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US Open: Players have a long way to go to achieve success at the Olympic Club

At a jaw-dropping 670 yards, the par-5 16th at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, host venue to this week's US Open, has caused a fair old commotion.

Flanked by heavy rough and with a sharp dog-leg left, this fearsome beast of a hole could turn into something of a golfing crime scene over the next few days. You could imagine Dirty Harry, the city of Cisco's famous fictional cop, surveying proceedings from the greenside and uttering his well-used line: "I know what you're thinking. Did he fire six shots or only five? Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself."

After an eye-opening practice round in which he found the rough, laid up short and still had 270 yards for his third shot, Louis Oosthuizen, the Claret Jug winner at St Andrews in 2010, is adamant there won't be many laying down the law on this, the longest hole in US Open history.

"If anybody is on the green in two this week, then that's something special," the South African said. It seems the players will have to ask themselves that other Detective Callahan question: "Do I feel lucky?"

Andy Zhang certainly got lucky. The 14-year-old China-born, Florida-based prodigy will become the youngest player to compete in the championship after being called up from the reserve list following Paul Casey's late withdrawal.

Glasgow's Marc Warren has also been counting himself fortunate after deciding, at the last minute, to compete in the US Open's qualifying contest at Walton Heath. The 31-year-old came out on top in the 36-hole shoot-out and is now looking forward to a major championship debut.

It could be a pretty daunting experience for the two-time European Tour winner, though. Butch Harmon, the renowned swing guru and former coach of Tiger Woods, may not know much about Warren but the 68-year-old is usually pretty honest and outspoken in his assessments. The American knows that the Olympic Club won't have much sympathy for a 300-1 major rookie.

"I don't know anything about Marc Warren," stated Harmon, when approached with the inevitable tartan-tinged questions. "But if he is making his first appearance at a US Open he couldn't have picked a harder course to make it on. I think 300-1 may be conservative."

Warren's fellow Glaswegian Martin Laird does register on the Harmon radar – "I like his game and he's very good in all categories" – and the 29-year-old goes into the second major of the campaign looking to prove a point. As a two-time winner on the PGA Tour, there is no doubting Laird's credentials and qualities and he underlined his attributes last month when he claimed a share of second place in the Players' Championship at Sawgrass, the unofficial 'fifth major'.

Laird's record in the majors remains largely disappointing, though. In the 10 he has contested, the Scot has missed the cut seven times and has made an early exit from all three of his previous US Open appearances. The confidence gained from that robust showing at Sawgrass still lingers, though, and Laird is keen to use it to his advantage.

"The Players was a good finish in terms of proving to myself that I can go out in the final round of a huge tournament and play that way," said the world No.32. "I felt as if I belonged. That's when you feel, okay, maybe my game is getting to the level where I can play in these big events and not feel overwhelmed and intimidated by them."

There could be plenty to be intimidated by this week as the game's global runners and riders assemble ahead of this race for Olympic gold. Harmon has already surveyed the thoroughbreds and he is still keen on a former member of his own stable. Woods, whose victory in the 2008 US Open was the last of his 18 major wins so far, has arrived on the west coast with something of a strut following his classy success in the Memorial recently.

He has not been overly enamoured by some of the things his previous coaches have said – Hank Haney's book of revelations 'The Big Miss' went down like a sack of spanners – so it must come as a pleasant surprise to the former world No.1 to hear Harmon talking about him in upbeat tones. "That [at the Memorial] was the best I've seen him play in years," he said. "He had complete control of his ball both off the tee and into the greens and putted better so, if he plays like that, he'll definitely be one of the favourites, without a doubt."

And what about that 16th? "I think the 16th is ridiculous," blasted Butch, with all the ferocity of Dirty Harry's 44 Magnum.

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