Hole to watch: No. 2 at Oakmont
Monday, July 5, 2010
325 yards/250 yard, par 4
What’s distinctive: The few players in the 2010 field who competed here in the 1992 U.S. Women’s Open scarcely will recognize the course, given all of the trees that have been cut down, the resulting windswept feel of the place and the presence of those wavy rough grasses. As for the holes themselves, the par 4s at Oakmont are just about evenly split between long and short ones.
The long ones can accommodate a perfectly placed run-up approach, but on the handful of short par 4s, the only way to the green and to stay on the putting surface is with a crisply flighted iron. Avoiding the gnarly rough is bad enough; worse yet are the hazards looming alongside Oakmont’s fairways. The second hole is a good (terrifying) example. Length doesn’t matter here. All that counts off the tee is avoiding the six fairway bunkers on the right, one of Oakmont’s legendary grassed ditches on the left and yet another bunker that’s smack in the middle of the fairway about 55 yards short of the green. From there, it’s a short iron or flip wedge to a green that’s the steepest on the course and barely offers four manageable hole locations.
What to look for: The hardest shots to hit in a major are the half shots, the ones that demand control in terms of backswing length, swing velocity and shot shape. The second hole is the place where the real nerves will be tested under delicate conditions. A slight tug of the tee shot, even with an intended lay-up club, will be disastrous given that ditch. Miss the green on either side – or worse yet, long – and recovery becomes akin to playing pingpong with the golf ball. This short hole is a great test of a player’s patience and really sets the tone for the round.
For one or two days of the Women’s Open, the second hole will be set up to play as a drivable 250-yard par 4. That will make the hole doubly interesting, because the lay-up – dealing with that mid-fairway bunker short of the green – would be no simple matter. As for trying to drive the green, players would face a formidable challenge thanks to six greenside bunkers. Depending on the hole location, being short-sided would leave a near-impossible recovery and place par very much in doubt.