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Top 10 Things to Know About the Olympic Club

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Most of the world's best golfers will be in the field when the 112th U.S. Open Championship is played June 14-17, 2012, at The Olympic Club in San Francisco. This is the fifth time the event is being hosted by the club and played on their Lake Course.

This article is one fan's list of the top 10 things you should know about The Olympic Club:

What: The Olympic Club is America's oldest athletic and social club, established in 1860. With 5,000 active members competing in 19 sports, it is the home of many national and international champions.

Where: There are two clubhouses for The Olympic Club, one in downtown San Francisco and a second at the Lakeside Golf Club, 599 Skyline Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94132.

Famous Members: The membership at The Olympic Club has included well-known people such as Mark Twain, William Randolph Hearst, Leland Stanford, Joe DiMaggio, Ty Cobb, and Ken Venturi. Johnny Miller was a 19-year-old "junior member" when he qualified to play in the 1966 U.S. Open, finishing as the low amateur in a tie for eighth place in his major championship debut.

Golf: There are a total of 45 holes at The Olympic Club, two 18-hole courses and one 9-hole course. The Lake Course has hosted the U.S. Open Championship in 1955, '66, '87, '98, and is hosting again in 2012.

Can I Play?: This is a private club, so you are not able to play the golf courses unless you are a member yourself, or are invited to play as the guest of a member.

Design: Originally built in 1924 by Willie Watson and Sam Whiting, the courses suffered severe storm damage in 1927. Whiting redesigned the current Lake Course in 1927, which is well-known for narrow tree-lined fairways, small well-bunkered greens, and many uphill and downhill shots to be played.

Opening Holes: The first six holes at the Lake Course may be the most difficult start in major championship history. Beginning with a 520-yard par-4 (yes, 520 yards), the opening stretch includes five par-4 holes and one par-3. The par-3 is 247 yards, and three of the par-4s are 490 yards or further. All this with elevation changes of 30 feet or more in some cases, plus the aforementioned trees, bunkers, and small greens.

Scoring: Historically, the U.S. Open at The Olympic Club has produced high scores. In four previous championships, only four players have finished 72 holes under-par. Billy Casper and Arnold Palmer finished 2-under par in 1966, with Casper winning a playoff. Scott Simpson and Tom Watson broke par in 1987; Simpson winning at 3-under par, while Watson finished 2-under.

54-Hole Curse: There may be a curse on the 54-hole leader at The Olympic Club. In each of the four previous U.S. Opens, the third-round leader finished the tournament in second place. Three of the four: Ben Hogan in 1955; Arnold Palmer in 1966; and Tom Watson in 1987; never won a major championship again. After finishing second at the Lake Course in 1998, Payne Stewart won the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2, but died in a plane crash later in the same year.

Who To Watch: The 2012 U.S. Open field will include the defending champion Rory McIlroy; current world #1 ranked Luke Donald; and a pair of two-time Open winners, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen. The player who will receive the most attention, however, is Tiger Woods. Having recently tied Jack Nicklaus with 73 overall PGA Tour victories, Woods resumes his quest of surpassing Nicklaus' record of 18 major championships. Tiger currently has 14, last winning at the U.S. Open in 2008.

Harold Andrews has played golf (competitively and recreationally) for nearly 50 years. He considers Jack Nicklaus to be the greatest golfer of all time.


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