Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Maybe Mike Davis Has Been Reading My Encouragement

I jest, of course, but Mike Davis is the head setup man at the USGA. That means that he is the guy primarily responsible for the devastating scoring conditions at each of the last two US Opens. Last year, though, he showed some signs of improvement (in my mind) in how he set up Oakmont. Sure, it was a massacre, but there were some shorter par 4s and a decision to remove hundreds of trees to restore the original character of the course. Perhaps they decided this year that they would try introducing fairways that were not impossible to hit. From Thomas Bonk's account in the LA Times, it sure sounds like it.

Davis said the alterations are actually minor. Here are the changes.

No. 4, 488-yard par four: The hole that runs along the ocean, the fairways have been widened out to the right, up near the green.

No. 5, 453-yard par four: The fairway has been widened in the drive zone, which should bring bunkers into play.

No. 13, 614-yard par five: If the shortest teeing area is used at 5390 yards, the fairway to the left, up against the canyon, is widened.

No. 18, 573-yard par five: A risk-reward hole, the fairway is widened out near the pond and wraps left around the pond.

Of course, the USGA did narrow a couple of fairways, the 612-yard 9th where three yards were taken off the left of the fairway in the third shot area and the 435-yard 14th where the fairway was narrowed up beyond the drive zone.
Not bad. Interesting that they decided to gave a left hand bail out on 18. It is almost Mickelson-esque in the kind of relief it could provide.

Don't forget about this beauty, though:
The Open is still seven weeks away, and that's plenty of time to start getting ready for the chatter about the brutal, 614-yard par five - if it's played from the farthest tee, which would require a 250-yard carry over a canyon.

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