One change to the course was par. It's still at 70, but the opening hole (520 yards) is now a par 4, and the 17th hole (522 yards) is a par 5. That makes the opening six holes a tough way to start the U.S. Open.
This is one area, though, where Woods and Mickelson don't agree.
"I think that the first six, if you play them for four straight days even par, you're going to be picking up just a boat load of shots," Woods said. "They're just difficult."
Mickelson also figured that even par or even 1-over par during that stretch was acceptable, but that's as far as he went.
"I think it's overrated a little bit in difficulty," he said. "It's certainly challenging. But the way it's set up gives you an opportunity to play them."
Matteo Manassero, the 19-year-old Italian, said it was a classic case of a golf course not needing water or other hazards to make it difficult. Except for a wild hook on the 13th, there are no water hazards. And there is only one fairway bunker on the entire course, on the sixth hole.
"First time I've played a golf course with one bunker in the fairway," he said. Then smiling as he looked ahead to the British Open next month at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, he added, "And the next major will have probably 300 bunkers."
The tournament ultimately will be decided on the closing holes, which are different for another reason. Starting with the uphill 14th, players could wind up playing a short iron (usually no more than wedge) into the green on the last five holes. It's not a case of hanging for par. It's trying to make birdies.
"Well, it gives you a chance to finish off a round," Woods said. "Generally, we're just trying to hang on coming in and make a bunch of pars. But you're trying to make a bunch of pars throughout most of the day, and then all of a sudden you've got to change gears."
The closing hole is only 344 yards, which translates to a 4-iron and a wedge for most players. It's not as strong as the 18th hole at courses like Southern Hills, Oakmont or Winged Foot. Then again, the 18th at Olympic must not be as easy as the scorecard suggests. In each of the four Opens here, the runner-up came to the final hole needing a birdie for a chance to win and wound up with a par or worse.
"It's short to look at it," Graeme McDowell said. "It looks gentle. But it's a sleeping giant. You put a crosswind out there and no one can hit the fairway. Then, you've got chaos."
Then, it will start to look like a U.S. Open.
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