As a member of the Olympic Club since 1967 and with two years on the PGA Tour (in 1975 and 1977), John Abendroth has played the Lake Course thousands of times and may know the course as well as anyone else. He also holds the course record, a 9-under-par 62, which he recorded in 1985, and is the host of “Hooked on Golf,” which airs on KNBR (680 AM) every Saturday at 7 a.m.
What is the key to scoring low on the Lake Course? First of all, driving the ball well and accuracy. The golf course has a high number of dogleg holes and is fairly tight. Driving the ball well and placing the ball in the right places is the utmost key. There are a number of holes that have a reverse slope to the fairway, so you really need to work the ball in both directions to keep it in
What is the toughest part of the course? The first six holes may be the most difficult start in U.S. Open history. There will be very difficult shots, long holes, tough greens. They kinda slam you right out of the gate. You’re not going to get into a good rhythm to start the round. A lot of times you like to get off to an easy start and get rolling, but this is completely the opposite. Because of the field size, players will be teeing off from holes 1 and 9, so that will be a little different experience.
What is it like playing the 670-yard 16th hole? You don’t attack it. This is a good example of getting your drive in the fairway and getting your next shot in the fairway, with a 5- or 7-iron to the green, and it’s a very small green to hit with a 5-iron. It will play 670 yards at least one day and the USGA has taken the approach of mixing up the distances. That hole can be as long as 670 and as short as 540.
Are there any unknown factors that could impact the championship? I think one of the big underlying things is the weather. Players are going to underestimate how far the ball doesn’t go in the wind. A player that hits a ball 150 yards with an 8-iron may not hit that here. That’s a phenomenon that may take them a while to figure out.
What are the course’s conditions like leading up to the tournament? The conditions are starting to get finalized. One of the great challenges will be the surfaces of the greens being quite firm. Keeping the ball on the green is going to be a great challenge. If you’re not in the fairway, you’re going to have a very difficult time keeping the ball on the green.
Which golfer’s game is set up for success on the Lake Course? Looking at history, the four champions that have been what I call plotters. Not real exciting risk takers. Not even long hitters. I like Luke Donald and Steve Stricker, and probably throw in Matt Kuchar.