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Daniel Molter
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Steven Maes

Process of restoring Oakmont continues after U.S. Open

Oakmont Country Club
John David Mercer | USA Today Sports Images
Back in June, Oakmont Country Club hosted the 2016 U.S. Open.

John Zimmers left the No. 2 tee box at Oakmont Country Club last Thursday afternoon, a smile plastered across his face. Only Zimmers didn't just crush a drive down the middle of the fairway. The grounds superintendent at Oakmont wasn't even carrying a club.

Zimmers had stopped to chat with a member, who happened to be golfing with Steelers president Art Rooney II, and picked up a compliment.

"Mr. Rooney told me you could hardly tell the U.S. Open was just held here," Zimmers recalled later. "That meant a lot. That's sort of what we've been going for here."

Nearly two months after Dustin Johnson won his first major championship with a three-shot victory, Zimmers and his staff are in the middle of another impressive display: putting Oakmont back together again.

LOOKING BACK: Dustin Johnson wins U.S. Open

It's an involved process, one that will take the group until November, but it's a welcomed challenge, the ninth post-Open reclamation in Oakmont's storied history. Zimmers credits a strong working relationship between Oakmont and the USGA for the process going as smoothly as it has.

Plus, the focus is always the members first, and they're likely not going to complain about one of golf's premier events wanting to share their digs. The clubhouse and in-play areas are addressed immediately, with the course playable less than 72 hours after the Open concluded.

"When you're on a historic golf course, you have to do a pretty thorough job to restore it back to the way it was," said Zimmers, who has been in his current position since 1999. "There's a lot of planning. Having the qualified people doing it is a big help."

Especially with what a mammoth event the U.S. Open -- or any major -- has become. And they keep getting bigger. Making Oakmont look like Oakmont again has been noticeably more difficult than it was the last time it staged the U.S. Open in 2007.

The overall infrastructure is "30- to 40-percent bigger" than what it was the last time, Zimmers said. There are more fans on the property and, consequently, more grandstands. More money has led to an uptick in corporate tents. Zimmers was amazed at how much larger Fox's TV presence was than NBC's, which broadcast the last Open.

COURSE PHOTOS: #PGA365 - August's Best

One of the biggest challenges was simply getting everything -- grandstands, tents, scaffolding, trailers and more -- off the property. Much of that was done on Monday and Tuesday after play concluded. It's tricky now to do what's left during daylight hours and also avoid having a parade of noisy trucks coming and going.

"It's a juggling act," said Zimmers, who estimated that about 90 percent of the additional infrastructure has been removed. "You can't make certain repairs until everything gets off the property, but you don't want to disturb people who are playing golf. There's a strategy."

Take a tour of the behind-the-scenes areas at Oakmont, and you can tell where the media tent was once set up or scaffolding was erected because those areas are brown and flattened. Hillside grass that's out of play is either no more or covered with straw and (hopefully) growing. Zimmers said the consistently high temperatures haven't helped.

Take, for one example, the service road that runs parallel to the driving range, created for the Open. Zimmers and his staff will use a Bobcat or backhoe to remove the gravel, clean and loosen the soil, then fill, seed and straw the area. The gravel is being saved for future repurposing in the compound where Fox and the Golf Channel operated.

RYDER CUP: Take a virtual tour of Hazeltine National Golf Club

While areas where carts may travel on the course look no worse for wear, service roads that 18-wheelers used to haul trailers in and out are damaged in spots and must be repaved. Repairing the edges of the cart path is another item on Zimmers' to-do list.

Something unique this year that Zimmers said helped a ton was utilizing the East course differently -- essentially flattening it and using it for parking, merchandise, special viewing areas, a kids' putting green and the USGA field offices.

Zimmers said that gave Oakmont an additional 35 acres with which to work, up from 15 in 2007. The re-graded land provided a nerve center where the USGA's painting, carpentry, electrical, tent, generator, TV and water services were housed, in addition to a small lumber yard.

This, most important, kept a busy area off the golf course.

"It basically was a little village," Zimmers said. "That property was utilized much differently. And it was utilized in a very effective and positive way, for Oakmont and the USGA."

2017 PGA CHAMPIONSHIP: Take a look at Quail Hollow Club

For restoration purposes, this will be one of the last areas Zimmers and his staff get to, since it's so far away from anything the members need to play a round of golf.

One particularly example of works that still needs done comes at No. 13. There was a double-decker sky box along the fairway, which is now nothing but gravel and dead grass. Same deal: pick it up, scratch it, seed it, straw it and hope for some better weather.

Because some of these areas crossed Oakmont's main water line, protective, wooden bridges had to be built to limit the damage of trucks driving through. These wooden structures must also be picked up, the areas underneath them restored.

