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Golfers Beware: Oakmont Will Take No Prisoners

Getty Images
Getty Images

For 120 years, the U.S. Open has been America’s flagship golf tournament, pitting the best professionals and amateurs in the world against our nation’s most storied courses. However, this year’s edition, which begins tomorrow at Oakmont Country Club in Pennsylvania, will be the first to feature an extreme, distorted version of the sport, not unlike arena football or SlamBall.

Take a look at this video posted by Justin Thomas, the 31st-ranked golfer in the world:

Based on what we’ve seen this week, it’s as if Oakmont’s groundskeepers were instructed to turn the course into a junglelike morass of overgrown vegetation, perilous quicksand, and strategically placed ditches. Golf is supposed to be a challenging test of mental focus and physical precision — and the U.S. Open is typically the most difficult major on the calendar — but this is something else altogether. Think Naked and Afraid, but with polos.

Here’s how one amateur described the course to an Irish newspaper: “Go to the hardware store and buy a hammer. Then go for a five-mile walk and every few minutes take the hammer and hit yourself in the head.” Meanwhile, 46-year Oakmont member Gene Farrell casually told the outlet that the club is “a bit masochist. … We love to be punished and we love to punish our guests.”

In fact, the punishment has already started. During a Tuesday practice round, the caddie for Chris Crawford — a relatively unknown American qualifier — broke his ankle while attempting to rake a sand trap. World no. 1 Jason Day helped carry him out of the bunker, and a Pittsburgh Steelers doctor treated him on the course:

This seems to lend credence to Jordan Spieth’s fears that the bunkers are overburdened with sand. “They have dumped so much sand into these bunkers, and now it is so tough to get a clean strike on the ball,” he groused to the media yesterday. “I really think it’s a bit of a shame they dumped all this sand into the bunkers.” Damn, Jordan, tell us how you really feel!

Oakmont officials will seemingly stop at nothing to make the course harder. More than 7,500 trees have been removed since it last hosted the U.S. Open in 2007, leading to stronger winds and “[reducing] players’ depth perception as they eye a shot over Oakmont’s rolling hills.” Though the tree-cutting campaign ignited controversy in Oakmont’s sleepy community — according to The Wall Street Journal, there were “threats of fistfights between members on different sides of the issue” and “a nearby church was rumored to have offered prayers for the trees’ survival” — the reformers got their way.

Severe storms are expected in Western Pennsylvania this weekend, because the golf gods are merciless. At this point, only a Sharknado could make the course tougher, and the tournament may as well change its logo to the Confused Mr. Krabs meme. Spieth doesn’t expect anyone to shoot under par — a chain-smoking Angel Cabrera won there with a ridiculous score of 5-over in 2007, so that seems a good bet — and the players are practically wearing blindfolds. Welcome to the extreme golf revolution.