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U.S. OPEN PREVIEW By Ron Kroichick The Olympic Club offers a


distinctive canvas dripping with history—tilted, twisting, tree-lined fairways where Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson and Payne Stewart stalked the sparkling silver trophy awarded to the winner of the United States Open.


OH, WAIT. THEY ALL LOST. A


s Olympic prepares to host the U.S. Open for the fifth time


in June, it’s worth remembering the Lake Course’s deep reservoir of golf lore. Start with its parade of unex- pected winners, from obscure Iowa club pro Jack Fleck stunning Hogan in an 18-hole playoff in 1955—pos- sibly the greatest upset in the history of sports—to Billy Casper’s epic come- back to topple Palmer in ’66. Then there’s Scott Simpson outlast-


ing Watson in ’87 and Lee Janzen marching past Stewart in ’98. It’s an uncommon link between genera- tions, a mystical pattern of The Other Guy—an unknown in Fleck’s case but a great player in Casper and solid pros in Simpson and Janzen—repeatedly knocking off The Famous Guy. As former USGA Executive


Director Frank Hannigan once said, “Something magical always seems to happen at Olympic.” Maybe the magic’s roots rest deep in the land in the southwest corner of San Francisco, where Olympic sits near three other acclaimed courses: Harding Park, San Francisco and Lake Merced. Olympic’s Lake Course perpetually bedevils the world’s top players despite modest length, no water hazards and exactly one fairway bunker. It doesn’t sound imposing, until


a player stands on the tee and stares down a narrow chute framed by ma- jestic trees. Or watches his drive catch one of the sloped fairways and scoot away from its intended destination. Or arrives at his ball and confronts one of Olympic’s notorious sidehill lies. Or tries to control his approach shot into one of the course’s ever-so- small greens. Golf is not all about swinging for


the heavens. That’s a mantra seldom heard in


this era of super-sized drivers and turbo-charged golf balls. But this year’s Open should test Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Co. in a myriad of ways, providing a striking contrast to last year’s event at Congressional Country Club outside Washington, D.C.


SPRING 2012 / NCGA.ORG / 27


PHOTO: USGA


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