McIlroy shattered U.S. Open scoring records last year at Congressional when he reached double figures under par before he even finished his second round. Because of soft conditions from rain earlier in the week, he finished at 268 to break the record 72-hole record by four shots, and his 16-under par was four better than Woods at Pebble Beach in 2000.
The USGA didn’t lose much sleep when Woods finished at 12-under 272 at Pebble Beach because no one else was under par and he won by 15.
Congressional was different. McIlroy won by eight shots, but 20 players broke par, the most since 1990 at Medinah, a par 72.
Payback time? Davis almost guaranteed a tougher U.S. Open, though not from anything the USGA has cooked up.
“We’re trying to make it the toughest test of the year. It didn’t happen last year,” Davis said. “I would say most of that was caused by Mother Nature. What most people don’t understand is that it doesn’t matter how you set up a course. If you give them the ability to know when the ball lands it’s going to stop, it’s significantly easier.
“That’s what is going to make the U.S. Open this year _ without us trying to retaliate _ that much harder,” he said. “When the ball lands, whether it hits the green or in the fairway, it’s going to roll. You have to think about what happens when it lands.”
Miller was a junior member at Olympic as a teenager, and he was low amateur in 1966 the year Billy Casper chased down mistake-prone Palmer. He knows what to expect from Olympic, with its tight fairways that bend one way and slope another, and its tiny greens.
“Congressional, it was a good course, but it was almost like a tour course,” Miller said. “You looked at the scores that were be being shot, it was like playing on a good, strong tour course. This is a whole different ball game, and more like being back at a U.S. Open. … It’s not going to be so much fun and games out there. It’s going to be hard work, and I think a sterner test.
Woods recently played a practice round and was amazed to see a 9-iron hit the green and bounce as high as the top of the flagstick. Olympic is nearly 200 yards longer than when Lee Janzen won at even-par 280 in 1998. Some of the fairways have been shifted. The greens have been resurfaced. The 520-yard opening hole is now a par 4, while the 522-yard 17th hole is now a par 5. An additional tee was built on the par-5 16th hole, making it 670 yards, the longest hole in U.S. Open history.
“It’s going to be a hell of a test,” Woods said.
Then again, that’s that the U.S. Open is supposed to be.
“When they set courses up tough, firm and fast, you’re put to the test emotionally,” former British Open champion Stewart Cink said. “Hanging in there becomes a big challenge. The task feels insurmountable, unattainable. Olympic is a good example. They have fairways sloping one way or the other, and eventually it start to feel like you’re outmatched.”
Congressional was an exception last year because of the rain, though hardly anyone would complain about the quality of winner it produced.