U.S. Open Media Day
May 3, 2012
by Spencer Sorensen
PEBBLE BEACH – The USGA held its U.S. Open Media Day on Monday April 30 at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. Members of the media from Northern California and other scattered parts of the U.S. came to listen to an hour long press conference featuring the USGA’s executive board and a conference call from 2011 U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy.
McIlroy, who has yet to play the Olympic Club, said he plans to come out about a week prior to the championship and get a few practice rounds in. “From what I have heard it’s a really good setup and I know they have made a few changes to it this year for the U.S. Open, but I’m excited to get up there and see what it’s like,” said the 23 year-old Northern Irishman.
USGA executive director Mike Davis talked at length about some of those changes, primarily with changes to holes 16 and 17. The 16th hole will stretch to 670 yards on at least two of the four days of competition, making it the longest par-5 in U.S. Open history. For those familiar with the course layout, the tee box sits on the left side of the cart path in 15th-hole territory—about 40 yards behind and to the right of the 15th green. Davis said that they made the hole longer “to insure that [it] is a three shot hole” and furthermore “if you miss one of those shots it’s going to be hard to recover from that shot.”
The 17th hole, which will also play as a par-5 yet much shorter at 522 yards, now has a closely mown area behind and to the right the green giving players little room for error. “We wanted to try something a little bit different and say can we make a short par-5 that is truly risk/reward,” said Davis, explaining that he believes the 17th green is the toughest on the course because it slopes dramatically from left to right. “[The change to 17] makes the player think off the tee, makes him execute off the tee and then when they’re in the drive zone, they have got to think about: do I want to go for it or not?”
Closely mown areas around the slick greens is one of the rife changes to the regular course setup as Davis pointed out that seven of the 18 greens will be surrounded by closely mown areas instead of rough, forcing players to get more creative. Other changes include eight new tee boxes, which has made the course more than 300 yards longer than the 1998 U.S. Open. With the changes the course rating will be 77.1 with a slope of 150, making it fall in line with the USGA’s philosophy of the U.S. Open being “the toughest test in golf.”
Overall, the USGA executive board is pleased to be holding the 2012 U.S. Open here at the Olympic Club for a fifth time. “San Francisco is a great host city [and] the Olympic Club is a great host club,” said Davis.
NOTES: The U.S. Open had the fourth most entries this year in its history with 9,006 entries, 80 shy of the 2009 record of 9,086 …There are 109 local qualifying sites, with all local qualifiers taking place between April 30-May 17. Northern California courses will be hosting five local qualifiers Fort Washington GCC, Ruby Hill GC and Serrano CC (May 7), Pasatiempo GC (May 14) and Mayacama CC (May 15) … Sectional qualifying will be conducted at two international sites—Japan (May 21) and England (May 28)—and 11 U.S. sites on June 4, including Daly City’s Lake Merced GC … The first hole at the Olympic Club, which plays as a par-5 for its members will play as a 520-yard par-4 making it the fourth longest par-4 in U.S. Open history. With the opening hole playing as a par-4 the front nine will be a par-34 with the back playing as a par-36.