There are areas like this all around Oakmont if you look hard enough -- or get special access -- but anywhere members see, those parts are pristine.

"We've basically gotten off the golf holes, it's very playable, and people are having a great experience," Zimmers said. "When you look at it right now, visually it looks pretty decent. You can't really tell, but there's an awful lot that still needs to happen."

Certainly nobody on the golf side has noticed.

And like it was with the Steelers president, Zimmers is happy to hear when people are impressed at the quick turnaround.

"By Tuesday, you would not have known that a major event was held here," Oakmont's head professional, Devin Gee, said. "It was very impressive."

This article was written by Jason Mackey from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

By
Jason Mackey

Series: News Feature

Published: Sunday, August 21, 2016 | 1:03 p.m.

John Zimmers left the No. 2 tee box at Oakmont Country Club last Thursday afternoon, a smile plastered across his face. Only Zimmers didn't just crush a drive down the middle of the fairway. The grounds superintendent at Oakmont wasn't even carrying a club.

Zimmers had stopped to chat with a member, who happened to be golfing with Steelers president Art Rooney II, and picked up a compliment.

"Mr. Rooney told me you could hardly tell the U.S. Open was just held here," Zimmers recalled later. "That meant a lot. That's sort of what we've been going for here."

Nearly two months after Dustin Johnson won his first major championship with a three-shot victory, Zimmers and his staff are in the middle of another impressive display: putting Oakmont back together again.

LOOKING BACK: Dustin Johnson wins U.S. Open

It's an involved process, one that will take the group until November, but it's a welcomed challenge, the ninth post-Open reclamation in Oakmont's storied history. Zimmers credits a strong working relationship between Oakmont and the USGA for the process going as smoothly as it has.

Plus, the focus is always the members first, and they're likely not going to complain about one of golf's premier events wanting to share their digs. The clubhouse and in-play areas are addressed immediately, with the course playable less than 72 hours after the Open concluded.

"When you're on a historic golf course, you have to do a pretty thorough job to restore it back to the way it was," said Zimmers, who has been in his current position since 1999. "There's a lot of planning. Having the qualified people doing it is a big help."

Especially with what a mammoth event the U.S. Open -- or any major -- has become. And they keep getting bigger. Making Oakmont look like Oakmont again has been noticeably more difficult than it was the last time it staged the U.S. Open in 2007.

The overall infrastructure is "30- to 40-percent bigger" than what it was the last time, Zimmers said. There are more fans on the property and, consequently, more grandstands. More money has led to an uptick in corporate tents. Zimmers was amazed at how much larger Fox's TV presence was than NBC's, which broadcast the last Open.

COURSE PHOTOS: #PGA365 - August's Best

One of the biggest challenges was simply getting everything -- grandstands, tents, scaffolding, trailers and more -- off the property. Much of that was done on Monday and Tuesday after play concluded. It's tricky now to do what's left during daylight hours and also avoid having a parade of noisy trucks coming and going.

"It's a juggling act," said Zimmers, who estimated that about 90 percent of the additional infrastructure has been removed. "You can't make certain repairs until everything gets off the property, but you don't want to disturb people who are playing golf. There's a strategy."

Take a tour of the behind-the-scenes areas at Oakmont, and you can tell where the media tent was once set up or scaffolding was erected because those areas are brown and flattened. Hillside grass that's out of play is either no more or covered with straw and (hopefully) growing. Zimmers said the consistently high temperatures haven't helped.

Take, for one example, the service road that runs parallel to the driving range, created for the Open. Zimmers and his staff will use a Bobcat or backhoe to remove the gravel, clean and loosen the soil, then fill, seed and straw the area. The gravel is being saved for future repurposing in the compound where Fox and the Golf Channel operated.

RYDER CUP: Take a virtual tour of Hazeltine National Golf Club

While areas where carts may travel on the course look no worse for wear, service roads that 18-wheelers used to haul trailers in and out are damaged in spots and must be repaved. Repairing the edges of the cart path is another item on Zimmers' to-do list.

Something unique this year that Zimmers said helped a ton was utilizing the East course differently -- essentially flattening it and using it for parking, merchandise, special viewing areas, a kids' putting green and the USGA field offices.

Zimmers said that gave Oakmont an additional 35 acres with which to work, up from 15 in 2007. The re-graded land provided a nerve center where the USGA's painting, carpentry, electrical, tent, generator, TV and water services were housed, in addition to a small lumber yard.

This, most important, kept a busy area off the golf course.

"It basically was a little village," Zimmers said. "That property was utilized much differently. And it was utilized in a very effective and positive way, for Oakmont and the USGA."

