It becomes increasingly more difficult to figure out the message conveyed by the USGA as it presents the U.S. Open.
The sites they have chosen recently are Chambers Bay, Oakmont and this year at Erin Hills and in 2018 Shinnecock Hills, then Pebble Beach and on to Winged Foot. They all seem to have a similar conceptual appearance when viewed on TV, with extremely long rough, cavernous bunkers and roller coaster greens.
In fact, if executed properly I’ll bet a person could take a photo from strategic places on any of these courses and nobody could tell which course they were from, yet they are tremendously varied visually.
None actually scream out “play me” from a grow-the-game perspective. They all send me a message of pour yourself a drink, crawl into a comfortable spot in front of the TV and watch the best players in the world play.
I also hear loud and clear a voice telling me to stay home, save my money and don’t even think about teeing off there – places like this aren’t for you.
First, Erin Hills is a course for athletes.They do not permit golf carts and therefore have no cart paths. Rumor has it they did have a few, but they were lost in the rough by players who couldn’t find the route to the next tee.
In case you weren’t watching the U.S. Open on TV the rough is taller, thicker and denser than bamboo. Walking the course is a long, demanding trek meandering through beautiful, rolling land in Wisconsin.
It shouldn’t be too difficult to score on since the fairways are 50 to 70 yards wide. Unfortunately, on most holes the carry to the fairway is 250 yards over terrain that has the appearance of a military training exercise site.
The bunkers are rugged little caves cut into the ground to simulate foxholes and more difficult to extract a ball from than a bath tub. Filled with gritty sand, containing hundreds of small pebbles the average person could spend a great portion of a golf vacation trying to escape.
And then the greens.
I truly doubt a lot of teenagers who love skateboarding were watching the broadcast. That’s a good thing. Anybody who enjoys a few “half pipes” and a bit of park skateboarding would revel at the chance to display their skills as they speed down a “roll-in,” gaining speed to fly across the “mega ramp.”
Boarders might decide to test their skills on any one of the highly polished surfaces.
Little difficulty was in store for the PGA Tour players on the four par five holes, some of which were reached in two and some with an iron, even though the combined distance covered close to 2500 yards or about a mile and a half.
As it turned out, length wasn’t the problem.
This course was built for modern golfers, players who can drive the ball 325 yards in the air, drill irons from 280 yards onto greens as controllable as a trampoline and sink putts across the hood of a car. Players who can bench press 300 pounds, leap four feet into the air from a standing position and enjoy a quiet 15-mile run every morning.
What we saw at the U.S. Open isn’t for anyone but the top players.
I know people aren’t supposed to attend a concert by Yo-Yo Ma and come home thrilled at the prospect of being able to learn how to play a cello like he does, but one does feel inspired. As spectators drive home from this U.S. Open, they will feel appreciative of the show they have seen.
Justin Thomas shot the lowest score in relation to par in a U.S. Open. He shot an unbelievable nine under 63 and did not win the championship.
Offering perspective to his magnificent performance, 32 other players broke par. When Johnny Miller shot eight-under 63 in the final round in 1973 at Oakmont, only three other players were under par. Regardless, Thomas’ scorecard will look nice beside the one used to record the 59 he shot earlier this year.
Mike Davis, the CEO of the USGA, must have wondered what ill he had performed when Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Justin Rose, Adam Scott, Dustin Johnson (the defending champion) and Jon Rahm were absent for the final day.
However, he benefitted greatly when Steve Stricker decided to shave for his round on Sunday and then finished T16 at 5 under, three fighters in Brian Harman, Hideki Matsuyama and Tommy Fleetwood stood up to the imposing Brooks Koepka and the ever-popular Rickie Fowler gave chase.
Koepka was superb, tee shot after tee shot, iron after iron, putt after putt. He did exactly what was asked and took home the trophy.
I don’t know what I would have done if I were in Phil’s position. He sacrificed what is undoubtedly one of only a few more chances to win the Open and on a course that suits his game. Maybe, he had a premonition or maybe he did the right thing. We will never know.
My heart bleeds for Charley Hoffman. He has come so close, yet was still so far away.
How great to hear Paul Azinger and Curtis Strange exchange stories and comments. Aided by Brad Faxon they are fun to listen to, while Joe Buck has a wonderful voice! Holly Sonders has changed since leaving the Golf Channel.
The USGA tried to enter into another controversy when they informed Matsuyama that he was recording slow times. Here he is with three holes to play with a chance to win the U.S. Open and is told he could face a slow play penalty. Wouldn’t that just about finish the growth of golf for all time?
We’re terribly sorry Hideki you shot the lowest score, but we have to add two strokes for slow play and you now finish T2n. Of course, if you sign your card and then we assess a penalty that would be two more because you signed an incorrect card.
As always I loved the tournament! However, compared to other U.S. Opens, I thought it was very lacklustre, placid and not too exciting. As soon as Harman bogeyed 12 and 13, given the last three holes were rated as the easiest on the course, Koepka had a stress-free ride into the locker room.
There was a bit of noise from Matsuyama, but Koepka has played well for a while and deserves to win the tournament.
I don’t think this event will do much to send the messages of the USGA which include minimal irrigation and maintenance costs of golf courses, promotion of skills attainable by the average person which inject fun into their games, reining in the distances the ball travels and affordable access to the game.
It brought-in a lot of money that perhaps can be spent at the grassroots level, but the tournament itself won’t do much to grow the game. Welcome to modern golf: a 7,800-yard course, fairways 50 yards wide, 180,000 sq ft of greens, $280 U.S. green fees (plus $75.00 for a caddy and $100per foursome for a forecaddie) and acres of hay fields there require water and fertilizer to grow in.
At least, there wasn’t a call in to ruin the fun.