Thursday, June 28, 2007

U.S. Open

Sorry it's taken me a couple of weeks to post this, perhaps it was the trauma of the return trip home. We were lucky enough while out in Pittsburgh to go to the third round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Oakmont Country Club. It was my first time at the U.S. Open, and I wasn't expecting too much in terms of being able to see much action or get close to the players. I was expecting tens of thousands of people and spending the day on tiptoes trying to peer around eight heads in my way to see anything. But I was pleasantly surprised.

If you watched on television, you know that Oakmont is split in half by the Pennsylvania Turnpike. We made the conscious decision not to cross over to holes 2-8, the side of the course where the majority of patrons entered. That could have been part of the reason, but even after the leaders passed the eighth hole, it still didn't get crowded on our side of the course. We also decided not to follow Tiger Woods, which is where everyone else may have been. We were able to grab seats in the grandstands and find plenty of spots along the rope lines with good views of the course all day long.

So if the experience we had at Oakmont is like other U.S. Open courses, don't necessarily be scared off by the thought of crowds. (Tiger's group excepted.) Here are some other viewing tips:

Check out the putting green. We were hanging out at the putting green to watch the players practice before they teed off. The added benefit of doing this at Oakmont is that the practice green is also the back half of the ninth green, so we could watch some of the action at the same time. We were right on the rope line until Tiger showed up, about an hour and a half before his round. Quickly the line got about eight people deep. So if you want to see a particular player up close, grab a spot at the putting green 60 to 90 minutes before tee off.

Hit the range after the round. The grandstand at the practice range was filled up while players were warming up before their rounds. However, many of the players return to the range after their round for a little more practice. This is a great time to see them up close as the grandstands are pretty empty at that point.

Be aware of the prohibitions. There is quite a lengthly list of things you can't bring on the golf course. No cell phones is probably the most important one to keep in mind. The good thing is that there are free phones around the course you can use to arrange for any necessary transportation you may need. No Blackberries either. Be sure to read the prohibitions carefully before heading out.

Bring binoculars. It can be tough to see what's going on hundreds of yards away from the green. Binoculars would be a big help. We forgot them, and that was a mistake. We could have used them.

Not sure if they will have this next year, too, but bring your American Express card. This year American Express offered cardholders entrance to their tent, which had air conditioning and high-definition televisions. You also got a free drink and snack for you and a guest.

Next year, the U.S. Open will be held at Torrey Pines in San Diego. For tickets, go tot the U.S. Open web site. Ticket applications are taken through August 15, 2007. This is definitely one of the world's greatest sporting events to see before you die.

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