations and rough length).

Anonymous said...

From the back tees and with those conditions, that is a great round considering you are not a tour golfer. Congrats!

freddy said...

I can relate.

I played Pinehurst #2 about 20 years ago from the back tees, didn't miss a shot, and shot 84. If you hit the sides of a green instead of a flat spot, the ball would kick out 10 or 20 yards and make an up-and-down supremely difficult. I've had scores that were much lower, but that was one of the best ball-striking rounds of golf I've ever played.

Those kind of courses are a lot different than the ones we "99 percenters" normally play.

Anonymous said...

That would be my best round ever on one of the most stunning, legendary courses in the world!

congrats Ron!

Anonymous said...

Senior tour is in your future?

Anonymous said...

Who knowa, if you post it as a "tournament round" and put in the course handicap slope, 150+(?, it just might lower your index

King Ward said...

I think you did well to keep it in the 90s. Average people, myself included, don't understand the difficulty of an Open course. How much more intimidating would it have been had they not lost those hundreds of trees to disease.

Anonymous said...

Who is tiger?

Anonymous said...

if you ate supper at tables bigger than the greens something was out of whack