Well my friends… what a week! The U.S. Open is now over and who would have ever predicted Webb Simpson hoisting the championship cup on the final green? I certainly didn’t. Then again, it’s become somewhat of a tradition for the U.S. Open to introduce to the world a new major winner. Think about it... Geoff Ogilvy, Lucas Glover, Angel Cabrera, Graeme McDowell... all first time champions. Heck, even Rory hadn’t won a major prior to the U.S. Open last year!
And what about the course itself? The Olympic Club’s Lakes Course, once again, challenged the legends only to see them come up one stroke short. Now Graeme McDowell and Jim Furyk have walked those same steps as Hogan, Palmer, Watson and Stewart… not only exhausted after ascending that hill from the 18th green to the clubhouse, but mentally and emotionally spent after battling those 72 holes. I was standing in the hallway of the clubhouse when Furyk’s daughter greeted him after leaving the media room. He leaned down to hug her and she said, “Daddy, would you like me to get you an ice cream?” as she held her own. Jim’s eyes were glassy and then his whole family leaned in for a group hug. Believe me, I thought about taking a picture of that moment… but that moment was theirs. He was spent. He could have had it… but alas, it wasn’t meant to be.
In the end, this week and this course holds a special place for me. I will admit, after spending so much time at Bethpage, St. Andrews, Kiawah or even the dramatic Wolf Creek… I didn’t think Olympic would stand out. Sure, I loved the cypress pines and the elevation changes, but what else would make this place memorable? Little did I know that each hole would soon hold a new memory. It started with the first day of the shoot – aerial photography day – when the pilot literally quit while we were attempting to photograph the tricky doglegs of #04 and #05. I wanted the proper angle from the tee box to the fairway, but he absolutely did not like the proximity of the trees with the heli. Needless to say, I talked him into finishing. But when I watched Lee Westwood lose his ball on Sunday to the tree on #05… I was not at all surprised! I was trying to maneuver a helicopter around that very tree!
One of the first holes we shot on the ground was #17. It was big, wide and even if we moved slowly with our new local crew, the golfers would never catch-up to us. Little did we know, mother nature had a different schedule. We finished half the hole when suddenly the California sun vanished into London fog. So we stopped and waited. And waited. And waited. “Oh well, let’s just wrap & clean-up,” I radioed to our producer. But then the weather turned on a dime and again the skies were clear. Only now… golfers were on #15! LET THE RACE BEGIN! The crew went from relaxed and training on the job into full attack mode. It was a great effort from the team and it set the pace for the rest of the shoot. Fast-forward to Friday’s Round 2… watching Tiger, Phil & Bubba play #17, it was almost refreshing to see this “easy birdie hole” show golf’s biggest names it’s pesky little personality.
Although it’s time to look ahead, I am still in denial this U.S. Open has come to an end. Watching this course test these guys, being in the midst of all these past, present & future champions… to be perfectly honest, I was rooting for a playoff round on Monday! I simply loved it. I cannot thank the USGA and The Olympic Club enough for granting us this privilege to share this course with the world. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I have.
Come to think of it... I think I'll enjoy another virtual round. Care to join?