June 18, 2018

Another U.S. Open, another year of controversy involving course set-up. The last time the Open was held at Shinnecock Hills the USGA admitted they let the course get away from them. Three years ago at Chambers Bay, they didn’t expect the course to respond as it did to the weather and the elements, leaving the golfers crusty brown surfaces that looked like some West Texas muni. This year, Saturday was a debacle when the USGA admitted they didn’t take into account the amount of wind and the impact it would have on the greens with the pin placements that were chosen for the day. Fortunately, for the USGA…

…Order was restored on Sunday when officials chose the side of caution, dumping plenty of water on the greens overnight and situating the cups more often than not near the center of greens, away from severe run-offs near the edges.

There were still plenty of high scores, but an average of 72.2 on the par-70 course suggested the set-up had been just about right, though it was helped by winds that did not blow quite as strongly as the previous day.

The USGA got lucky, though, in that Koepka won. He played late on Saturday.

Had Tony Finau or Daniel Berger hoisted the trophy, the criticism might well have got louder.

Both played early on Saturday, shooting 66 before the greens wilted under the baking sun, and neither would have expected to be tied for the lead at the end of the third round.

Golf is not meant to be fair but Finau and Berger, through no fault of their own, were provided with such an advantage that had either won, the victory might well have left a sour taste.

Finau was ranked 37th in the world while Berger started the week ranked 43rd — both accomplished players but yet to make their mark in major championships.

In the end, the top four finishers — Koepka, Tommy Fleetwood, Dustin Johnson and Patrick Reed — all started the week ranked in the top 13, so nobody could say it was a fluke leaderboard.

There’s no question that the USGA dodged the proverbial bullet this year, but unless they seriously – and I mean seriously – reevaluate their approach to setting up future Opens, they’ll just keep running the same risk year in, year out.

I won’t hold my breath.

Methinks the whole idea of what the USGA believes the U.S. Open is supposed to prove and how the USGA sets up their courses in order to achieve that goal is both outdated and ill-advised. Clearly, they are fighting a losing battle with technology and the athleticism of today’s professional golfers, and that’s not going to change anytime soon. I think GOLF Channel’s Frank Nobilo hit the nail on the head when he said that what the USGA is now reduced to doing is taking courses that were designed some 80-100 years ago to play a certain way in a far different era and tricking them up in order to achieve the USGA’s goal of making them par as close to the winning score as possible, and the hell with everyone and everything else.

It makes no sense. What the USGA is doing is risking making our national golf championship a farce. What does “par” really mean, anyways? And why should par matter? The idea should be to create a stern test for the professional golfer around a certain philosophy that the golfer who plays the best all-around should win. Not the golfer who can best drop an approach shot from 150 or 170 yards out onto an area the size of a postage stamp. That’s not golf, and I’m certain that’s not what the original course designer – no matter who they are or were – had in mind.

So here’s an idea for the USGA: forget about par. Forget that par even exists. And, for gawdsakes, leave the stimp meters in the equipment shed. Allow the courses you choose to be themselves and set them as reasonably close to the way the original designers had in mind. If you want to squeeze the fairways and leave the rough “U.S. Open rough” – fine. But leave the greens alone. Let them run as true to average as they can. And then – most importantly – let the chips fall where they may and just count the strokes. Forget about +2, -5, +7, etc. A guys shoots 69-72-69-75? Count it as 285. No one needs to know what par is. No one should care. Put your collective egos in your pockets and your outdated ideas about what par should be and just count the strokes. The better players are going to rise to the top, and if some non-marquee or top 20 player in the world doesn’t win, accept it for what it is.

I can assure you, as much as you think the fans out there want to see the pros struggle and get embarrassed like they do in their own weekly Sunday leagues, no one wants to see Rickie Fowler shoot an 84 or Dustin Johnson shoot 77 like they did on Saturday. No one wants to see the best players in the world shooting +12 or +18 for the weekend, even if it is just one week a year. No one wants to see a putt on line just barely trickle past the hole and then pick up speed and roll off the green entirely. That’s not USGA golf, that’s clown golf.

You probably won’t listen to The Great White Shank, but if you, the USGA, just set up your courses honestly and count the strokes instead of worrying about what the winning score should be in accordance with par, you might actually be able to relax and watch the best players do what they do best instead of sitting on the edge of your seats year in, year out worrying about the weather conditions and if the course is going to “get away from you”, leaving you embarrassed and making excuses yet again.

Our national championship deserves better.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 17:28 | Comments (2)
  1. I like clown golf. Nothing wrong with the setup. We had a course tying record of
    63 and scores in the 80s. This is what the US open should bring.

    Comment by Killa — June 20, 2018 @ 11:50 am

  2. I like sorta clown golf. But seeing the best players in the world at +15 or worse doesn’t help the sport. Maybe us Goodboys would get a kick out of seeing that, but not me. That’s why my favorite major is The Open Championship, because you play what nature naturally gives you and let the best man win. It’s only a few weeks away – can’t wait!

    Comment by The Great White Shank — June 20, 2018 @ 8:24 pm

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