John Zimmers has all the power. His sole desires could either help LPGA Tour players look like heroes who can conquer any beast of a course, or like feeble amateurs who struggle to break 80.
Zimmers, a Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) Class A member, has prepared Oakmont Country Club for this week's U.S. Women's Open. But along the way, he's had to deal with a surplus of rain (over seven inches fell in June) and extreme levels of humidity.
"It has been challenging, but we're hanging in there, and it could be worse," said Zimmers, an 18-year GCSAA member. "We have fans out to help dry up the course, we vented the greens Tuesday to get more air in them, and if we can miss more of the hit-or-miss thunderstorms that keep popping up, we should be able to dry out and firm up."
Oakmont is infamously known for its hard, fast and sloped Poa annua greens, which Zimmers has maintained in superb condition. And he's added the USGA-style graduated cut to the Kentucky bluegrass/perennial ryegrass rough, which increases the penalty for shots that land off farther off the fairway. The first cut is six feet wide and an inch and a half high, the second cut is 20 feet wide and two and a quarter inches tall, and the rough is about three and a half inches high from there.
Oakmont has hosted more major championships than any other course in the U.S., including eight U.S. Opens, five U.S. Amateurs, three PGA Championships, and one previous U.S. Women's Open. Zimmers, who has been the superintendent at Oakmont for 10 years, also prepared the golf course for the 2003 U.S. Amateur and 2007 U.S. Open.
"In the USGA's eyes, Oakmont is the gold standard for championship golf," said Mike Davis, USGA senior director of rules and competition. "It also happens to be one of the very best conditioned courses I've ever seen. People constantly talk negatively about Poa greens - and I always counter with 'you ought to see Oakmont's and you would change your tune.'"
Oakmont will play at par-71, 6,598 yards for the 2010 U.S. Women's Open.