Golf: Flagging Faldo fearing worst

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The Independent Online
THE Europeans are competing in the US Open in greater numbers than ever before but if they are flying the flag, the colour is predominantly white. After experiencing the wonders of Oakmont, Nick Faldo declared yesterday: 'It's the most demanding course I've ever seen.'

Oakmont, which is staging its seventh US Open, has established a reputation for being one of the toughest 18 holes in American golf, but the Europeans were not prepared for this. 'The greens,' Faldo said, 'are unbelievable and you have to get to them first.'

To listen to Peter Baker you would think the young Midlander had an engagement with something out of Alien. 'It's evil, brutal,' Baker said. 'The first time I saw it it frightened me to death. There's got to be a line between what is fair and what isn't. This is like Augusta National with rough.'

As far as the members are concerned, the course has been made too easy. The United States Golf Association has insisted that the speed of the greens be decreased. According to the stimpmeter, the device used to measure the speed, the greens have a rating of 11, which is slightly faster than Augusta.

The members claim that when they play Oakmont, the speed is a lightning 13. There is not a professional here who believes them. If the Europeans spill blood, sweat and tears in the US Open, which starts here tomorrow, they can point the blame at an Englishman. Henry Clay Fownes, who made a fortune out of the iron and steel business when he emigrated to Pittsburgh, bought the land 90 years ago and designed Oakmont on the back of a napkin.

The members fear that somebody under par will win the US Open on Sunday; the players, 159 of them, fear Oakmont will dent their pride and they cannot see low scoring records being set. Yesterday, however, historians were browsing through the archives to verify the suspicion that a record had indeed been created for a US Open, or any other golf tournament come to that.

Before lunchtime, four people had been carried from the course on stretchers, the first succumbing as early as 9.30am. It is believed they fell victim to a combination of excessive temperatures and excessive drinking.