Many a Legend Bloodied by Olympic
Let’s see, who’s going to win the U.S. Open here this weekend?
Think you know, do you? Hah!
Tiger Woods gonna win it? Forgedaboudit! Never happen.
Ernie Els? Save your money. No chance. No way.
Nick Faldo? Phil Mickelson? Davis Love? Dream on. Forget them.
Fred Couples? Tom Lehman? Mark O’Meara? Not the way to bet.
What do they have in common? Talent. Fame. Experience. Entitlement. If there’s any justice, one of them should win it.
But the golf course can’t wait for them. This course is the 18-hole equivalent of a serial killer. It hates the rich and famous.
You know, watching the flower of international golf gather at the Olympic Club always reminds me of tourists coming upon Dracula’s Castle in a thunderstorm.
At first, they can’t believe their good luck. The roaring fireplace, the soaring staircases. It’s only after they’ve been there a while they notice the eyes moving in the wall portraits, the wolves howling when the moon comes out and their host always seeming to have red teeth.
That’s the Olympic Club. It’s not a golf course, it’s a vampire. Maybe it turns into a bat at midnight.
Look at its record: The first time the U.S. Open was played here, Jack Fleck beat Ben Hogan. You heard me. He beat Ben Hogan.
Who can forget the sight of Hogan, helplessly in the clutches of this lovesick octopus trying to hit his ball out of knee-high rough on the 18th.
You think Olympic let him? It was no use. Don’t be silly. It just laughed and laughed.
Perhaps you remember the next time the Open was held here. Guess who fell victim to the bloodsucker then? Arnold Palmer is all! Can you believe it? Palmer threw away a seven-shot lead in nine holes! Then lost the playoff. To Billy Casper. Correction: to the Olympic Club.
Now, move ahead to the next time the Open was played at Olympic. Tom Watson, who has won more than 30 tour titles, about seventh on the all-time list, is sailing along with a lead over journeyman Scott Simpson, who has won three tournaments and is not on anybody’s list.
Well, Olympic took care of that.
Get the picture? This is not an Open course, it’s a hoodoo. An 18-hole unplayable lie. The Bermuda Triangle of golf. A Bolshevik. It’s anti-golf. It hates virtuosity, loves anonymity.
Abandon hope all ye who enter here. Omar Uresti, come right in! Sam Randolph, where ya been? Scott Hoch, be my guest.
Fred Couples, you take a hike. Take that Tiger Woods with you. Don’t be cluttering up this field this week. You got no chance. Trust me. You’re not wanted around here.
If Hogan, Palmer and Watson couldn’t win here, what makes you think the Tiger Woods set has a shot?
The thing that amuses me is, Olympic doesn’t look the part. I mean, it’s only a lousy 6,800 yards long. You’d expect it would have a windmill on it and a place where you’d putt through a couple of Disney characters. Courses that small don’t have the Open. Open courses usually begin at 7,000 yards.
What Olympic is, is a Jack the Ripper. You all know my theory on that monster: He looked like a choir boy. He had this beatific smile, probably delivered baskets to the poor. But God help you when the sun went down.
Olympic is like that. Big smile, innocent look. But a knife in its teeth, murder in its heart.
It’s diabolical. Conscienceless. Amoral. Immoral. It sneers at golf’s great. It’s got it in for the guys with the big reputations, the shoe contracts, the book deals. The famous.
So, take a tip. I know this sociopath. Check out the guys in the fine print. Get a price. Startle your bookie. Put a few bob on Tim Herron, Clarence Rose. Forget John Daly. Settle on some short knocker whose ball doesn’t roll. Never mind Jose Maria Olazabal. You want a Spaniard, pick Ignacio Garrido. Go for the guy who, when his name comes up on the board, everybody says, “Who the hell is that?”
I can see it now: Mobs surround the 18th green. All Tiger Woods has to do is par in and he’s the Open champion. Crowds are waiting to cheer.
But wait a minute! Is that his tee shot that just landed over in that deep rough on the left? Do his ankles disappear as he takes a swipe at the ball and comes up with nothing but grass on the club head?
It’s Hogan in ’55 all over again. I remember. I was there. I turned to my pal, Bob Drum.
“Why is Hogan taking all those practice swings?” I ask.
Drum looks at me sadly.
“Those aren’t practice swings,” he says.
Or, maybe it’ll be 1966 for Tiger. He’ll start going for the record, as Palmer did, instead of the win. Nothing makes Olympic madder than that. I know. I was there, then, too. Walking with Winnie Palmer, Arnie’s wife.
So, don’t ask me, do I know Olympic Club? Watching Tiger Woods walk onto it is going to be like watching Little Red Riding Hood walk into Grandma’s bedroom.
If they make it into a movie, Sly Stallone gets the Olympic Club part. For sheer viciousness, Olympic makes Rambo look wimpy.
Believe me. I know it for the cold-hearted wretch it is. If it were human, they’d hang it.