Defending U.S. Open champion Jordan Spieth made a reconnaissance trip to Open site Oakmont Country Club about six weeks before the championship. In his experience, Henry Fownes’ 210 bunkers at the Pittsburgh-area club were very playable, with somewhat compacted sand making it likely to get decent lies.
Then he showed up this week, and the sand was anything but compact. It felt so loose to Spieth that he insisted on Monday that the USGA had added sand.
“When I played it six weeks ago, there was very compact sand, and that meant that if the ball trickled into the sand, it wasn’t a bad shot,” Spieth said. “Just barely went into the sand, you could hit the green no problem (if) you hit a good, solid shot. They have dumped so much sand into these bunkers, and now it is so tough to get a clean strike on the ball.”
Players shared some photos and video of nasty lies — many buried — in bunkers on Monday.
“I really think it’s a bit of a shame they dumped all this sand into the bunkers,” he said. “I don’t think it was necessary.”
What we don’t know is if the USGA did, indeed, add sand, or if they merely dried it out.
According to the Associated Press, Oakmont superintendent John Zimmers had his crew loose up the sand in an effort to make it less compact. The sand dried out, and that top layer made it easier for balls to plug.
USGA Executive Director Mike Davis told the AP that, with likely rain coming on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, the loose sand won’t persist.
“We were just saying as we were going around this morning after the setup that the bunkers did need some moisture because the guys were having trouble raking it,” Davis said. “But it’s really just because we’re expecting more rain, and we really didn’t get any. So normal course of maintenance.”