2017 PGA CHAMPIONSHIP: Take a look at Quail Hollow Club

For restoration purposes, this will be one of the last areas Zimmers and his staff get to, since it's so far away from anything the members need to play a round of golf.

One particularly example of works that still needs done comes at No. 13. There was a double-decker sky box along the fairway, which is now nothing but gravel and dead grass. Same deal: pick it up, scratch it, seed it, straw it and hope for some better weather.

Because some of these areas crossed Oakmont's main water line, protective, wooden bridges had to be built to limit the damage of trucks driving through. These wooden structures must also be picked up, the areas underneath them restored.

There are areas like this all around Oakmont if you look hard enough -- or get special access -- but anywhere members see, those parts are pristine.

"We've basically gotten off the golf holes, it's very playable, and people are having a great experience," Zimmers said. "When you look at it right now, visually it looks pretty decent. You can't really tell, but there's an awful lot that still needs to happen."

Certainly nobody on the golf side has noticed.

And like it was with the Steelers president, Zimmers is happy to hear when people are impressed at the quick turnaround.

"By Tuesday, you would not have known that a major event was held here," Oakmont's head professional, Devin Gee, said. "It was very impressive."

This article was written by Jason Mackey from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


20 years after his last U.S. Amateur, will Tiger play again?

Tiger Woods
Brian Spurlock | USA Today Sports Images
20 years ago this week, Woods won his third consecutive U.S. Amateur. A year ago this week, Woods played his last round of professional golf.

Two anniversaries this week. Each memorable for a completely different reason.

Twenty years ago, Aug. 25, 1996: Tiger Woods made history, becoming the first player to win three straight U.S. Amateur championships.

What followed was more than a decade of complete dominance. Woods made the unlikely seem commonplace, and he turned intimidation -- through the force of his achievement, steely demeanor and Sunday red -- into an art form.

One year ago, Aug. 23, 2015: Woods made his last appearance in a PGA Tour event, teeing it up at the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, N.C.

What followed were two back surgeries, one in September and another in October, and since then, a lot of wondering and waiting to find out when -- or if -- he'll ever be able to play again.

The timing of Woods winning three straight Amateurs, which couldn't have been more perfect had it been scripted, was as significant as the accomplishment. Because two days later, on Aug. 27, 1996, Woods announced he was turning pro.

WATCH: Tiger and the Ryder Cup Vice Captains | Davis Love III selects U.S. Ryder Cup uniforms

His debut tour event was the Greater Milwaukee Open -- his first and last appearance there, by the way.

The hype and anticipation for Woods' first start would've been off the charts regardless. But it was ratcheted up even more, not so much because he won a third straight Amateur, but how he won it.

It was a hint of what was to come.

Woods faced Steve Scott, a sophomore at the University of Florida, in the 36-hole final at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in Portland, Ore., and it looked as if NBC Sports would have plenty of time to fill.

Woods was 4-down through nine and 5-down through 16.

But as Woods has proved throughout his career, deficits don't seem to concern him.

Starting at the 21st hole, Woods won three straight to draw within one.

After Scott went 2-up at the 28th, Woods topped Scott's birdie with an eagle at the 29th, draining a 45-footer.

Scott won the 30th with a birdie, putting him 2-up with six to play.

And then Tiger Woods, the one we've come to know, took over. He birdied the 34th and 35th to draw even and eventually won with a two-putt par on the second hole of sudden death.

GOLF TIPS: How to read greens | How to break 80 | How to break 70

The following week, he showed up in Milwaukee -- the weight of the extraordinary expectations increased by endorsement deals from Nike and Titleist worth approximately $37 million -- and greeted the media with, "I guess, hello, world."

Woods tied for 60th in Milwaukee. Overrated, people wondered?

Hardly.

In his next six starts, he had three top 5s and two victories.

Five months later, he'd win the Masters by a dozen shots, and from the 1999 PGA Championship through the 2002 U.S. Open, a span of 11 majors, he won seven.

Fast forward to last year: Woods' decision to play in the Wyndham for the first time turned out to be the last time we've seen him between the ropes.

He played well enough, opening 64-65-68, but managed only 70 in the final round and tied for 10th.

RELATED: Looking ahead to Ryder Cup, Wyndham is big for Patrick Reed, Rickie Fowler

The two back surgeries, combined with the assorted other injuries over the years -- knee, neck, Achilles tendon, elbow -- have reduced Woods to an "old" 40-year-old.

The rumors of his return earlier this year -- before the Masters, the Memorial, the U.S. Open, the Open Championship and the PGA Championship -- created as much buzz as the players who were playing.

When he withdrew from the PGA Championship in July, he also announced he would shut it down for the rest of the season.

