Shotgun Start: Previewing the U.S. Open

It's tournament time! The best golfers in the world head to San Francisco for the U.S. Open at famed Olympic Club. Here's a tournament primer to get you prepared for the week.

The course: If you ever have the opportunity to attend a U.S. Open, make it one at Olympic Club. Seriously, how can you not love a course that has picturesque San Francisco as its backdrop?

Like the city, Olympic is incredibly hilly; there's no question you'll get a workout in walking these fairways.

If you're wondering what makes the course so tough, just look at the fairways and landing areas players will be hitting to this week. In some places on the course, the landing areas will be 20 yards wide, which means you have to be deadly accurate off the tee to keep the ball in play. Add we haven't even touched on the severely sloping fairways and greens that force you to hit to a particular side or risk being left with near-impossible approach shot or chip from off the green.

But the funny thing, Olympic's actually softened a bit over the years, after the course was completely redesigned from tee to green.

Even though the conditions have changed, it still has a serious edge that starts on the first hole, a 520-yard par-4 that sets the tone for a six-hole stretch that's considered the most difficult on the course.

The back nine also has a number of holes that will get your attention, including the par-3 13th (measuring 199 yards) that could play as one of the most difficult on the course, after USGA officials decided to shave the bank on the left side of the hole. The par-5 16th will also be in the spotlight. At 670 yards, it's the longest hole in U.S. Open history and could be a legitimate three-shotter for everyone in the field ... including Bubba Watson.

Following the longest par-5 in tournament history is the par-5 17th, an underrated hole that features a new bunker and green that slopes strongly from left to right and back to front. You don't want to be long or right on your approach.

And then there's the par-4 18th, a 344-yarder that's the signature hole on the course. With Olympic's clubhouse in the background, players will hit their approach semi-blind to an elevated green. Even though the shot looks daunting, a well-placed approach could leave you with a definite birdie chance.

The schedule: The tournament runs Thursday-Sunday. It'll be broadcast on the ESPN from 12 to 3 p.m. ET and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Thursday and Friday; and on NBC from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, and 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

The field: Everyone, and I mean everyone, is in the field at Olympic Club. That includes Nos. 1-10 in the Official World Golf Rankings, which is the norm at every major. If you need us to be more specific, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, Bubba Watson, Lee Westwood and Matt Kuchar are just a few of the notable names in the field. It doesn't get any better than this, friends.


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