Oakmonster or not?

My U.S. Open preview piece is here.

From the article:

There’s another factor that will definitely affect play this year: over 4,000 trees were removed from the property. Almost all of the trees in question were not originally part of the golf course. Some were added for “beautification,” while others were planted in dedication of a deceased member. Nevertheless, they encroached on airspace and overly shaded some of the greens. “The removal brings the course much closer to what Fownes wanted,” noted golf course architect and historian Stephen Kay. “Trees are bunkers in the sky,” he quipped, quoting Alister Mackenzie. “They could plant trees in Scotland, but they don’t. Why?”

It’s a proper question to philosophize. Not enough “buzz” has focused on this point. While I refuse to opine on whether, “If a tree falls in the forest does it make a sound,” I know for certain that when a tree falls at Oakmont it makes a tempestuous noise! These felled trees have ignited a heckuva ruckus already. But they may also determine the winner of the tournament because the removal clearly favors Tiger Woods. He has more airspace for his misses and more chances for recovery. Tiger’s length will ensure his usual advantage and his misses will not be compromised by any extra punishment now that they won’t be blocked out as they would have been prior to the tree removal.

Woods already has a solid game plan going into Oakmont. After trying to overpower Winged Foot and missing the cut, Woods learned that some courses require a laser and not a hammer. He two-ironed everyone to death at the British Open last year. During a practice round at Oakmont last month, he said he wasn’t going to waste his time hitting driver. Woods even joked, “Hitting driver here is against my religion.”

In contrast, Phil Mickelson may stubbornly blockhead himself out of this Open. He insists he lost last year’s Open by “not hitting the driver well enough.” Maybe he has not learned a lesson from Winged Foot. The problem wasn’t the driver – it was trying to hit a shot that was too tempting and treacherous. Phil seems hell-bent on proving himself correct, and the U.S. Open is not the tournament to pick that fight. At the Open, “speed, strength, and aggression” always get punished, while “balance, patience and wisdom” get rewarded.

So it becomes a question of whether Woods makes enough putts to cash in on his length advantage. Strangely, he says, “I don’t like greens that have elephants buried under them.” But he’s won four times at Augusta, and should have no fear of Oakmont. Like at Hoylake, if Tiger makes his putts, he wins. If not, he opens the door for a grinder with a hot putter, someone like Larry Nelson.

Author Description

Jay Flemma

There are 4 comments. Add yours

  1. 6th June 2007 | iacas says:
    "Hitting driver is against my religion" is in reference to the eight hole, a 288-yard par three. It wasn't a general remark for the course. Still, I expect Tiger to employ a strategy similar to the one he employed at the last two majors he won: lots of three-woods and stingers from the tees. The whole idea of "no trees favors Tiger" makes no sense, given his win at Medinah and your own belief that Tiger is not going to bomb it but will instead hit, as I agree, lots of 3Ws from the tees.
  2. 6th June 2007 | A WALK IN THE PARK says:
    Of course it makes perfect sense. He has more airspace for his bombs and if his misses go off line. Plus he can press his distance advantage. He has the strongest wrists on tour. He can generate the most club head speed and spin out of the rough. The only disadvantage may be a few dicey lies as a result of the tree removal...that's according to Ron Whitten.
  3. 6th June 2007 | iacas says:
    You've missed my point. You say two things: a) Tiger Woods will put the driver away (i.e. give up his distance advantage) in favor of the 3W or 2-iron or whatever. Tiger and Bob Ford have both said similar things as well. b) Lack of trees gives Tiger an advantage for his "missiles." See what I'm getting at? You claim Tiger is giving up an advantage, then claim the lack of trees plays into that very same advantage he's eschewing in favor of control.
  4. 6th June 2007 | A WALK IN THE PARK says:
    I said "misses" not missiles...

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