The unleveled Lake Course is short by most U.S. Open standards.
The course plays at a par-70, 7,170 yards _ 373 yards longer than the last time it hosted the national championship in 1998 _ with the biggest gains coming from the 16th hole. The tee is so far back from the 15th green that it often throws off players, who have to walk about 100 feet backward for the next hole.
K.J. Choi decided to take a shortcut in his opening practice round through the fans instead of walking through the roped-off path that makes it even longer.
“Taking the short route?” one spectator asked.
“No short route here,” Choi jokingly responded.
The USGA’s Davis expects to use the new tee for two of the four rounds, including Sunday’s final. He also plans to put tees out at 570 and 630 yards, and the shortest of those could make “golf’s toughest test” even trickier.
On that day, players with long _ and straight _ drives could be forced into an interesting dynamic: going for the green in two or laying up with the 522-yard 17th _ playing at par 5 for the first time _ setting up as the next birdie opportunity.
“Now with back-to-back par 5s,” Davis said, “I think you will see the U.S. Open won or lost on those two holes.”
The upward trend also has some players wondering where the limit lands.
The previous longest hole in U.S. Open history was the 667-yard 12th hole at Oakmont Country Club in 2007. No. 5 at the 2007 PGA Championship at Southern Hills played at 653 yards, and the 17th at the 2005 PGA Championship at Baltusrol extended to 650 yards from the back tees.
Davis has insisted the 16th at Olympic is not a gimmick or a way to level the playing field for the shorter hitters. Instead, it’s simply meant to be a true three swings to the green, where shaping shots and placement are paramount.
Even still, that might not be enough to stop the most daring drivers.
“One thing I’ve learned playing out here,” qualifier Patrick Cantlay said, “is somebody’s always trying to reach it.”
Follow Antonio Gonzalez at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP
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