The speculation on his 2017 return will resume a few weeks prior to the Farmers Insurance Open in January at Torrey Pines, where he's won seven times.

If it doesn't happen there, then how about in the run-up to the Arnold Palmer Invitational in mid-March at Bay Hill, where he's won eight times.

If it turns out he doesn't play again, these anniversaries could serve as bookends to a career that fell short of the ultimate -- surpassing Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major championships, which seemed like a good bet after he won the 2008 U.S. Open, his 14th major at age 32.

But that list of injuries, as long as a three-shot par 5, has left Woods stuck on 14 -- and probably wondering about what might've been.

This article was written by Mike McGovern from Reading Eagle, Pa. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

By
Mike McGovern

Series: News Feature

Published: Sunday, August 21, 2016 | 11:53 a.m.

Two anniversaries this week. Each memorable for a completely different reason.

Twenty years ago, Aug. 25, 1996: Tiger Woods made history, becoming the first player to win three straight U.S. Amateur championships.

What followed was more than a decade of complete dominance. Woods made the unlikely seem commonplace, and he turned intimidation -- through the force of his achievement, steely demeanor and Sunday red -- into an art form.

One year ago, Aug. 23, 2015: Woods made his last appearance in a PGA Tour event, teeing it up at the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, N.C.

What followed were two back surgeries, one in September and another in October, and since then, a lot of wondering and waiting to find out when -- or if -- he'll ever be able to play again.

The timing of Woods winning three straight Amateurs, which couldn't have been more perfect had it been scripted, was as significant as the accomplishment. Because two days later, on Aug. 27, 1996, Woods announced he was turning pro.

WATCH: Tiger and the Ryder Cup Vice Captains | Davis Love III selects U.S. Ryder Cup uniforms

His debut tour event was the Greater Milwaukee Open -- his first and last appearance there, by the way.

The hype and anticipation for Woods' first start would've been off the charts regardless. But it was ratcheted up even more, not so much because he won a third straight Amateur, but how he won it.

It was a hint of what was to come.

Woods faced Steve Scott, a sophomore at the University of Florida, in the 36-hole final at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in Portland, Ore., and it looked as if NBC Sports would have plenty of time to fill.

Woods was 4-down through nine and 5-down through 16.

But as Woods has proved throughout his career, deficits don't seem to concern him.

Starting at the 21st hole, Woods won three straight to draw within one.

After Scott went 2-up at the 28th, Woods topped Scott's birdie with an eagle at the 29th, draining a 45-footer.

Scott won the 30th with a birdie, putting him 2-up with six to play.

And then Tiger Woods, the one we've come to know, took over. He birdied the 34th and 35th to draw even and eventually won with a two-putt par on the second hole of sudden death.

GOLF TIPS: How to read greens | How to break 80 | How to break 70

The following week, he showed up in Milwaukee -- the weight of the extraordinary expectations increased by endorsement deals from Nike and Titleist worth approximately $37 million -- and greeted the media with, "I guess, hello, world."

Woods tied for 60th in Milwaukee. Overrated, people wondered?

Hardly.

In his next six starts, he had three top 5s and two victories.

Five months later, he'd win the Masters by a dozen shots, and from the 1999 PGA Championship through the 2002 U.S. Open, a span of 11 majors, he won seven.

Fast forward to last year: Woods' decision to play in the Wyndham for the first time turned out to be the last time we've seen him between the ropes.

He played well enough, opening 64-65-68, but managed only 70 in the final round and tied for 10th.

RELATED: Looking ahead to Ryder Cup, Wyndham is big for Patrick Reed, Rickie Fowler

The two back surgeries, combined with the assorted other injuries over the years -- knee, neck, Achilles tendon, elbow -- have reduced Woods to an "old" 40-year-old.

The rumors of his return earlier this year -- before the Masters, the Memorial, the U.S. Open, the Open Championship and the PGA Championship -- created as much buzz as the players who were playing.

When he withdrew from the PGA Championship in July, he also announced he would shut it down for the rest of the season.

The speculation on his 2017 return will resume a few weeks prior to the Farmers Insurance Open in January at Torrey Pines, where he's won seven times.

If it doesn't happen there, then how about in the run-up to the Arnold Palmer Invitational in mid-March at Bay Hill, where he's won eight times.

If it turns out he doesn't play again, these anniversaries could serve as bookends to a career that fell short of the ultimate -- surpassing Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major championships, which seemed like a good bet after he won the 2008 U.S. Open, his 14th major at age 32.

But that list of injuries, as long as a three-shot par 5, has left Woods stuck on 14 -- and probably wondering about what might've been.

This article was written by Mike McGovern from Reading Eagle, Pa. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


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