David Duval has played in five U.S. Opens, enough to know what it takes to win. Still, he was at a loss for words after his first 18 holes at The Olympic Club.
From atop the amphitheater that surrounds the 18th green, he peered across a relatively short Lake Course - at 6,797 yards, it is regarded as the longest short course in the world."You always say you've got to hit it straight and hit the greens," he said, pausing to look over the tops of cypress trees lining the fairways and mangled rough at the bottom of their trunks.
"But you're not going to go through the week without missing a fairway," he said. "Sometimes, you've got to look at bogeys as making a pretty good score."
History bears that out. In the three previous U.S. Open championships at Olympic, only four players have managed to break par over 72 holes. Scott Simpson had a 3-under 277 to beat Tom Watson by one stroke in 1987, and Billy Casper and Arnold Palmer each had 2-under 278 in 1966; Casper won in a playoff.
When Jack Fleck pulled off a stunning playoff win over Ben Hogan in 1955, both finished the four rounds in 7-over 287.
"Has anybody started speculating on winning scores?" Duval asked with a smile.
Lee Janzen, who won the U.S. Open in 1993 at Baltusrol in a record-tying 272, suggested 5-under would be enough. Duval found that hard to believe.
"I would take that and go fishing for the week," said Duval, who spent last week fly fishing in Montana and Idaho for a television show.
It even raised the eyebrows of Fuzzy Zoeller, the 1984 U.S. Open champion. Zoeller tied with Mark McCumber at 274 in the 1994 Tour Championship at Olympic, which McCumber won with a 40-foot birdie on the first playoff hole.
But this is not the same course, not with fairways as narrow as 27 yards, rough that is 5 inches and especially clumpy around collars of the green, and new sand in the bunkers that could make them even more penalizing.
"That felt like work today," Zoeller said after his practice round. "I don't think this golf course will let anyone run away."
Olympic is proof that a course doesn't have to be long to be tough. Sure, there's a 609-yard par-5 awaiting on No. 16 - Tiger Woods tried to reach it in two Monday, but his 3-wood shot came up short in a bunker.
But one par 4 measures only 288 yards, and the 18th is one of the shorter closing holes in championship golf at a mere 347 yards.
There is only one fairway bunker, but it's not easy finding a level spot, and nearly every tee shot must be shaped around Monterrey pines, eucalyptus and cypress trees. It's called the Lake Course, but there are no water hazards.
"There are no simple lies, and no easy putts," said Jim Lucius, the head pro at Olympic.
Locals in Open
When the U.S. Open is played this week at San Francisco's Olympic Club, the field will include fewer Utahns than usual, with just one local player in Provo's Mike Reid.
Reid will tee off Thursday at 1:40 p.m. with Tommy Tolles and Trevor Dodds.
One player with a slight Utah connection, Edward Fryatt, will be playing at 4:10 p.m. in a group with Casey Martin, the famous cart-rider. Fryatt played a year for the BYU golf team before transferring to UNLV.