Nick Dougherty had, indeed, observed that the course was slightly soft from
overnight rains. But the young Englishman had immediately disavowed the e word,
saying, "Goodness, I shouldn't have said that. No . . . the course is
mocking us," Deep Rough muttered. "What'd he shoot today, 77? Reminds
me of that punk Miller, back in '73. It rains all night, and he comes out in
funny pants and shoots a final-round 63. Trust me, if it'd been the club
championship he wouldn't have broken 70."
"So what are
you saying?" I asked. "That the USGA comes in and sets up Oakmont to
play easier than normal?"
His hands flew up.
"Do I have to spell it out for you? Who ordered our super to cut the rough
over the weekend? Who made him slow the greens to 131?2 or 14? Who told you
media guys that Oakmont would be 'tough but fair?' " Realizing that his
nose had popped out of the shadows for a second, Deep Rough drew back.
"Fair? Who said golf was supposed to be fair?"
composure, he let his voice drop to a melodramatic whisper: "Follow the
I nodded. Neither
of us said anything for a very long time. Finally, Deep Rough said, "You
have to leave first. I'm in a�corner."
I spent the
weekend looking into Deep Rough's allegations. If there was a conspiracy to
make Oakmont less punishing for the Open, the players certainly weren't in on
it. "It's disappointing to have the course setup injure you," said
Mickelson, who shot rounds of 74 and 77 and missed the cut in a U.S. Open for
the first time since 1992. "Certainly with this liquid fertilizer and these
new machines that make the grass stick straight up, it's dangerous. It really
Paul Casey, who
should have been swaggering after shooting a tournament-best 66 in the second
round, said, " Oakmont could possibly be the toughest golf course I've ever
But I did find
hints of some kind of organized plan. Mike Davis, the USGA man who sets up
courses for the Open, admitted under tough questioning that the second cut of
rough had, indeed, been shortened from six inches to five. He also fessed up to
the slowed-down greens, insisting that speeds of 15 or 16 would have rendered
certain hole locations unusable. Then he made a careless slip, saying,
"Whether 10 over or 10 under wins, we don't really care."
I could imagine
the howls of rage when the club members heard that. Or when they heard that
Stephen Ames had birdied the par-5 12th hole on Saturday from "the ladies'
tee"-- Ames's words--a mere 632 yards from the hole. And Deep Rough probably
spit out his breakfast coffee when he read in the Sunday paper that Bubba
Watson thought the course "seemed softer, more friendly." ("The
words Oakmont and soft don't belong in the same sentence," Deep Rough had
said on Friday. "When a guest double-bogeys a hole, we pound his backside
with a cricket bat.") The ultimate insult came late in the final round,
when Angel Cabrera, after hitting a mammoth drive from the 12th tee, twirled
his driver while sauntering down the fairway.