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Golf/U.S. Open

Oakmont, USGA staff rise to U.S. Open challenges

| Sunday, June 19, 2016, 8:45 p.m.

The USGA long has expressed its affection for Oakmont Country Club, with the latest valentine arriving Saturday in the form of the 2025 U.S. Open. That will make it Open No. 10, more than any other course.

After some nasty weather, Oakmont got plenty of love last week. Thursday's freakish rainfall during the first round played havoc with the schedule and skewed the characteristics of the course.

By the weekend, however, all was well and mostly back to normal, aside from some players logging 36 holes Friday.

Saturday and Sunday, the sun was out and so were the fans. The course firmed up to its usual feisty self. The situation looked dire just a few days earlier, but Oakmont pulled through.

“The conditioning of this course is immaculate,” said Charlie Howe, the USGA's 2016 U.S. Championship Manager. “Even after Thursday when you get nearly four inches of rain, to have it ready for play the next day, it's unbelievable what those guys did.”

“Those guys” mainly being course superintendent John Zimmers and his crew.

The USGA is quite familiar with Oakmont. That makes it easier to navigate the maze of logistical challenges and make transportation issues more bearable.

No one questions the course's difficulty or preparation. The chief variable is weather. There were times Thursday no one could be certain what would happen next.

The course-softening, mud-making deluges were only part of the problem. There were side effects, like a busted water line caused by lightning that released additional thousands of gallons of water. Crews worked Thursday into Friday to fix it. Others restored fairways, greens and bunkers to something closer to what they were. Sunlight and heat would take care of the rest.

“I know they didn't sleep Thursday night, but they were able to get spectators back out here and watch golf and be safe, and have a fantastic setting from the golf course side,” said Howe, who likely knows Oakmont as well as anyone, having moved to the area three years ago to help coordinate the massive operation of staging the Open.

Now that the tournament is over, the three months of construction labor it took to transform the club into a village will be undone.

Howe immediately starts work with Oakmont staff on “restoring the ancillary parts of the golf course,” he said. “Outside of some crosswalks, there's not much you need to do to get the golf course back to the membership, or back ready to play. Outside the ropes, we work with the club to restore it to how we found it.”

Howe said that will take about 1 12 months, breaking down the village and its nearly 300 tents, 85 office trailers, 12 miles of fencing and other pieces of hardware. The 37,000-square-foot merchandise tent, the largest temporary facility during the Open, will be disassembled into about 500,000 pieces, he said.

“Dismantling happens quicker,” Howe said. “On the other hand, there has to be some organization to it.”

Bob Cohn is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at bcohn@tribweb.com or via Twitter@BCohn_Trib.

The crowd cheers on No. 18 as Dustin Johnson's ball lands on the green during the final round of the U.S. Open on Sunday, June 19, 2016, at Oakmont Country Club.
Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review
The crowd cheers on No. 18 as Dustin Johnson's ball lands on the green during the final round of the U.S. Open on Sunday, June 19, 2016, at Oakmont Country Club.
Spectators arrive on the final day of play at the U.S. Open on Sunday, June 19, 2016, at Oakmont Country Club.
Justin Merriman | Tribune Review
Spectators arrive on the final day of play at the U.S. Open on Sunday, June 19, 2016, at Oakmont Country Club.
A lone spectator awaits the final day of play at the U.S. Open on Sunday, June 19, 2016, at Oakmont Country Club.
Justin Merriman | Tribune Review
A lone spectator awaits the final day of play at the U.S. Open on Sunday, June 19, 2016, at Oakmont Country Club.
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