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By the shores of Gitche Gumee,
Next week in Hiawatha country, by the shores of Lake Hazeltine and the wigwam of former USGA President Tot Heffelfinger, the world's best professional and amateur golfers tee off in the 70th U.S. Open championship. The 7,151-yard Haze/tine National Golf Club near Minneapolis on which they play includes several beautiful and well-framed holes like the par-3 4th (right) as well as a series of doglegged monsters that are sure to make Hazeltine a legend in its own time. The photographs on the next three pages, and the analysis of the course by Jack Nicklaus which follows them, give some idea of the kind of trouble that awaits the golfers at the Open.
Minnesota's rolling countryside and lush vegetation are shown to advantage in these views of Hazeltine's back nine (left and above) and of the handsome clubhouse overlooking the 9th and 18th fairways. At left are portions of three holes—the green of No. 16 in the background, the 17th tee just below it and the 10th green at the bottom. Lake Hazeltine, which fringes the northern boundary of the course, makes these among the most picturesque holes of the 1970 Open, No. 17 (above) is a tricky par-4 that requires an accurate tee shot to open up the green.
Blind Man's Buff at Hazeltine
Everyplace I go these days I keep hearing the same things. Jack Nicklaus is bored with golf. Jack Nicklaus has lost his desire to win. Jack Nicklaus would rather fish than play. Jack Nicklaus is over-the-sand-trap, finished, all putted out at the age of 30. Rumors and more rumors. Bored? The only thing I'm bored with are the rumors.
Maybe the one way for me to stop all that gibberish would be to win the U.S. Open championship next week at the Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn., on the outskirts of Minneapolis. It has been three long years since I last won a major championship (the 1967 Open at Baltusrol), and I am sick of hearing and reading that Nicklaus is now 0 for 11 in the four major tournaments.
Unfortunately, Hazeltine will be as difficult as any golf course I have ever played in an Open. It is extremely long at 7,151 yards, par 72, the second-longest Open course ever selected by the USGA. And, for once, the long hitters will be at a distinct disadvantage because 10 of the 14 driving holes are doglegs that demand short, precise drives to Position A. There is no Position B at Hazeltine.
Long hitters who decide to gamble on the doglegs will ultimately discover the rough. This year the USGA has been uncharacteristically charitable. The Hazeltine rough will not be typical of past U.S. Opens. In other words, it will not be up to the golfer's waist—only to his knees. Of course, it still will be thick and wiry, and, as usual, there will be plenty of it.
Considering the hit-short-or-else ultimatum off most of the tees, you would expect a great premium on precise iron play. Not so. The greens at Hazeltine are enormous, averaging more than 40 yards each in length, and even the worst iron players should be able to land their approach shots somewhere on or near the putting surface. As a result, the real advantage is with the superior putter, and the chronic three-putters will have fits.
So, the 1970 U.S. Open will be a putting contest. And I know there are plenty of short drivers and average iron players out there on the tour who can putt you to death. The bent-grass greens will be fast and slick, but they will be very true. There will be more three-putt greens than usual because of the size of the putting areas. But no one will be able to complain about the conditon of the greens. They will be perfect.