It is not recorded whether Georges Seurat ever had any trouble with his short irons or if he even knew about the game of golf for that matter, since he died in 1891, four years before the first U.S. Open. Nevertheless it was the pointillist technique of this famous French post-impressionist painter that Don Moss decided to use when he was assigned to illustrate the key holes at the Champions Golf Club in Houston, scene of next week's Open. To do so, Moss first went to Chicago to study Seurat's masterpiece, Un Dimanche � la Grande Jatte, which hangs in the Art Institute. He then spent the better part of a week cruising Champions in a golf cart, parking when he found the place from which he wanted to paint a hole, using the wheel of his cart as an easel. The results are shown on the following three pages along with literal diagrams of each hole, the red arrows marking the spot from which Moss viewed the scene. Following this, Jack Nicklaus discusses the problems that will confront the Open players at Champions and identifies the type of golfer who is likely to win.
A NICE COURSE IF YOU LIKE SNAKES
I am afraid that next week's U.S. Open on the Cypress Creek course at Champions will be an unhappy homecoming for most of us. For the past three years Champions has been a regular stop on the tour, and each time the pros have played a course that was not as long and not as challenging as it could have been. When these same pros—Jack Nicklaus included—play Cypress Creek in the Open, they will discover that their short, fairly easy friend has changed.
Cypress Creek has retained its name, but it has lost its old identity. Oh, the thousands and thousands of trees are still there alongside every fairway, helping to provide that claustrophobic feeling. So are the 10 water holes and those awful snake-infested gorges. The greens still are Texas-sized, too. But now Cypress Creek has a mean new look.
Here is what has happened. When we have played Cypress Creek on the tour, the PGA field staff has advanced some tee markers, widened the fairways and centralized the pin placements. If the field staff had set the course the way Jimmy Demaret and Jack Burke Jr. designed it, well, some of us might still be out there trying to thrash our way through the woods and out of the gorges. So, we have always played an easier Cypress Creek; we have never been exposed to all of the wicked hazards Demaret and Burke built into the course.
The USGA never likes to make things easy. It attempts to establish a difficult but fair test of shotmaking over a course complete with every conceivable situation. In other words, the U.S. Open aspires to be a 14-club tournament—not one that requires only a driver, a short iron and a putter. The USGA has attained this objective at Cypress Creek.
Since Demaret and Burke constructed Cypress Creek with an Open in mind, the USGA (I still want to say Joe Dey) has not had to perform a golf-course transplant to prepare a challenging 18-hole test for the Open players. The USGA has, in fact, made fewer major alterations at Cypress Creek than it has at any recent Open site. The officials have changed the par on only one hole—the dogleg-left 5th. This used to be a 513-yard par-5, a fairly easy birdie hole for most players. In the Open it will be a 451-yard par-4, an unlikely birdie hole for any player.
Other than that, Cypress Creek will play almost the way it was designed to play—a 6,967-yard par-70. The tee markers will be set in locations that most of the pros have never played. The players will find that their drives will not clear some trees and sand traps and gorges and lagoons as they used to do. The fairways themselves have been severely narrowed. Trees once formed the edge of the fairways, but now there is four-inch rough extending out about 15 yards on either side. That new rough will prevent tee shots from bouncing through the corners of the doglegs and back onto the fairways.
Let me cite just a couple of examples where the change of tee and added rough will affect our golf:
The par-4 450-yard 11th hole always had the tightest driving area when we played the Champions International. Drives hit to the left were either in water, sand or the trees. Drives hit to the right were lucky—no sand there, no water—just a tree every few inches. (Let me say one thing about the Cypress Creek trees; when you hit into the woods, nine times out of 10 there is only one way out—sideways.) This driving predicament obviously was not severe enough to satisfy the USGA. Now there is thick rough growing where there used to be carpetlike fairway. The driving area on No. 11 is not wider than 25 yards.