My U.S. Open preview piece for Oakmont will be up on Cybergolf any time now. In the meantime, I found no end of interesting stories about Oakmont. I’ll share some of these in the run-up to next week.
Phil Rodgers must still hate evergreens to this day. From my preview piece:
If you like history, plenty of epic moments happened here in Steelerland. Oakmont is where Nicklaus burst on to the scene in 1962, upsetting hometown favorite and national icon Arnold Palmer. However, few remember Phil Rodgers should have bested them both. Rodgers left the open in a small evergreen tree on 17 during the first round. While I love the genius simplicity of this short, but dangerous par-4, (it says more in 322 yards than most holes say in 450), Marino Parascenzo, Pittsburgh’s most venerable sportswriter focused merely on it’s pint-size when he called it “the brat….simply outclassed by its siblings….the runt of the litter.” But 17 shows how a skillfully designed short hole is far sexier than a long, straight brute. With the terrifying “Big Mouth” bunker directly between the tee box and the skyline green guarded by treacherous greenside swales and more bunkers, the shot must be both long and straight to hold the green.
Rodgers was thinking eagle, but instead of driving the green, his tee shot fell just short into some newly planted trees placed there precisely to penalize players who took their chances and missed. The ball lodged in the upper branches. Rodgers took three shots to extricate his ball from the tree, carding an quadruple-bogey eight in the process. His first vicious swipe dislodged the ball, but it settled on the next set of branches down. Angry but undaunted, Rodgers took another baseball swing at it. The ball just moved down to the next set of branches. Finally a furious flail dislodged it form the tree, but the damage was done. He missed the historic Nicklaus vs. Palmer playoff by two shots. Had he taken a drop and a one-stroke penalty, a double-bogey six was a cinch (that would have put him in the playoff) and a five (or even a four) was not out of the question. Five would have won the tournament. Rodgers drove the green and made birdie the next day, but after the tournament quipped, “I’ve got a long way to go to get even with it.”