USGA Four-Ball Preview: Olympic Club’s 18th Hole to Be Drivable
April 30, 2015
Remember that chip shot that Webb Simpson deftly cozied up to the 72nd hole to salvage par and win the 2012 U.S. Open at The Olympic Club?
There could be teams attempting that same shot for eagle during the inaugural USGA Amateur Four-Ball Championship beginning May 2.
A new tee just 275 yards out from the green has been created for this event to entice players to attempt to drive the tiny raised green fortified by bunkers.
Imagine being 1-down going into the last hole with the chance to hit a hero shot and drive the green. Or entering all-square. Do you go for it? Have one teammate play it safe? And how safe is a 1-up lead with eagle in play?
Stay turned for some fascinating decisions, as the final two days — May 5 and 6 — will air on Fox Sports 1 from 4 to 6:30 p.m. (We will also get some insights into the decisions Fox makes with its golf broadcasting debut.)
But what a venue. Fox gets its glorious views of the city, and the USGA gets a premier facility to launch its inaugural event.
“It’s such a good golf courses with such a variety of holes that the natural setup lends itself to the four-ball format,” said Director of the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship Bill McCarthy. “When I saw that almost all of the closely mown areas had remained from 2012, I thought it was just terrific. It spoke volumes to the membership in terms of them wanting to keep it. It just opens up the game a little more, in terms of creativity.”
The setup will be similar to the 2012 U.S. Open, with No. 1 converting from a par 5 to a par 4 (it will play just 505 yards instead of 520). No. 18 will be the second drivable par 4, as No. 7 is listed at just 294. (Alvaro Quiros aced it in a practice round in 2012.) No. 15 will play as short as 118 yards, and the par-5 No. 16 will move up to the “Jim Furyk” tees, where he infamously duck-hooked his drive and lost control of the U.S. Open because the markers had been moved up more than 100 yards. (The 670-yard tees no longer exist.)
The rough will be maintained to 2.5 inches deep, and the greens will roll at a slightly less treacherous pace.
“At the Open, they were 12.5 to 13,” McCarthy said. “We’ll be about 11.5 to 12. It’s not the U.S. Open, but it’s a speed that will give them a similar feel.”
Levin ‘Carries’ Olson Into Four-Ball Championship
The caddie who teamed up with former UCLA quarterback Drew Olson to help him qualify for the inaugural USGA Amateur Four-Ball Championship won’t be at The Olympic Club when play begins May 2.
“That’s OK,” conceded Piedmont’s Olson. “He’ll be at the Players Championship. He has a bigger purse to play for.”
Olson’s caddie was Elk Grove’s Spencer Levin, the record-setting former NCGA Player of the Year. The two overlapped at UCLA for a year, and forged a bond while playing together at Rancho Park in Los Angeles.
“His game was so good back then,” said Olson about playing with Levin in 2002. “My game is starting to peak probably in the last five years. It was always fun playing with a guy of that caliber.”
Olson, who was a scratch golfer even while throwing for the second most yards in UCLA history and chasing around a career in the NFL, has played in the 2012 and 2013 U.S. Mid-Amateurs. When he signed up to qualify for the Four-Ball with partner David Reneker (a 1991 UCLA graduate) near Levin’s hometown at Del Paso CC, Olson shot Levin a text asking if he’d be around. Levin texted back, “Do you need a caddie?” and Olson suddenly had the best player in the field on his team.
“I kept the bag nice and light for him,” said Olson with a smile. “He was awesome. He was super professional and a lot of fun. We kept it relaxed.”
Even when Levin misread a putt.
“You know, after he misread the putt on No. 2, he said, ‘Dude, you take all the reads.’ I would bring him in if I needed some help,” Olson said. “We would bounce yardages and clubs off each other.”
Levin and Olson were a strong duo. Olson and Reneker shot a 65, celebrated a little early on the 19th hole, but sobered up to make three birdies and win on the fourth playoff hole to qualify.