That could present an interesting dynamic: Survive for 15 holes, score for three, and see what washes out.
“All of a sudden it lets you in with a chance,” said Frank Nobilo, an analyst for the Golf Channel who played the last U.S. Open at Olympic 14 years ago. “At least you get three scoring clubs in your hand, even if you don’t go for 17 in two, to create that sort of weird finish and give you a little bit of hope.”
Hope, at U.S. Opens, usually comes in small quantities. There is, too, some debate about exactly how much scoring will be accomplished at the 16th, a monstrous, sweeping dogleg left that stretches to an absurd 670 yards, the longest hole in U.S. Open history. “It’s the hardest hole out here,” five-time Open runner-up Phil Mickelson said. “It’s definitely the hardest — arguably the worst.” Mickelson predicts it will play further over par than any hole at Olympic, which would be odd for a par 5.
The final two holes, though, almost certainly will bring jolts of electricity. The par-5 17th is a reachable 522 yards — indeed, just two yards longer than the opening hole, which plays as a par 4. But overhanging trees and tightly mowed areas around the green could leave imprecise pitches tumbling back to a player’s feet.
“It’s a hole that provides an eagle opportunity, but can easily lead to a bogey or double,” Mickelson said. “I think there could be a big swing on 17. And 18 . . . you think it’s a nothing hole, but you hook it in the rough and make double, and you lose the Open. It’s really a great finish.”
A great finish, a rough start and a U.S. Open-style U.S. Open course in between. Beginning Thursday, Congressional is a memory. At Olympic, the Open seems set to return, perhaps with a vengeance.