OAKMONT, Pa. -- Most of the players will have had only two or three practice rounds before the start of today's U.S. Women's Open championship. Whatever the number, it won't be enough.
Oakmont Country Club is a perennial member of this country's top 10 golf courses, but it is perhaps more revered for its history.
Any story about this course, the only one designed by Pittsburgh steel magnate Henry C. Fownes, includes mention of the slippery and undulating greens and its 165 bunkers, particularly the imposing row of "Church Pews," between the fourth and fifth fairways.
All of the course's national tournament history, however, has revolved around men's events, including six U.S. Opens.
Now, the women get a chance to pit their games against this course and early speculation has the course winning.
"I can't imagine [an] under-par [score] winning," said two-time champion Betsy King. And Patty Sheehan offered, "A lot depends on the weather. If it stays wet, maybe even par will do it. If it dries out, I don't think it will."
"We're in a no-win situation," King pointed out. "If we shoot good scores, they'll say the course was easier than normal, and if we don't, they'll say we can't play. . . . Its length and difficulty will eliminate some players right now."
Tuesday's day-long rain softened the course somewhat, but has made it play much longer than its listed 6,312 yards. And the slick greens have been slowed somewhat.
"The greens are holding -- receptive to good shots -- although still not slow," said Missy Berteotti, a native of the Pittsburgh area, seeking to duplicate the feat of another local player, Sam Parks, who won the 1935 U.S. Open.
"I know from my own experience and from talking with other players that the first practice round startles you. You go home that night and try to figure out the best way to play it. A second round is for visualization -- working out where to hit it.
"Keeping the ball in the fairways is a must if you are to have a proper approach shot to the greens. The rough is playable."
Facts and figures
What: 47th U.S. Women's Open
Where: Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club
When: Today through Sunday
Who: 156 players for two rounds. Low 60 and ties will play the final two rounds.
Field: Defender Meg Mallon is one of 12 past champions entered, including all since 1980.
Purse: $700,000, including $130,000 for first; $65,000 for second, and $38,830 for third.
Course: 6,312 yards; par 36-35--71.
TV: Today-tomorrow, ESPN, noon-2 p.m.; 4 p.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, channels 13, 7, 3:30 p.m.-6 p.m.