The Olympic Club provides the toughest challenge in terms of course setup in the week known as the toughest test in golf. The course begins with a treacherous six-hole stretch that Bubba Watson said he would be pleased to play in 2-over par each day. Phil Mickelson called the stretch overrated, and indicated 1-over was acceptable but even-par should be attainable.
One hole Phil is not particularly enamored with is the par-5 16th. Olympic is that rare course (Baltusrol the other) where Tour pros, who feast on par-5s, have to wait for a shot to add a birdie on what's supposed to be a three-shot hole. Those have become nearly extinct since the the invent of the new ball, but the Lake Course presents a true three-shot test at No. 16. Mike Davis and the USGA created a back tee that measures out at 670 yards, the longest in U.S. Open history. The tee forces the player to play an extreme draw and really turn the ball over. Watson hit two drivers on Tuesday and was still 60 yards short of the green.
Even though it's a likely three-shot hole, No. 16, along with No. 17 and 18, present the rare birdie chances. That doesn't mean Phil likes it, via Steve Elling:
"It's definitely the hardest -- arguably the worst," he said.
"With the tee back, it eliminates any options," he said.
So much for strategy, he added.
"I would never say it's an unfair hole," he said. "I just don't think it's a good hole."
The players seemed generally pleased with the setup as they paraded through their day of press conferences. The USGA's setup is always topic A at the U.S. Open, and only the temperamental Watson really seemed to be skeptical of the course. He was negative throughout his conference, citing displeasure and perplexity with No. 13, No. 14, and No. 16.