There has been enough time for the dust to settle so what did we learn from the latest installment of “How The USGA Makes A Mess”?
Well, to start with we saw a repeat of a champion can be done with the right mix of skill, good bounces and some cooperating weather. Brooks Koepka managed to turn the trick for the first time since grumpy Curtis Strange did it in the late 80’s. He out muscled the field and raised the trophy Sunday for a back to back note in golf history.
We also witnessed how someone with a great resume, flocks of fans and an apparent lover of the game of golf commit one of the more interesting brain-farts we have seen in recent years.
No, I’m not talking about Phil Mickelson’s choice of wardrobe a few weeks back, showing up for golf wearing a dress shirt. Sadly, I am referring to his unexplained effort on the 13th green which caused an uproar at the tournament.
I’m not sure what was worse- hitting the ball while it was still moving or the explanation at the end of the round. If he thought about doing it, then he likely should have been DQ’d for a serious breach of the rules but the USGA didn’t see it that way and nailed him for a two stroke penalty. He did admit he was trying to play the rule but in the end his explanation was so lame if it was a horse it would have been put down.
Lefty embarrassed himself and basically thumbed his nose at the game as well as the young kids who watch him play. His apology, through a second party was too little, too lame.
Now about that golf course.
Well the USGA thought it had it all figured out and it appears they did for three rounds. O.k., maybe two rounds. Saturday was a bit of a gong show as they managed to tuck away a few pins which got everybody’s knickers in a knot. The rescue attempt on Sunday was maybe a little too much saving face and it caused more people to be annoyed.
I have always felt the U.S Open should be the most difficult test for the best players in the world and it usually is. There is a fine line between difficult and unfair. For the most part the USGA got it right but It seems there is a growing majority who claim the entire 2018 version was unfair.Many of those complaining are likely the same who love to see the birdie-fests each week on the PGA Tour.
Agronomy advances allow for the flawless fairways and pristine putting surfaces which players/fans today have come to expect. Apart from the majors each year, we see players taking on courses with light rough and accepting greens. Not exactly a huge challenge for the field where most can bomb it 300 plus and hit wedges into those greens, hence the birdie bonanza. Sponsors of these events do not want to see the carnage we saw at Shinnecock Hills. They want to see par demolished. They would rather watch a Tarantino movie for bloodshed.
Courses got longer and tougher in the 1960’s and 70’s after the records started to pile up in the 40’s and 50’s on courses which were around 6400 yards on average. So, when we see a course like Shinnecock get beefed up, it’s deemed unfair. Some players did negotiate all the conditions(natural and otherwise) better than others so which group of players was it unfair to? The ones who failed to make the cut?
I hope the USGA learns from it’s mistakes and I hope the players learn to deal with tough conditions.
I for one enjoyed watching the best in the world battle their nerves and the course to hoist the trophy. It was a real test, and many passed with flying colours. I think that was fair.