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U.S. Open Notebook

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Oakmont golf course opened in 1904. It was designed by industrialist Henry Fownes, who found some pasture land outside Pittsburgh. It was the only golf course Fownes designed.

He laid out the holes to fit the contour of the land which is why it seems like each hole fits perfectly on the overall course. Here are some tidbits and some thoughts by others on Oakmont.

The U.S. Open was last played at Oakmont in 2007. Angel Cabrera won with a five-over-par score, one shot ahead of Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk. Cabrera will be returning to play at Oakmont this week, as will Ernie Els, who won the 1994 Open at Oakmont. Overall, Oakmont has hosted the U.S. Open a record nine times. 

Mike Davis, Executive Director of the USGA, feels every U.S. Open should be held at a premiere course and Oakmont certainly fits that description.

"Since the first U.S. Open in 1895, every one of our U.S. Open sites had one thing in common--They truly were one of this country's premiere golf courses," Davis said. "What really makes Oakmont unique--it starts with the putting greens. Certainly, there's bunkering and ditches and some of the other features, but it's the putting greens. There aren't faster playing greens that any of us have ever seen." 

Brad Faxon, a professional golfer who won eight PGA Tour events and played in the U.S. Open 20 times, including two at Oakmont, will be providing live analysis. He thinks playing Oakmont is not only a physical but a mental challenge.

"What I love about Oakmont is every single player, whether the longest hitter or the straightest hitter, is going to have to make a decision from the first hole, then start it over again on the second hole," Faxon said. "I think this is what the USGA always wants to do; is mentally stress the players out after their 18 holes."

Superintendant of Oakmont Country Club, John Zimmers, and his staff of 50, worked from 3:30 in the morning to 11 o'clock at night preparing the course leading up to the Open. The grounds crew was supplemented this week by 150 volunteer superintendants from golf courses around the country and some even from other countries.

"[Oakmont golf course] is as close today as it was back when Mr. Fownes was here. To see his work that's just the pure lay of the land, there isn't streams and fancy things out here. It's just the amazing contours of the land. To be able to see that, it's magnificent," Zimmers said. "We loosened the sand [in the bunkers] to get a little bit more uniform for playability. We did some [bunker] maintenance."

Golf course architect Gil Hanse, whose firm designed the golf course for the upcoming Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, thinks Oakmont's original designer [Fownes] and his son, William, purposely made the course difficult.

"Fownes, and his son William, were unapologetic in saying they wanted [the course] to be difficult. Historically, the presentation of the golf course has been that way. I think [this week's U.S. Open] is a perfect example for every other classic course in the country to watch how [restoring classic courses] can be done successfully," Hanse said. "The two 'f' words for [golf course] architects are 'fair' and 'frame' and I don't think Mr. Fownes really appreciated either of those. They weren't in his vocabulary. That's why this golf course is so great."

Hanse referenced a quote from William Fownes about the course: "Let the clumsy, the spineless, the alibi artist stand aside as it relates to Oakmont." Over the next four days, fans will see who is forced to stand aside and who is left standing as the 2016 U.S. Open champion. 

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