Dulac on Golf: Oakmont's front trio of holes offers bracing slap in face rather than pleasant wakeup call

2010 U.S. Women's Open


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It can be argued that Tiger Woods, feeling good after starting the final round with two solid pars, lost the 2007 U.S. Open when he tried to attack the pin at No. 3 -- an Oakmont no-no -- and made double bogey.

It also can be argued that Jim Furyk, chastised for trying to drive the green at No. 17 and making bogey when he was tied for the lead, did the same thing when he tried the green at No. 2 earlier in the round and made bogey.

And no less an authority than Johnny Miller, author of the greatest final round in history at Oakmont, called No. 1 "the hardest opening hole in the world."

Welcome to the first three holes at Oakmont, the rudest awakening in golf. Three consecutive par 4s that are brutally tough, devilishly deceptive and mentally debilitating.

Were they a greeter, they would be rude, brash, abrasive. Wal-Mart would fire them after one day. Guests need counseling from Dr. Phil after playing them.

"A tough way to start," said Jiyai Shin, the No. 3 women's player in the world.

Indeed.

Much can be said about No. 8, the longest par 3 in major championship history. Or No. 12, the longest par 5 in a major championship. The 15th, with the mini-Church Pews on the left, is known as one of the best and hardest par 4s in golf. And No. 17, the beguiling par 4, has decided more people's fate than a high school guidance counselor.

But, when the 65th U.S. Women's Open is decided today, it likely will be the first three holes -- and how the players handle them -- that will determine the champion.

"That's the hardest stretch of three holes, and it's even harder because it's your first three holes," said Stacy Lewis, who authored one of the two sub-par scores in the second round. "How you play those first three holes is probably going to determine who wins this golf tournament."

Lewis would know. She began the third round at 4-over 146, three shots from the lead. But, in three rounds, she played those three holes in 9-over par, yet she is only 6-over par after 51 holes.

"I was 1 over there [in the second round]," Lewis said. "I'd take that and run every day. I'm just trying to hit the fairway, hit the green, two-putt and move on."

History proves that approach is correct.

In 2007, Angel Cabrera finished with a winning score of 5-over 285, mainly because he played those three holes in 1-over par for four days. But Furyk, who finished a shot back at 286, was 5 over on those holes for four days, meaning he played the other 60 holes in just 1 over.

This week, Paula Creamer, the second-round co-leader who had a three-shot lead when play was suspended because of darkness, has gone through the opening three holes in even par in three days, making one birdie and one bogey.

So did Brittany Lang and Christina Kim. Cristie Kerr has played them in 2 over, Suzann Pettersen 3 over. All those players are chasing Creamer, who is seeking her first major championship. How they go through them today likely will determine their fate.

"You need to think really simple on those holes," said Japan's Ai Miyazato, who has made eight pars in three days on those holes. Her only mistake was a double bogey on No. 1 Friday. "Just try to hit fairways, hit greens and make some putts."

Sometimes it does not always work that way.

Ernie Els made triple-bogey 7 on the second hole in the Monday playoff with Loren Roberts and Colin Montgomerie and still went on to win the 1994 U.S. Open. And it started when he made birdie from the Church Pews on No. 3.

Either way, they will decide the champion.


Gerry Dulac: gdulac@post-gazette.com


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