The Groz Files: The curious case of Tiger at Olympic
By Dave Grosby
This weekend, The U.S. Open is once again at one of America’s great old golf courses. The scenic Olympic Club on the water near San Francisco is a place steeped in Open history.
In 1955, Ben Hogan was an overwhelming favorite to win the Open against an unknown named Jack Fleck. But Fleck beat Hogan in golf’s greatest Open surprise.
Now the next time the USGA came calling it was pretty memorable as well. The next Open at Olympic in 1966 was when Arnold Palmer led by seven with nine holes to go and somehow lost to Billy Casper. My colleague, Jim Moore, could have protected that lead. In 1987, Tom Watson was beaten by Scott Simpson and the last time at the Olympic Club, in 1998, Payne Stewart would cough up a four-shot lead and lose to Lee Janzen, who shot even par to win.
A pair of two-time major winners and two of the bigger longshots to ever win is what Olympic brings to the table for Open No. 5, and yet I know after reading the headline what you’re wondering is, “What the hell does that have to do with Tiger or The Groz?”
Well, before the internet bubble — not to be confused with the housing bubble of 2008 — blew, a company called Linkstime.com sent me to the Bay Area with a chance to play the par-3 course at the club and a round on the course with a long-time member and a lucky prize winner.
Our host regaled us with a Tiger Woods story I have always remembered. For two years in the mid-90s, Woods was an undergrad at Stanford, nicknamed “Urkel” by teammate Notah Begay. The Stanford home course happened to be the Olympic Club, where Tiger would play and practice. Our host’s story about Tiger’s work ethic has never left me:
Yet Tiger was a non-factor in 1998, barely making the top 20. He has already been one of the many to complain about the difficulty of the set-up at Olympic, calling the first six holes “simply brutal.”
It’s odd that Woods doesn’t feel comfortable at a place he knows so well, but he doesn’t. I think his four-year streak without a major continues. Tiger won’t win the Open.