Saturday, June 18, 2016

The real Oakmont is almost ready for its U.S. Open close-up

OAKMONT, Pa. -- We're about to see the real Oakmont.

The course we saw for the first two rounds, spread out over two-and-a-half days? That was a facsimile. It was close, but some of the details were lost in transmission.

For the final 36 holes, we'll have an original copy.

As players wrapped up their second rounds on Saturday morning, they weren't breathing a sigh of relief that they had made the cut or were in contention at the U.S. Open. Oh, no. They were looking at their watches, keeping their ears open for the sound of mowers and feeling the drying sun beating down on them.

After 3 inches of rain soaked this historic club on Wednesday, Thursday, including some overnight precipitation, the poor weather has given way to flawless, beautiful sunshine. There's no chance for rain the rest of the way. Temperatures will be in the mid-80s. It's the kind of weather that can dry up a golf course -- at least the parts that aren't muddy -- in a hurry.

On Saturday morning, the greens were rolling here at 14.6 on the Stimpmeter. That's high for a regular PGA Tour stop, which runs in the area of 11-12 on the meter. However, Oakmont members will tell you this course can get a liiiittlle bit faster. That's where the USGA will take the putting surfaces over the final 36 holes, culminating in a difficulty that a lot of the field spoke of on Saturday morning.

Louis Oosthuizen shot 5-under 65 in his Round 2. He knows that score is going to be hard to find the rest of the way.

"The greens are definitely getting faster, and it's firming up," he said. "I think it will be a bit of a different golf course this afternoon and definitely tomorrow."

Then there's 2013 Masters winner Adam Scott. Typically cerebral and not prone to hyperbole, Scott signaled conditions out of a horror film.

"We'll see fast greens this afternoon, but we're going to see some crazy ones tomorrow," said the former world No. 1.

And that's coming from a guy who has seen the green speeds on the Sandbelt courses of his native Australia.

"I'm sure they're going to put it right to the limit tomorrow because they just haven't been probably exactly where they want them. They'll be just a little bit firmer, and then I think they're really cutting them a lot at the moment, and they can go again tomorrow. I think we'll see some crazy stuff tomorrow."

Pennsylvania native Jim Furyk, trailing by three shots heading into the final 36, was more understated about what's coming. As a former champion -- at a very un-U.S. Open-like Olympia Fields in 2003 -- perhaps he has a Boy Scout's preparedness for all things U.S. Open. He knows the USGA is doing this out of necessity.

"The greens are still holding some moisture out there right now," he said. "They're quick, and I expect them to get even quicker as the week goes on. That's the defense right now."

Really, this course needs to go on offense. So far, there have been 33 rounds in the 60s. There were only eight for the entire championship in 2007 on what amounted to the same setup. Those rounds in the 60s aren't going away, and there still could be a few unearthed in the final two rounds. Oakmont has already claimed 89 scalps. But, if the USGA, and the Oakmont members, and these Pittsburgh fans are going to get what they want this weekend, they're going to have to push these players to their breaking point. And the only way they can do that? One putt at a time.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: TaylorMade-adidas CEO David Abeles joins us from Oakmont

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