Tom Patri: Playing at Winged Foot far from easy chore

We are just a day away from our nation's national championship, the U.S. Open! The Winged Foot Golf Club is in this country's golf lore, "hallowed grounds." I remember the first time I played there. I was already a professional, playing full time, and playing well. It was a long afternoon. I believed I strolled around in a tasty 77, and it felt like 130.

I remember how difficult every hole felt. There was no place to hide, and then you get to the green complexes. If you happen to visit a greenside bunker, God help you to keep it on the putting surface if you are on the wrong side of the hole. Then those putting surfaces. Wow. The only place I have putted that seemed more difficult was Oakmont, but not by much. That afternoon was a casual round with a few members under normal, not Open conditions.

This year they have lengthened the course, and at par 70, oh my goodness. Last week I spoke to a friend of mine by phone who is a member at The Foot, and a fine amateur player himself. He told me he dropped a ball in the rough along the right side of one hole and it took him a minute or two to find the ball he had just dropped at his feet.

The Foot has crowned so many great champions during its storied history, and has denied glory to some of the game's all-time best. If you want a great taste of what it could be like, there was a great book written by the late Dick Schaap, called "The Massacre at Winged Foot." The title itself speaks volumes about the 1973 Open won by Hale Irwin. He won that Open with a score of +8 that was +8.

It was also the Open where a young turk named Watson got stung the last round, a lesson about major championship pressure that would serve him well later in his tour life. A great book. Read it ASAP.

This major will be without a female in the final field, but nonetheless, it will be a wonderful field with many great scripts possible. Davis Love returns to his only major glory. Tiger resurfaces after the loss of his dad. Phil continues to dig in to claim his place in golf history. Ernie looks to rebound in a championship that has treated him well.

Then there is the supporting cast waiting to pounce, Vijay coming off a win, Garcia, Scott, Goosen, Funk, Appleby. There are too many to name waiting to break through. Regardless, it will be an awesome show to watch.

Enjoy the show, there will be some crazy highlights and lowlights I'm sure. The U.S. Open is our nation's championship as I stated earlier. It will provide another link in time to connect golf history past, present, with the future. I always look at these events as a passing in time. Watch the old guard pass the baton to the younger generation. I hope we all take a wonderful memory away from this event.

Tom Patri's teaching academy is at Lely Resort, with an indoor studio open at The Health Club of Naples on Immokalee Road. Patri is one of Golf Magazine's Top 100 Teachers in America. He can be reached at tpatri@mindspring.com.

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