By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
SAN FRANCISCO — The 16th hole will play to its maximum length — 670 yards — in just two of the four rounds at this week’s U.S. Open, USGA Executive Director Mike Davis said Wednesday.
The hole, the longest in U.S. Open history, will be at 670 yards in one of the first two rounds, then also in one of the weekend rounds. Davis would not say which rounds are being targeted to use the back tees.
Although some players have grumbled about the hole’s length, Davis said his team has succeeded in making the 16th a true three-shot par 5.
"I know that there’s a mentality that every par 5 ought to be reachable in two," Davis said. "But we wanted for two days to make it a true three-shotter where if you miss one shot you might not be able to catch up on it."
On the other two rounds, the tee box will be moved up, which Davis said may substantially change the hole because it will require a hard hook around the corner to set up a second shot to the green.
"That is one of the neat things when you can substantially change a hole up just by the teeing ground you use on a daily basis," Davis said.
Other highlights from the USGA’s news conference:
>> The Lake Course is playing at 7,170 yards this week — 404 yards shorter than last year at Congressional but 373 yards longer than in 1998 when the Olympic Club last hosted the U.S. Open. But Davis said "this is not about all length this week. This is really about shot making. And so it will be interesting to see how the players work themselves around the golf course.
"Some of the holes don’t require drivers, but at the same time those same holes, you can hit driver. So they have a choice. And I think any time we give the world’s best players a choice in what they want to do or how they want to play the shot, it always makes for a better championship."
>> Thanks to a switch from poa annua to bent grass, Davis expects the greens to be in perfect shape all week, without the bumpy conditions that poa annua produces in the afternoon once it grows.
"If you can compare this U.S. Open to the last four, one of the things I believe is that it’s going to be easier on the putting greens," he said. "I think you’re going to see more putts made. I’m not sure I can tell you what that translates into over 72 holes, but you’re going to see more putts made."
>> The rough will consist of pockets of poa annua that grow to about three inches high, along with pockets of rye grass that grow higher. Davis said a player may be able to hit a three-metal out of the poa annua in one spot, or have a chop-out shot out of the rye a foot away.
"You’re really going to get a lot of varying lies in the rough this week, which is going to be neat," Davis said. "These players know they don’t want to be in the rough, but it’s a little bit like an Easter egg contest, when you go up there you might find an egg and you might not.
"Your egg might be sitting up and it may not. So it’s going to be interesting."
>> Threesomes are expected to play in 4 hours, 37 minutes for the first two rounds, although groups starting their rounds off the ninth tee will get a few extra minutes due to the walk up the hill from the 18th to the first hole.
On the weekends, twosomes are scheduled to have 4 hours, 2 minutes.
A warning will be issued with the first bad time, then penalties will be applied after that.