Of all the monstrously difficult golf courses to which the US Open pays a regular visit, only one has the reputation of slowing down its greens when America's national championship comes to town. That alone should tell the reader much of what he needs to know about Oakmont.
Seven previous US Opens have been played at the Pittsburgh course, and the list of champions makes impressive reading, including Nicklaus, Hogan, Els and Tommy Armour. One previous champion in particular stands out though: Johnny Miller's 1973 victory featured one of the greatest rounds of golf ever played, a closing 63 that brought him from six shots back to his first Major title. The club has also hosted five US Amateurs, three USPGAs and a US Women's Open (it will play host to the latter again in 2010).
Architecturally Oakmont is the product of one of golf's great dictators. Club founder Henry Fownes determined to create one of the toughest courses in the world, and tore down every tree on the property to emulate the look of the Scottish links with which he had fallen in love during his golfing travels. Fownes, and his son William who followed him, continued to refine the course, adding length and bunkers whenever they felt it necessary.
Like so many courses, Oakmont underwent a major tree planting drive during the 1950s and 1960s. These trees changed the nature of the course, but in the last decade, almost every tree has been removed. Now once again, the old course is its wide open, spartan self. The Oakmont spirit remains untouched.
Concerned that longer hitting might leave many of its 300-plus bunkers out of play, many new ones have been added. Tom Fazio's design group has extended the famous Church Pews bunkers, building extra rows and deepening the furrows. Just as it has in the past, we may expect Oakmont to exact its price from many of the best golfers in the world. And the winner, well: he will know he has been in a battle, with the course as much as with his rivals.