A US Open to remember - relatively
Jun 19, 2012 / 5:00 am
Sunday, June 17th, 2012 will always be remembered in the world of golf as Webb Simpson’s first or maybe only Major victory… when proven Champions like Furyk, McDowell, Els and indeed Woods and Mickelson withered under the pressure of a US Open Sunday in the mist and fog of Olympic Club in San Francisco. Well, that is at least how the United States Golf Association believes it will be remembered. Fans and indeed media – assuming we believe the journalists and bloggers who DON’T use such headlines as “What a Wicked Webb He Wove”- largely regarded the tournament as another USGA event aimed to reward the unspectacular and place a premium on a complete lack of imagination. I can now say emphatically that success was achieved and 4 days of watching the best players in the world bunting 5 irons off the tee down a bowling alley and aiming away from all things pin-related on their approach shots is mercifully over and regular golf programming can now resume. At least until The Open Championship, when the R&A in its infinite wisdom has promised to unveil windmills, waterfalls and the occasional clown’s mouth in an effort to ‘protect the sanctity of par’ around the once-proud Royal Lytham & St. Annes. Phew… and here I was thinking that these Amateur organizations might still have an agenda related to the Golf Professional and his desire to enter the clubhouse through the front door…
Let’s not misunderstand me here – Webb Simpson is a worthy winner and that shiny new Jack Nicklaus Medal hangs around the neck of a man whose weekend 68-68 dodged all the necessary traffic of a traditional US Open pile-up. The Keegan-Bubba-Webb trifecta pays off about $1.25M on a $2 bet if you just happened to have a thing for ‘unusual’ names and happened to notice that the Old Guard is spending a lot more time in What Went Wrong press conferences while the New Breed is extolling the virtues of on-course prayer and nerves that know no better. Safe to hypothesize that your chances of seeing Simpson and Watson ‘making it rain’ at Rachel’s in West Palm Beach anytime in the future is a tougher bet to realize than say a Brandt or a Spencer holding up the Claret Jug in the near future. A re-appearance of Drunken Chicken Guy in England would, however, trump all other outcomes and just for that briefest of moments make me forget that when it comes to putting on a Golf Tournament it is still those Green Jacketed do-as-we-say-not-as-we-do Men of the Masters who have perfected the formula, while the USGA and R&A continue to languish behind mouthing such phrases as “fair test” and “stern examination.”
The problem which continues to plague the US Open is that the USGA seems to insist that an integral part of its mandate is to protect the reputation of the so-called Classic Courses whose due-paying members (in the case of Private clubs) and hard-core daily fee payers (in the case of Public tracks like Bethpage Black) believe they have an inherent right to see the world’s best struggle around their beloved acreage. It is an inane concept and while the bobble-heads responsible for NBC’s coverage – led by that pantheon of all things self-serving, Johnny Miller – continue to pump USGA Executive Director Mike Davis’ tires with hot air, it is the Golf Fan who is left to suffer through endless hours of “He’s hitting less than Driver off the tee just hoping to find the fairway” and 20-footers for par. It is groans that ring through the trees of a US Open tempered occasionally by cheers when a ball is accidentally pushed or pulled 15-20 feet off-line away from the centre of the green and towards the flag. Nothing like the good solid risk/reward of a 670-yard par 5 where players opt for hybrid off the tee! Yes, the Rip Van Winkle Quotient of this story is high and allows for plenty of Millerian discussion of his remarkable 63 at Oakmont and Jimmy Roberts fluff pieces.
Sadly, this 1999 US Open moment seems an eternity ago when the resplendent Payne Stewart celebrated his final Father’s Day with a putting performance which, through time and circumstance, have many remembering Pinehurst #2 that year with great fondness. It is easy to forget, in light of Stewart’s remarkable finish to best Mickelson and his subsequent untimely passing, that players were more than a tad vocal in their distaste about the USGA set-up prior to the beginning of the tournament. Ironically, it came on the heels of the comical set-up at Olympic Club the year before when pin positions had been about as well thought out as the plot lines of CSI: Miami but without all the great acting.
In 2000 though Pebble Beach held its own as it always does – except for a particular striped predator in the midst of one of the most magnificent golf seasons ever put together. His dominance that year and Rory McIlroy’s runaway victory in 2011 both immediately led to reactionary set-up measures the following Father’s Day. In ’01 Fans were forced to endure a Southern Hills course so bastardized that players were choosing to hit into greenside bunkers rather than the more traditional approach of the green itself. Yup, just a little bit Mickey and a whole lot of Mouse. If you think Rory’s ability to exploit Congressional’s wet conditions with his Driver last year didn’t contribute to a set-up designed to almost completely remove Ye Olde 1-Wood from the bag, then may I humbly suggest you look into aiding that Nigerian Prince whose e-mail suggests your help will be invaluable in reclaiming his lost fortune. I’ll check in with you next Dad’s Day and see how that’s going for you.
Until next time Kelowna please remember: It is an Honour like no other to be a Father and a Privilege like no other to be a Son.
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