116th U.S. Open Championship Preview Press Call Highlights

Today, FOX Sports’ lead USGA play-by-play announcer Joe Buck, lead analyst Paul Azinger and on-course reporter Curtis Strange were joined by Coordinating Producer of USGA studio and event programming Mark Loomis to preview FOX Sports’ coverage of the 116th U.S. Open Championship at Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa. Live coverage begins Thursday, June 16 on FOX and FS1, with more than 36 hours planned through Sunday, June 19. All rounds are available on tablets and mobile devices via the FOX Sports GO app and online at www.FOXSportsGO.com.

Highlights from the call appear below:

Azinger on how the players prepare mentally to play Oakmont:

“The preparation for a lot of guys, guys that likely feel they have the best chance to win, started a month ago or longer. I’m sure that a lot of players came in early to Oakmont.

“I actually was able to talk to [Jack] Nicklaus about Oakmont, and he said he thought that in ’62, he won it in spite of what he knew about the course. Not that he fluked on it, but he just didn’t really realize what he was trying to accomplish, almost, in that respect.

“The golf course, it’s just one of those courses that you don’t know when the ball’s going to stop rolling a lot of times, if it’s fast, especially on the greens. The players go in early, the ones that think they can win, and you’ve got to try to figure it out. A lot of the putts you have to make are going to be the par putts – it’s not how many birdies you make or how many bogeys you avoid. They’re all ready to do some serious battle. It’d be a great week to be unflappable.”

Strange on contending at the 1994 U.S. Open Championship at Oakmont Country Club:

“I played really well. I did the best I could. I didn’t finish very well, but we have to remember that Ernie [Els] fell apart a little at the end and let a lot of people back in. Loren Roberts missed a short putt on the last hole and would have won outright, so even though I missed the playoff by a shot, it wasn’t that painful because I knew I was somewhat lucky. Would I have loved to be a part of playoff? Absolutely. But you’ve got to be realistic in that although I lost by one, I was fortunate to be that close. I take a lot of good things away from that because it was the last time I contended in The Open and on a grand old golf course. I surprised myself a little bit just from the standpoint that I got in contention on Sunday and I needed a stretch early on to get in contention and I did it on the first nine holes. So it was fun; it was great fun to be a part of. I say fun — it’s nerve-racking as hell, but it’s what you strive to do, and the goal for the week is to have a chance on Sunday.

“I remember a lot of it. I remember the golf course is a bit different, fairway bunkering is tighter, deeper. Some of the bunkers around the green complexes are a little deeper so it’s a more difficult golf course than it was in ’94. I’ll tell you what I remember most about ’94 – the heat and Friday night watching the white Bronco [O.J. Simpson] ride around L.A., to be quite honest with you. Oakmont, I have such respect for it because it’s probably, other than Winged Foot and maybe one or two others, you can have a U.S. Open there without much preparation at all. It’s a challenge every day for the members. It’s a challenge for the professionals if they just show up there. And it’s got such history and tradition in the clubhouse, the setting, the putting green, the ninth green. Everything about it is spectacular.”

Loomis on what he’s most looking forward to this year, especially with regard to the technical tools at his disposal:

“There was such an unknown at Chambers Bay last year. We were kind of trying to prepare for everything. We hadn’t seen it before. Now, we haven’t done the U.S. Open ourselves at Oakmont, but I’ve seen it at Oakmont. I went back and watched 2007, so I have a really good feel for how the course is going to play, what’s important and the things we’ll need to show off. This year, I know exactly how we’re going to highlight the greens and bring those to life. I know how we’re going to use our tracers and our yardage posts. I’ve already walked around the golf course a month ago. I picked out all the bunkers we’re going to highlight and put yardage posts on.

“One of the people who is working with is Bob Ford. Nobody knows that golf course like Bob Ford, so he’ll be invaluable for us in terms of helping bring that to life. He and Gil Hanse every morning will help us set up the golf course. With all of the things we have at our disposal this year, we know what’s coming with Oakmont. We’ve already been through it once, so it’s a much easier thing to plan for than a year ago.”

Buck on takeaways from FOX Sports’ inaugural presentation of last year’s U.S. Open:

“Going into last year’s U.S. Open and coming out of last year’s U.S. Open, I’ve never been more proud of an event that we’ve covered at FOX, period. I refuse to come on here and apologize for 2015, that’s ridiculous. The critics who were unkind, that’s not a newsflash, that’s kind of the way of the world and when you start, you’ve got to earn your position. And until you’ve done it, you’ve got no idea what it takes to do that.

“What do I take out of it? Besides the satisfaction, I think where I failed most of the time last year was injecting the heart and soul into what these guys were trying to do. I was completely caught up in managing the scoreboard – going from one green to the next, back to a fairway, then to a tee and back to the green where we just saw somebody hit out of the fairway. There’s a lot of moving parts in golf and you make the mistake of thinking going in that it’s going to be slow. It’s actually the opposite. It’s by far the fastest event when you’re sitting in the chair.”