OAKMONT, Pa. (AP) — Arnold Palmer made it to the Masters in April and watched Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player hit honorary tee shots.
That won't be the case for the U.S. Open. His longtime press secretary said the 86-year-old Palmer was unable to travel to Oakmont.
"Arnold has had some serious mobility problems and has decided that it was going to be a bit too difficult for him to get down here this week," Doc Giffin said Wednesday. "So he's going to be watching and rooting and paying close attention to the tournament."
Palmer grew up nearby at Latrobe, and Oakmont is considered his home course for the majors. He had two close calls at Oakmont, losing to Nicklaus in a playoff in 1962 and dropping shots on the back nine in 1973 as Johnny Miller was making his record-breaking charge on his way to a 63. Palmer finished three behind.
He chose to end his U.S. Open career at Oakmont in 1994, a poignant moment on the 18th green and in the press room.
The USGA paid tribute Wednesday to Giffin, presenting him with a painting of Latrobe Country Club.
Giffin was a sports writer who joined the PGA Tour as a press secretary and then went to work for
Palmer. His first U.S. Open was at Oakmont in 1962.
"I'm most appreciative of this recognition," Giffin said. "I know Arnold will be pleased."
PHIL PLAYS IT SAFE: For the second straight year, the U.S. Open features a par 4 that can be reached off the tee late in the round — the 16th hole at Chambers Bay, the 17th hole at Oakmont.
Just don't look for Phil Mickelson to take anything but an iron off the tee at 313-yard 17th hole.
"There is no place around that green that is any good, OK?" Mickelson said. "So I don't care how far up the tee box is. I will lay up. Every hole out here plays over par. So to approach a hole from the tee thinking birdie is a mistake. There's zero chance that I will go for that green."
Last time at Oakmont, Jim Furyk tried to drive the green and wound up making bogey. He finished one shot behind Angel Cabrera, and to this day, Furyk doesn't regret his decision.
"I promise you this: If I had laid up and made bogey, and we were sitting here talking about it now, I'd still be mad," Furyk said.
Mickelson was asked if circumstances would dictate his decision. If he were one shot behind, for example, would it be worth trying to drive the 17th?
"I don't know how to emphasize this any more," Mickelson said. "There is zero chance I will go for that green."
JONES AWARD: Judy Bell has been selected to receive the Bob Jones Award, the USGA's highest honor.
Bell was the first female president of the USGA (1996-97), during which she established the "For the Good of the Game" program that poured some $65 million to local and national programs geared toward improving communities through golf.
She also competed in 38 championships run by the USGA. She played on two winning Curtis Cup teams in 1960 and 1962, and she was captain of the U.S. team in the 1986 and 1988 Curtis Cup. She was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2001.
"It is simply a humbling experience to be selected for this honor," Bell said. "When I first started with the game at 7 years old, I never could have imagined it would lead to all of this or open so many doors. That's why I've always been so committed to making sure others had the same opportunities I had. This is a wonderful sport, and it should be enjoyed by all."
She received the honor Tuesday night from the USGA president, Diana Murphy, the second female leader of the organization.
"Judy is an inspiration to so many, and my opportunity to serve in this role is living proof of her great work and encouragement," Murphy said.
FINAL TOUCHES: The USGA is giving the players a break — kind of — heading into the opening round.
USGA officials ordered the high rough around Oakmont trimmed from five inches to 4½ inches, though to even it out they also raised the primary cut from 2½ inches to more than 3 inches.
Executive director Mike Davis said the high rough was "too penal" when they arrived last week while the primary cut was just a touch too easy.
Still, the setup might be different on Sunday depending on variables such as the weather.
"It's continually one of those things where we are looking at it on a daily basis to say, 'How can we get to where we want?'" Davis said.
"We want the grounds staff to mow tee-to-green because the way it lays, the shots are played with the grain, and we feel like the player has a better opportunity of really showing his shot-making skills rather than hitting into the grain and not even being able to move a club through it."
There are other tweaks going on, particularly at the short par-4 17th. The uphill 313-yard slight dogleg left is reachable off the tee, though the rough around the greenside bunkers have been
mowed to swallow up errant tee shots after officials saw too many get caught up in the rough during the 2007 U.S. Open.
ON THE DEFENSIVE: Even at a tough course such as Oakmont, Adam Scott said it can be a mistake to give a course too much respect.
There hasn't been a higher score to win a major since Angel Cabrera finished at 5 over at Oakmont in the 2007 U.S. Open. No one was under par after the first round.
"Major golf requires a little bit of a different mindset," Scott said. "Usually, it's much tougher scoring conditions so you have to temper your expectations and get in that grind mode a little bit. But you've got to be careful not to make that influence you out of playing good golf. The winner here this week is going to make some birdies. He's going to have to. So you're going to have to hit good shots. It's not all scrambling."
There were only eight rounds under par all week at the last U.S. Open at Oakmont.
Scott offered even better advice.
"You don't really want to think about it too much," he said.
This article was written by Doug Ferguson and Will Graves from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
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