The Oakmont holes that could make or break a champion
Par-4, 482 yards
One of the hardest tests in golf, this hole has posed a truly searching examination for the participants in the eight US Opens to have been staged at Oakmont since 1927.
The drive needs to be long and straight, threaded between a tight girdle of bunkers left and right in order to set up a blind mid-to-long-iron approach to a green that slopes away and is receptive to only the crispest of shots.
Trees encroach all down the right of the fairway while to the left, particularly when the USGA come calling, the rough can assume the constituency of spinach. Two small traps guard the front left of a long, slick green where two putts is often the pinnacle of most players’ ambition.
Par-4, 428 yards
This hole features the famous Church Pews bunker that occupies two acres of real estate down the left side of the fairway (it poses a similar threat on the adjoining 4th).
For many golfers this is a place of worship, though Palmer might have dissented just after the photograph of him playing from the Church Pews during his final US Open appearance in 1994 was taken.
The Church Pews is made up of 12 grass-covered ridges filled with sand in between, and often a sideways or backward chip is the only means of escape.
A line of five traps down the right make this one of golf’s hardest driving holes, though a straight blow usually sets up a short iron to an elevated green sloping slightly away but fairly flat by Oakmont standards.
However, a cluster of bunkers in front of the green – three right and two left – lie in wait for anything misdirected or mishit.
Par-5, 609 yards
The Church Pews between the 3rd and 4th fairways is one of the most revered, and feared, hazards in golf. In the case of the long, left-to-right 4th, they line the left edge of the fairway on the elbow of the dogleg.
Not only will anyone contemplating a run at the green in two shots be praying they keep out of the Church Pews off the tee, but they must avoid the five bunkers tight to the right crook of the fairway that are every bit as threatening.
Compounding the difficulty, a further 11 bunkers guard the 100 yards or so leading up to a front right-to-back-left diagonal green – four around the putting surface, a line of four ‘mini-pews’ front right and three more traps in the right rough around lay-up distance.
Par-4, 386 yards
Described by Sergio Garcia during the 2007 US Open as a testing par-78, Oakmont, which has a strict championship par of 70, is revered for the severity of its 210 bunkers and slick, hard greens.
Many players opt to thread a long-iron off the 5th tee because the bunker-flanked fairway gives way at 290 yards to broken ground criss-crossed by numerous ditches.
Care must be taken with the approach as the green is surrounded by six bunkers and, though quite large for a hole of relatively modest length, features some of Oakmont’s severest contours.
Par-4, 313 yards
Every inch of this ‘risk and reward’ par-4 goes uphill. A relatively wide fairway doglegs from right to left around a mass of six bunkers and up to the narrowest of openings onto a raised green surrounded by five more traps.
It was here that Jim Furyk’s chances of winning the 2007 US Open were dashed. Unsure where he stood on the leaderboard in relation to eventual winner Angel Cabrera, but buoyed by his two-putt birdie in the third round, Furyk opted for driver again on the final afternoon.
He struck it solidly, but it flew 20 yards further left than intended into rough the USGA had grown especially thick. Short-sided and faced with an awkward flop shot to a pin tight to the back left of the green, he ended up with the costliest of bogeys.
Par-4, 484 yards
If Oakmont’s closing hole’s place in history had not quite been nailed down before, it surely was in 1994 when Arnold Palmer bade a tearful farewell to the US Open amid some of the most emotional scenes ever seen on a golf course.
The challenge posed off the tee is to avoid the large bunker to the right and two smaller bunkers to the left. Then comes a mid-iron uphill to a severely contoured green guarded by four left-hand bunkers and a large trap on the right.