Just got done walking a couple holes, watching USGA executive director Mike Davis and his crew put the finishing touches on The Olympic Club. You'd think setting up a hole is a relatively simple task: Find the pin location, punch a hole, fill the old hole and stick a flag in the ground. But not so.
Davis and his crew are painstakingly meticulous, scouting out each hole location to fractions of an inch, then making sure everything is set how they want it to be. There's the tee boxes, measured and calculated. Using one tee box may require a left-to-right shot off the tee while picking out one a little closer to the hole may require a different shape or trajectory.
I watched as Davis placed the tee markers at a mere 575 yards on 16, almost 100 yards shorter than the par-5 player on Saturday. He picked a somewhat difficult, but still accessible, front-left hole location on the 16th green, perhaps allowing players to hit a hook in and chase it up somewhere near the pin. The swale from the bunk provides a backstop, but a false front up the gut and another on the back-left side of the green add difficulty. With two good shots, however, the green is absolutely reachable, whereas it took three strong shots on Saturday.
The 17th hole is ripe for scoring, setup with a pin right in the middle of the green, about six paces off the back. It's reachable in two, and players can chase shots up by landing them on or near the fringe. The play is to the left of the hole, allowing the ridge to feed shots back down towards the ridge. Anything right will funnel into the chipping area near the 18th hole.
On 18, the pin is tucked just a few feet from the back of the green and three feet off the right. It's in a difficult spot, but most players should leave themselves an uphill putt. Going long is, essentially, a penalty stroke here.
Finally, the seventh hole is both reachable and accessible. The pin is just four paces on and three feet off the right edge. Where players were bombing tee shots to get up onto the third tier on Saturday, there should be a bit more caution in the third round. Anything long leaves a trick putt that has to navigate multiple tiers and risks running all the way off the front of the green.
The OIympic Club is still going to be difficult on Sunday, especially through the first nine holes. But there are low scores to be had on the back-nine, perhaps setting up for an exciting finish.
All that's left to do is wait to see who emerges from the dust at Olympic later this weekend.