Tournament officials cut ‘too penal’ rough ahead of US Open

Rory McIlroy plays out of the rough on the 18th hole during a practice round for the US Open at Oakmont. Picture: Charlie Riedel/AP
Rory McIlroy plays out of the rough on the 18th hole during a practice round for the US Open at Oakmont. Picture: Charlie Riedel/AP
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Tournament officials have cut the rough ahead of the US Open at Oakmont after conceding it was “too penal”.

Numerous players posted pictures and video on social media during practice rounds showing their concern at the thick rough and fast, sloping greens at a venue where five over par was the winning total in 2007.

And although the greens will remain “legendarily fast” when play gets under way today, USGA executive director Mike Davis revealed changes had been made and they were “mindful” of using certain pin positions.

“We got in Monday a week ago and we did think the rough was a bit too penal,” Davis told a pre-tournament press conference. “This was before the players arrived. So we did take the levels down.

“I believe we were mowing the high rough around five inches and we’ve taken that down to four and a half.

“It’s continually one of those things where we are looking at it on a daily basis to say ‘how can we get to where we want?’ In fact, they’re mowing rough as we speak right now; we want the grounds staff to mow tee to green because the way it lays, the shots are played with the grain, and we feel like the player has a better opportunity of really showing his shot-making skills rather than hitting into the grain and not even being able to move a club through it.”

The USGA has previously been accused of “tricking up” golf courses and famously had to suspend play in order to water the seventh green during the final round of the 2004 US Open at Shinnecock Hills.

However, Davis insists that has not been the case at Oakmont, which has hosted the US Ope­n a record eight times.

“What you’re seeing out there in so many ways is everyday Oakmont. It’s what the members encounter,” Davis added. “I’m not saying they encounter it every day, but often they’re encountering green speeds every bit as fast as this. They’re encountering the same fairway widths and contours that you see here. The point being here is that this really is a golf course we can come to. It’s US Open-ready seemingly all the time.

“The only differences with the contours is that we did mow out the insides of the rough as they lead into the bunkers because in 2007 we felt we saw too many balls hang up on steep edges.

“In terms of the greens, we all know these truly are legendarily fast. We believe, at least the championships we play, they play faster than any place we go. They will be up in the 14s on the stimpmeter.”