This is Oakmont.
To walk its grounds means to follow the footsteps of Jones, Hogan, Nicklaus, Palmer, Sarazen and Snead. The spike marks of its champions and golf’s greatest are left untouched in the benches of its locker room. It’s a championship course for the ages, hosting nine U.S. Opens and many other national championships since 1916.
This is some seriously hallowed ground.
I arrived on site Monday of Open week on a local school bus that shuttled us to the network compound. As we turned in from Hulton Rd., I saw the house that W.C. built for Stitts just off the main entrance of the club. I knew this because I had studied the club’s history book, which goes into every little detail from blueprints of the clubhouse to how Bobby Jones lost the 1919 U.S. Amateur. I had goosebumps.
My first experience of the course came from the 13th tee, which is the nearest hole to the compound. The classic clubhouse off in the distance overlooked the whole course which was laid out in front of me. To look upon it with my own eyes struck me in a way that no physical place, structure or monument has ever done. Yes, I’m a total golf nerd. But taking a moment to visualize the sport’s greatest figures and moments playing out in front of me was really special.
I opened my eyes and I was back to the 2016 U.S. Open. I found myself on the range right behind Earth’s best golfer, Jason Day, who was hitting balls like a machine. I’m a good golfer and have been around the sport my whole life…but I was taken aback by his presence. It’s interesting how similar he is to Tiger. He has a presence on the range that attracts attention in the same way Tiger did. He’s also got the chiseled upper body, tight shirts and swagger to match. I’m not surprised that the two are good friends, and that Day talks to him regularly to pick his brain.
Spoiler. Dustin Johnson wins this U.S. Open at Oakmont. The guy is an absolute specimen. A cross between Michael Phelps and a golf club. Very impressive how he finished the tournament off on the back nine with the USGA breathing down his neck about a one-stroke penalty and memories of not only the year before, but other major tournaments that he has come so close to winning. It does break my heart a bit that Sergio and Lee struggled so much, but it’s hard to beat Dustin Johnson like he beats a ball. Oakmont is also a special course because every single hole is a tough test of golf, which makes them each great tournament holes. Normally courses have a few throw aways that could be substituted out and nobody would notice. At Oakmont, every hole has such a personality that has been born from design and history. When the toughest test in golf (the U.S. Open) meets the toughest course in golf, it’s a special thing. Johnson has added his name to the list of champions that will live on forever. When you win at Oakmont, you automatically become an honorary member of the club, and at the same time, reserve your spot in golf history. I wonder what will be in his display case in the clubhouse. I’m guessing driver.