Players happy to leave Oakmont's brutal conditions
CROMWELL, Conn. -- Rich Beem played two rounds at last week's U.S. Open, the second of which took him 85 strokes to complete, including 40 on the vaunted greens at Oakmont Country Club.
So ask the 2002 PGA Championship winner whether conditions at this week's Travelers Championship will be any easier, and all he can do is laugh.
"It's night and day," Beem said. "You can't even compare 'em."
He is one of 52 players saying goodbye and good riddance to the 5-inch rough, ultrafast greens and astronomical scores of the Open and hello once again to PGA Tour life as we know it.
Not that this week's host venue, TPC River Highlands, will play easy, necessarily, but it signifies a return to normalcy after the brutally tough elements at Oakmont, which yielded only eight rounds under par and a winning score of 5-over by Angel Cabrera.
"After playing such a brutal test at Oakmont, any course you come to the next week is going to feel easy," said Michael Putnam, whose final-round 83 left him in a share of 55th place this past weekend. "In the practice round I played [Tuesday], it was like, 'Man, this short is short. Wow, these greens are soft. Whoa, they're slow.' I feel like I can make putts on these greens."
"It's easy to get a little bit more relaxed because the fairways are probably twice as wide and the greens are definitely softer and not as fast," said D.J. Brigman, who was T-30 at Oakmont. "But the thing on the PGA Tour is you can't really relax too much because these guys who had the week off last week are going to come out here energized and focused. They're going to go out there and take it low, so I can't play too relaxed."
Exactly two-thirds of the field heads to the lush confines of Connecticut without the battle scars and shell shock from the Open, feeling refreshed after watching the carnage from the safety of a living-room sofa. Those who are making back-to-back starts include seven of the world's top 25 players and three who finished in the top 10 last week.
"I'm going to really try my best to have fun this week," said Justin Rose, who finished T-10 at the Open. "Obviously, I'm going to be trying to play my best, but at the same time, I'm going to have a more relaxed attitude and enjoy it, not have a lot of expectations. It's going to be much easier. The course is going to be giving up more birdies, so I'm going to enjoy that fact."
"Every single shot last week, from a 2-foot putt to just a typical driver off any old tee box, you had stress because there were problems at every corner," said Jeff Brehaut, who finished T-17 in his first career major last week. "Here, your mind-set has to be that there are a bunch of birdies; it's playing a little more like regular golf."
Playing "regular" golf doesn't mean competitors can take their foot off the gas pedal this week, though.
"The thing you've got to worry about is being overly confident coming to a golf course like this," Beem said. "It still has a lot of problems to it. You've still got to hit the ball in the fairway; if not, the ball is going to get into some deep rough. And these greens aren't as slow as everybody thinks. Just because they were ridiculously fast last week doesn't mean that they're that much easier this week."
Rather than difficult to easy, let's say the conditions are changing from difficult to, well, not-as-difficult this week -- which isn't necessarily bad news for the players.
As Brigman said, "I'm glad the U.S. Open is just one week a year because if you had to play that on a consistent basis, I think I would choose a different profession."
Jason Sobel is ESPN.com's golf editor. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com
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