I have to admit that I LOVE the U.S. Open, which starts tomorrow at Oakmont Country Club in the Pittsburgh suburbs.
And I'll admit it's part of my perverse sports nature that I do. Let other people get all sappy and sentimental about the Masters and Augusta National and Amen Corner, and all that other azalea-covered malarkey.
I enjoy the U.S. Open for the obvious reason. All those guys who make this subtly maddening game of golf look so easy wind up being reduced to mere mortals. You can see it etched on their faces as the tournament marches on. First, their expressions turn somewhat quizzical. Then, as the scores climb, their brows furrow in frustration. Finally, as the course beats them down, the veins in their neck begin to pulsate and bulge.
You know, just like me.
And I love the U.S, Open because the course itself becomes the strongest personality in the whole drama; actually, it's the antagonist -- the actor who opposes the main character, in this case the field of golf heroes.
One of my all-time favorite sports books is Massacre at Winged Foot by the late Dick Schaap, a blow-by-blow account of the 1974 U.S. Open, where Hale Irwin emerges more as a survivor than a victor when he won at 7-over par. Last year, Winged Foot was almost as irascible as it devoured Phil Mickelson on the final hole and only conceded the title to Aussie Geoff Ogilvy at 5-over because someone had to win.
Vijay Singh was reported as observing that this year he thinks that 10-over or even 12-over will win up in Pennsylvania. That sounds a little far-fetched, considering that the last time the U.S. Open was held there in 1994, Ernie Els won at 5-under.
But we can always hope.
Here's an interesting look at the 667-yard, par-5 12th hole at Oakmont.