Jeff Sluman won the PGA Championship at Oak Tree in 1988, and though the golf course has been through changes good and bad over the past 26 years, he said Tuesday it looks just like he remembers it. If anything, that’s a strong testimony to the job the Oak Tree staff has done restoring the course to its prime form.
“Going back 26 years, I think there's a few new tees, but the routing is the same, the shapes of the greens are the same, and like I said, the fairways right now are maybe the best fairways I have really ever seen,” Sluman said. “They're spectacular. But it is the golf course I remember with the same wind direction, and like I said, it's a very challenging golf course.”
After one practice round, Sluman said he quickly saw it will be vital for players to control their distance off the tees this week.
“I think that's probably the biggest thing,” he said. “I got up on the 10th hole yesterday and hit a nice little cut 3-wood down there and it was literally 1 foot from not the water, but going into the rough straight through.
“The speed of the fairways, they're very firm and they're in such great condition and low cut that it's going to be a little bit of a challenge, especially to gauge the wind, to gauge the height of the tee shot you want.”
PERRY READY FOR DISTANCE
Although Oak Tree National is not known as a long course, Kenny Perry —the defending U.S. Senior Open champion — said he thinks the course will suit his powerful driving game well.
“I did read in the paper that it's going to play 7,280 or 7,300 yards long, and I had a grin on my face when I saw 7,300 because the longer the better for me,” Perry said. “I don't want a putting contest. I like it where par is a good score, and I like it where length is an advantage.”
Perry is fourth on the Champions Tour this year in driving distance, and led the field when he won last year’s U.S. Senior Open in Omaha, Neb.
U.S. SENIOR OPEN HONORS MILITARY
As part of Military Appreciation Day at the U.S. Senior Open, military members such as Marine Staff Sgt. Nathaniel Knopes and Cpl. Zachary Tolson got a rare opportunity.
They were able to introduce golfers on the 10th tee box, and got to meet several players and interview them over the speakers. They even got a couple of offers to take golfers’ tee shots, which they declined.
“I love golf, so I wanted to take advantage of the volunteer opportunity,” Tolson said. “It was just a really cool experience to meet the golfers. They’re just really nice people. They thanked us for our service and all that … most of them at least came to shake our hands and say thanks.”
Military members also got to tend the flagsticks, which featured small American flags, on holes nine and 18.
In addition, the U.S. Senior Open held a Folds of Honor Foundation exhibition on the driving range.
PODAS LIVING THE DREAM
David Podas, the director of Golf at Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles, said he’s living the dream to be involved with a luxurious course where he owns the club record. Four years ago, Podas posted a 7-under 63 during a round with television sports play-by-play voice Al Michaels.
“I usually like to play on Mondays and Al tries to sneak out on Mondays so we play together a decent amount,” Podas said. “He happened to be playing with me that day. Growing up in southern Minneapolis on public courses, I’m truly blessed. I also feel so privileged to play in a tournament like the U.S. Senior Open.”
Bel-Air is the home course for PGA Tour veteran Corey Pavin and several movie stars, including Jack Nicholson, Clint Eastwood and Tom Cruise. Built in 1925, Alfred Hitchcock was one of Bel-Air’s early members.
The Emergency Medical Services Authority reported two heat-related emergencies at Oak Tree National on Tuesday as of 7 p.m.
Monday, there were seven heat-related emergencies at the U.S. Senior Open and 13 total. When EMSA receives more than five emergency calls due to heat, it is declared a heat alert that remains in place until “temperatures drop dramatically.”
Tuesday temperatures reached 97 degrees, and highs are forecasted to remain in the 90s for the rest of the week.
JUNIOR DAY COMING UP
Wednesday at Oak Tree will be Junior Day, and anyone 17 or younger will receive free admission, a giveaway prize and a lunch voucher at the practice round.
The United States Golf Association will also pair with the Golf Channel to host a youth clinic at 2 p.m.
Golf Channel’s Steve Sands will lead interactive competitions, OU-OSU rivalry challenges and give select participants the chance to compete alongside athletes like Scott Verplank, Brandon Weeden and Desmond Mason. Registration for the clinic is at the Chevron Stem Zone.