As the build-up to this week's US Open at the historic Olympic Club in San Francisco continues, it would appear that those competing in the second Major of the season would have more chance of breaking out of Alcatraz with a plastic fork than they will of taming this particular golfing beast.
The head honchos of the United States Golf Association (USGA) don't like to see the host venue of their flagship championship dismantled in a frenzy of red numbers and it seems there will be a price to pay for Rory McIlroy's massacre of a rain-softened Congressional a year ago.
The 23-year-old Northern Irishman memorably romped to a majestic eight-shot triumph with a record-low score of 268, 16 under par. Jason Day, the distant runner-up, managed an eight-under tally, while 20 players were under par. Indeed, Day's score that week would have been enough to win 46 of the previous 50 US Opens. The USGA like to bill their showpiece as "The Toughest Test in Golf" and the powers-that-be are convinced the rigours of the Olympic Club's Lake course will restore that reputation after last year's frightful battering.
The undulating layout will play to a par 70 of 7170 yards, some 373 longer than it was the last time the championship was held there in 1998. Those 18 holes will include the leviathan of the par-5 16th which can be stretched to 670 yards and is to become the longest hole in the event's history. Throw in the wind that blows in off the Pacific and the threat of the city's rolling fog and you have a daunting mix.
The hard taskmasters at the USGA are already drooling in anticipation. "I am convinced this will be the hardest start in a US Open," said Mike Davis, the executive director of the governing body. "The first six holes are going to be brutal."
Even a galvanised Tiger Woods, fresh from his win at The Memorial last weekend, is already bracing himself for the Olympic battle.
"They've added some serious length there," said the three-time US Open champion, who will contest the first two rounds in the company of Phil Mickelson and reigning Masters champion Bubba Watson. "My [yardage] book is useless from '98. It's going to be a hell of a test."
With defending champion McIlroy trying to haul himself out of his mini-slump, a buoyant Woods, whose US Open triumph of 2008 remains the last of his 18 Major successes, has been swiftly installed as favourite for the crown in the aftermath of his Memorial majesty. We have been here before of course. When the 36-year-old notched his first PGA Tour win in more than two years at Bay Hill in late March, the clamour was ferocious and the former world No 1 was immediately marked down as the favourite for the Masters. The end result? An anticlimactic share of 40th place at Augusta.
The expectations of Woods, whose 2008 play-off win over Rocco Mediate was famously achieved with a ravaged knee, have already gone through the roof but predicting the outcome of this most unpredictable of sports, particularly the Majors, remains perilous – especially at US Opens at the Olympic Club which have, historically, been more famous for the big names who have lost rather than those who have won.
Ben Hogan went down in an 18-hole play-off to Jack Fleck in 1955, while Arnold Palmer, seven strokes ahead with nine to play in 1966, lost to Billy Casper in another play-off. In 1987, nine players were within three shots of the lead going into the final day but the favourite, Tom Watson, was beaten by Scott Simpson, and Payne Stewart allowed a four-stroke lead to slip through his fingers on the final day of the 1998 event, with Lee Janzen taking the ultimate honours.
Given that the last 13 Majors have been won by 13 different players, it will probably be another case of expecting the unexpected this week. And for Scotsman Marc Warren, the US Open will be very much a step into the unknown. The 31-year-old was all set to withdraw from the pre-qualifier at Walton Heath a fortnight ago but had a late change of heart and ended up sharing top spot in the 36-hole shoot-out to earn a coveted tee time. This will be Warren's debut in a Major championship, a fact that often takes many casual observers by surprise given that he has won twice on the European Tour and been a World Cup winner.
With a resurgent Paul Lawrie preferring to continue his Ryder Cup quest on European soil, Warren will carry the Saltire with fellow Glasgow man Martin Laird, who has missed the cut in his previous three US Opens in 2007, 2009 and 2011.
Those of an English persuasion, meanwhile, will certainly be expecting. Fresh from his sparkling win in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, Luke Donald will head to the west coast in purposeful, optimistic mood. With precision being the watchword, the need to plot an accurate route through the Lake course's tight fairways will suit the world No 1's game to a tee as he strives for that elusive Major title. "Pars win US Opens, that's the phrase, and I suppose that's usually a strength of mine," he said.
Donald may just be the man to catch in this particular Olympic race.
After McIlroy's massacre last year, the USGA aim for brutal revenge on the world's best, says Nick Rodger