Golf: US Open: Oakland's death by water

The 16th hole has broken many hearts this week, says Andy Farrell
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The Independent Online
Oakland Hills, nestling in a leafy suburb north of Motown, was designed by Donald Ross in 1923. It is a pleasing reminder of the days before American course design became besotted with requiring tourists to hit 200-yard carries over the infinite number of lakes of Florida and the Carolinas. Appreciating the value of rarity, Ross brought water into play on just one hole at Oakland Hills, the 16th.

It is not the longest par four hole on the course and it is not the hardest. At 471 yards, the 14th is the longest two-shotter on a course where all but two are over 400 yards. And the 18th is the hardest, averaging half a stroke above its par value.

But the so-called signature hole on the Monster is long enough at 403 yards and is potentially the most dangerous. It has a dog-leg to the right, sweeping round a pond that cuts into the front of the green. "If you make a bad swing, that is where there is the most potential to make a big score," Davis Love said.

Payne Stewart found this to be true while crashing out of the lead on Saturday afternoon. Having driven into the rough, Stewart shanked his next into the water. He took seven. On the same day, Ernie Els, from a wild drive, caught a branch with his backswing and dribbled his recovery on to the rocks: double-bogey six. "Every amateur can be proud of me," Stewart said.

The 16th is no place for amateurs. Tiger Woods, in the middle of his dramatic collapse on Thursday, first put his six-iron approach into the water and then saw his next from the drop zone spin off the green and get wet again. A snowman was entered on his card, a quadruple-bogey eight. The 20-year-old returned to birdie the hole the following day, but on Saturday he went in the water again. "Here is a peace offering," he said, as he tossed another ball in. It did not help. Woods bogeyed the hole again yesterday.

"The key to the hole is hitting the fairway," Frank Nobilo said. "It penalises a bad tee shot or a second shot played too conservatively." It is possible to make a birdie on the 16th. Gary Player made one by hitting a nine iron over a tree and over the pond to four feet in winning the 1972 US PGA Championship. On Friday, Greg Norman had an eight iron from 140 yards and holed it for an eagle-two.

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