Oakmont the 'toughest,' says O'Hair

Posted: June 13, 2007

U.S. Open Notes

OAKMONT, Pa. - Unlike Johnny Miller, Sean O'Hair won't call Oakmont Country Club the greatest golf course in the world, but he will call it the toughest.

"I would agree it's the toughest in the world," the 24-year-old West Chester resident said yesterday after his practice round.

"They don't make them like this anymore," he said. ". . . Somebody would get a lot of flak if they designed one like this today."

Oakmont has fast and undulating greens; thick, punishing rough; and 10-foot-deep bunkers. Almost every hole is a beast.

"This golf course was built for the U.S. Open," O'Hair said.

Playing in his second Open (he tied for 26th at Winged Foot in 2006), O'Hair wouldn't make any promises or predictions about how he'll fare this week, but he is happy with the state of his game.

"I'm hitting the ball well, I'm putting well, and I feel like everything is right there," he said.

O'Hair cited his strong driving statistics as giving him an edge. He ranks first on the PGA Tour in "total driving," a stat that combines distance (295.4 yards, ranking 23d) with accuracy (67 percent, tied for 34th).

"But you can't just drive the ball well," he said. "You have to think well, be patient. You're going to get into trouble every once in a while. You've got to be good with your wedges and your putter."

Since his catastrophic quadruple bogey on the 71st hole of the Players Championship in May, O'Hair has hit Las Vegas for a few days with his wife, Jackie, and he has played in two tournaments. He finished tied for fifth at the Memorial Tournament and tied for 46th Sunday at the Stanford St. Jude Championship.

The stuff of legend

The tale of defending champion Geoff Ogilvy's first time around Oakmont in a practice round alleged that he had shot an 85 and lost six or seven balls, depending on who was telling it.

Ogilvy set the record straight.

"That's an exaggeration," he said of his June 4 trip. "I think I shot 83 and lost two. But it was hard. I didn't think there would be one score in the 60s at all and I thought there would be scores in the 90s, the way we played it last Monday.

"But the last couple of days, it's been a lot more playable than that because I think they had some rain and the greens slowed down and softened up. The grass is shorter around the green than it was then."

Philly fan club

Joe Daley last saw Oakmont when he lived in Montgomery County and played in the Pennsylvania Amateur in 1980.

"There were trees back then; now it looks like a picture you'd see in the 1920s," Daley said. "But it's a treat to come back here. I have friends from Harrisburg and Philadelphia, family members, my three sisters. I'm going to enjoy it."

The Philadelphia-born Daley, 46, a Plymouth Whitemarsh High graduate now living in Scottsdale, Ariz., is making his second appearance in a U.S. Open, having missed the cut in 2000 at Pebble Beach.

Daley, who came back in 2004 after missing a year because of two herniated disks in his neck, has struggled this year on the Nationwide Tour. But he is encouraged by work he has done on his swing, saying he has made "real good progress."

As for his what he expects this week, he said, "I have a tendency to get my expectations too high. This golf course is a one-shot-at-a-time golf course. You have to execute on every shot."

- Joe Logan

and Joe Juliano

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