The 2007 U.S. Open will be a test of skill and patience for the world's top golfers.
Oakmont Country Club, site of this year's Open, is rumored to be one of the most difficult courses in the United States. In fact, the course's website comes right out and says it:
Oakmont remains perhaps the most difficult course in North America, with 180 deep bunkers, hard and slick greens that slope away from the player, and tight fairways requiring the utmost precision.
That doesn't sound like a golf course. That sounds like a level of hell.
A closer look at Golf Purgatory reveals that certain holes simply aren't fair.
Number eight is a terrifying par-three that stretches almost 300 yards. The hole is protected by a 100-yard bunker named after the worlds largest desert, the Sahara.
The par-five 12th runs nearly 670 yards and is home to 20 evil sand traps. The course report recommends that a golfer use a three-wood to hit the sloping fairway, followed by a long iron to place the approach between bunkers and a wedge shot onto the green...which tilts away from the fairway at a completely impossible angle.
If anyone is capable of completing that hat trick of shots, he's the best golfer in the world.
And he's probably cheating.
The finishing hole is a 484-yard par four that didn't get enough hugs as a child. With bunkers to the left and bunkers to the right, accuracy and dumb luck are essential. The green resembles a crumpled burger wrapper and has no hole. Golfers will be putting forever.
Vijay Singh believes that a score of 10 or 12 over par may win this year's Open. Tiger Woods' strategy is to 'not make bogeys.' Jon Daly would prefer a night at home with his wife over teeing it up at Oakmont.
As for me, I'll be watching from the relative safety of my couch. And I'll be loving every minute of it.
You see, every time I hit the links, I want nothing more than to emulate Tiger...or Phil...or Kevin Costner's character from Tin Cup. But it just isn't happening.
My drives have a mind of their own. My irons never hit their targets. My putts breed like rabbits. I spend more time in the rough than I do in the fairway, and I read greens about as well as I read Chinese.
This weekend at the Open is the closest pro golfers will ever get to playing like I do, complete with four-putts and dirty words. It will be refreshing to watch. If I'm lucky, I might even see someone break a club, or break an arm, or break 90.
Not that I don't share their pain. In fact, Ernie Els and Co. could probably learn something from my many golf mistakes. I may just be the world's supreme authority on bad-shot recovery, thanks to the frequency with which I have to recover from bad shots:
Deep rough: Position your feet a little more than shoulder-width apart, grip your five iron tightly, close your eyes, and swing as hard as you can. If executed correctly, you should have no idea where your shot is going or where it went.
Sand: Dig your feet deep into the trap for stability, hold your sand wedge head-high, and drive it through the sand below your ball. If the ball remains in the trap, repeat...but swing harder.
Long putts: Address your ball. Look at the hole to get your bearings. Wind up. Smack your ball. Pray you end up closer to the hole than when you started. Repeat until done.
Of course, being millionaire golfers with swing coaches and such, these guys probably have their own strategies for escaping trouble. Under normal circumstances, we don't get to see them use their stroke-saving maneuvers very often. This weekend, they'll have ample opportunity to show off their skills.
Seeing Tiger swing from under a tree will be exciting, because I've been there before. Ditto for watching Phil take two strokes to get out of a fairway bunker. And catching Justin Rose carding an eight will be sweet, because I average a snowman on most holes.
One thing's for sure: Playing Oakmont may be hell...but watching it will be heaven.