Not-so-Mobile Sports Report: U.S. Open Notebook, and The Beast that is No. 16

A quick disclaimer: Even though we are Mobile Sports Report, where we are “aggressively covering the growing intersection of sports, mobile technology and social media,” at our hearts we are sports fans first and when given entree to an event like the U.S. Open, well we just can’t help ourselves. So here is a not-so-necessarily Mobile Sports Report notebook on fun and interesting stuff we saw and heard at The Olympic Club so far this week:

The Beast that is No. 16

If you are tired of the pros regularly turning par 5 holes into a driver-wedge-eagle, you are going to love No. 16 at the Olympic Club. From some new back tees the hole will play 670 yards long, the longest ever U.S. Open hole. Our quick video taken today from the approximate middle of the hole looks way back toward the tee, then swings toward the green, not really doing the left-curve banana justice.

Do the players like it? Doubtful. With only two par 5 holes on the pros’ scorecard, No. 16 is the first and it will mess with the head of the average tour pro, who when he sees a “5 par” starts thinking birdie. There were all sorts of dire predictions about 16 today, with some players guessing it could serve up the highest scores all weekend. Masters champ Bubba Watson at his press conference said that during his practice round Tuesday he teed off from the back tees and hit driver-driver, “hit two perfect shots,” and still ended up 60 yards short of the green.

The last word went to Phil Mickelson, who was asked after his formal press conference if he thought 16 was unfair.

“Unfair? I’d never say it’s unfair,” said Mickelson. “It’s just not a good hole.”

But No. 17 May Be Worse

After the brutally long No. 16 the Open field will be confronted with No. 17, a seemingly “easy” par 5 at only 522 yards. Though the distance shouldn’t keep some from hitting the green in 2, what will really vex the players is the hole’s slope — it is banked as steeply as the curves at Daytona, dropping some 20 to 30 feet from side to side. The picture here doesn’t do it justice, looking up from the right side of the fairway. It’s safe to guess that a lot of drives that land in the fairway will end up sliding down into the rough, where it will be almost impossible to reach the green in two.

The 17th fairway at Olympic Club, looking up from the right hand side. Credit: Paul Kapustka, MSR.

And getting to the green isn’t necessarily the final chapter here. The green slopes left to right too, and the chipping area behind the right edge of the green is shaven smooth, meaning that mis-hits to the right side — or even too-strong putts from the left — may end up 30 to 40 yards down the hill in a small group of trees, where you can’t air a chip back up because of the branches and you can’t bump one up because the ball just keeps rolling back down. When you are watching on TV or online, watch for train wrecks at 17.

BONUS UPDATE: Check out the videos of balls rolling off the green, courtesy of Stephanie Wei.

Text, text, text

One surprising fact learned during watching some practice rounds today: Pro golfers are texting fiends, often typing away on their mobile devices up until they hit a shot, and then again right after. After admiring the low, bullet trajectory of Charl Schwartzel’s second shot on No. 16 we looked back and before the ball had even landed Schwartzel had his device out and was typing away as he walked up the fairway. We saw other golfers texting on the tee box, right up until their playing partner was in his backswing. Who says it’s the fans who are the only over-cellular culprits?

Only in San Francisco…

Would you see a Deadhead tie-dyed t-shirt with the U.S. Open logo. Wonder if it comes with a free medicinal license? So far in our limited wanderings around Olympic we haven’t caught a whiff of San Francisco’s favorite treat, and we ain’t talking about Rice-a-Roni. But you can bet more than a few of these will sell this weekend.

Speak Your Mind