Oakmont, Pa. – Early in this 65th U.S. Women’s Open, Oakmont Country Club’s par-3 eighth hole is becoming a statistical oddity.
The hole is ranking among the sixth easiest, though the green – one of the largest and flattest on the Henry Fownes design – is the most difficult to reach in regulation. This is a trend that likely will continue through Sunday’s final round.
Fully stretched out for the women, the hole plays 252 yards and is the longest par 3 in Women’s Open history by 25 yards. In 2008, the eighth at Interlachen Country Club was 227 yards.
For the men in 2007, Oakmont’s eighth was stretched to 300 yards.
“For sure, it’s one of the longest par 3’s I've ever played,” said Mhairi McKay, who shot an opening-round 71 that included a par on the hole that measured 243 yards to the front-right hole location.
A lengthy bunker runs tight left of the green and back toward the teeing ground, curling into the landing area and prompting right-handed players to hit a slight draw. And, as is becoming USGA penchant, there is a second teeing ground 27 yards closer and to the right, giving players a straighter sight line to the green.
The green, in comparison to the other 17, is flat, with a slight right-to-left break.
With Thursday’s flagstick located 10 yards from the green’s front and 5 yards right of the fringe, the best play was to leave it short of the green in a 20-yard run-up area.
“If somebody's in that spot for the next three days, they're going to have a really good look at the hole,” McKay said. “Whether the pin is up front or the pin is in the back, it's not a bad spot to be.”
Brittany Lincicome can attest to McKay’s observation. Lincicome watched her hybrid tee shot come to rest 10 yards short of the green. She made the 20-yard putt for birdie en route to a 2-over 73.
Morgan Pressel, though, experienced the hole’s evil side.
“I made a silly decision off the tee and hit driver,” said Pressel, who shot 74. “I’ve been hitting driver in practice and it was fine, but then today … whereas everything else was hitting soft, that appeared to hit hard.”
Pressel was credited with a green in regulation, but was left with an 80-foot putt from above the hole. The first putt rolled past the hole and stopped at the front edge. Pressel then two-putted for bogey.
“You just can’t leave yourself with that long of a putt and you certainly can’t leave yourself a comebacker like I did,” Pressel said.
Paula Creamer represented the players who landed in the run-up area and then attempted to finesse the ball to the hole, and paid a price.
“It has that little false front where I was on the right side,” she said. “You can't mess around; you can't try and get too cute. I hit a decent chip, but I was too far above the hole. I left myself with the five-and-a-half footer, which is not what you want. That was costly. That was a mental error.”
Players will pull between a driver and a hybrid from the back teeing ground; most likely a long iron on the uppermost tee. The par-4 second and 17th holes also feature two teeing grounds, with the shorter versions enticing players to drive those greens.
McKay admits the two teeing-ground format can catch a player off guard, but Suzann Pettersen said that, this late into the week, a game plan should be securely in place.
“You have to have your strategy set,” said Pettersen, who played the hole according to plan — tee shot to flag high and two putts for par. “Take what you can and move on.”
Stuart Hall is a freelance writer whose stories have appeared on USGA websites.