U.S. Open: 9 surprising facts to consider this week at Oakmont

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USA Today Sports Images
By Matt S. Craig

Series: Golf Buzz

Published: Thursday, June 16, 2016 | 7:58 a.m.

If you can't get excited for this week, check your pulse. It's a major championship, the national championship, the toughest test in golf, the U.S. Open! And it's being held at historic Oakmont Country Club, which is one of the most challenging courses in the world.

But in case you needed a few more reasons to be excited for this week's tournament, here's nine facts you may not know about the course, the tournament, and the competitiors:

1. There are four players in the field who played in the 1994 U.S. Open at Oakmont.

While golf these days has been dominated by the younger players, there are a few old dogs who are still in the hunt. This list includes the 1994 champion Ernie Els, who hasn't missed a single U.S. Open in 23 years; Phil Mickelson, who's making his 25th run at a U.S. Open and still looking for his first victory after six runner-up finishes; Jim Furyk, who also finished runner-up at the 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont; and finally Jeff Maggert, whose odds to win this week are on the books at 1000-1, for those that are feeling adventurous.

RELATED: Check out players' reactions to the tough Oakmont conditions | U.S. Open leaderboard

2. There's a highway that runs through the middle of the course.

And it's a major highway at that. The Pennsylvania Turnpike divides the course almost in half, with holes one and nine through 18 on the west side of the highway and holes two through eight on the east side.

While the highway was obviously not part of Henry C. Fownes' original design in 1903, the highway's installation didn't disrupt the layout almost at all other than the moving of the eighth green about 10 yards.

The highway sits well below the surface of the golf course, and with the combination of concrete walls and dirt mounds, it's very difficult to tell a highway even exists when you're playing golf.

3. It took 34 years for Wes Short Jr. to qualify for the U.S. Open.

Wes Short Jr. first tried to qualify for the U.S. Open in 1982, at the tender age of 18. Now here he is 34 years later, after shooting 69-66 in the Columbus, Ohio qualifier. The 52-year-old is the oldest player in the field.

Short finished fifth last week at the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship, and has one victory on the the PGA Tour Champions.

4. There are 12 former U.S. Open champions in the field.

Can you name them all? Here's the list by year:

2015: Jordan Spieth
2014: Martin Kaymer
2013: Justin Rose
2012: Webb Simpson
2011: Rory McIlroy
2010: Graeme McDowell
2009: Lucas Glover
2007: Angel Cabrera
2006: Geoff Ogilvy
2004, 2001: Retief Goosen
2003: Jim Furyk
1997, 1994: Ernie Els

5. Oakmont's 8th hole is the longest par-3 in U.S. Open history.

Well, technically Oakmont's 8th hole has been set up as all of the top three longest par-3's in U.S. Open history, and five out of the top seven. Here is the full list:

300 yards, 8th at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club, fourth round, 2007
281 yards, 8th at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club, second round, 2007
279 yards, 8th at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club, third round, 2007
266 yards, 3rd at Merion Golf Club (East Course), Ardmore, Pa., fourth round, 2013
261 yards, 8th at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club, first round, 2007
254 yards, 17th at Merion Golf Club (East Course), Ardmore, Pa., 2013
253 yards, 8th at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club, 1927, 1935, 1953, 1962

It will be interesting to see if improved equipment and increased weight training of the golfers has an effect on the 8th hole this week. If players are able to use a 3-wood or even a long iron or 5-wood depending on the wind instead of a driver, it could make this hole much easier than the 3.452 scoring average it had in 2007, when the field only made the green in regulation 26.7% of the time.

While we're at it, Oakmont's 12th hole also holds the title of the second longest par-5 in U.S. Open history, which measured at 667 yards during the 2007 U.S. Open.

6. The state of Pennsylvania has hosted more USGA championships than any other state.

This year's U.S. Open marks the 84th such championship held in Pennsylvania, beating out second place California with 75. The 83 previous championships include 16 U.S. Opens, nine U.S. Women's Opens, three U.S. Senior Opens, 13 U.S. Amateurs, 13 U.S. Women's Amateurs, three U.S. Junior Amateurs, five U.S. Girls Junior Amateurs, three U.S. Senior Amateurs, and six U.S. Senior Women's Amateurs.

7. There is one grouping of all Fedex Cup champions

And it isn't who you'd expect. In fact, it didn't even make our six most intriguing pairings at Oakmont. But Thursday's 1:36 p.m. pairing of Billy Horschel, Brandt Snedeker, and Bill Haas contains all men who have taken home the Fedex Cup, and the $10 million check that goes with it.

All of those men would love to add a U.S. Open victory to their resume. You can check out the other tee times and pairings here.

8. Oakmont was the first golf course in the United States to be recognized as a National Historical Landmark.

Built in 1903, Oakmont is considered by many to be the toughest course in the United States. It also has hosted the most U.S. Opens and USGA championships of any course in the country.

There are only three other golf courses that have been recognized. Can you name them? They are Baltustrol Golf Club in New Jersey and site of this year's PGA Championship, Merion Golf Club in Pennsylvania, and Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina.

9. Since 1991, only 5 defending champions have finished better than 15th while 8 have missed the cut.

This is a fascinating statistic, and could be interesting to consider when watching Jordan Spieth this week. The highest finisher among the group was Tiger Woods, who finished 6th in 2009 after his win at Torrey Pines in 2008. The other defending champions to finish in the top 15 were Retief Goosen, Graeme McDowell, Justin Rose, and Tiger Woods a second time. The most recent defending champion to miss the cut was Martin Kaymer just last year.

Jordan Spieth enters this week not only as the defending champion, but as one of the favorites to win this week at Oakmont. Can he break another record previously held by Tiger Woods and place in the top five?

Matt S. Craig is a PGA.com intern and a Digital Sports Production student at Ball State University.