Musings on The U.S. Open
Well, another one has come and gone, and personally, I liked this year’s account of the U.S. Open much better than last. It just doesn’t seem like an Open when the winning score is 16 under par, does it? The test that we’ve come to know for our national championship should be one where par is perfect, and achieving that over four days and 16 miles of golf course should be the ultimate achievement for the most rigorous test of one’s golf mettle, it would seem to me.

And Olympic Club did not disappoint . . . as it never has in its history. Each time the Open comes to this fabulous old course, top names seem to fire and fall back, and those who we least expected to come out on top always seem to do that. Jack Fleck, Billy Casper, Scott Simpson, Lee Jantzen and now Webb Simpson. All showed the patience, precision and perseverance that is almost always required to be named U.S. Open Champion.

As I tuned in from time to time this past week, especially on Sunday, what caught my attention was the magnitude of the misses by the best players in the world, particularly in places where you wouldn’t expect it.

How many failed to birdie the short par four seventh? That really amazed me. I would think that if you gave tour professionals a hole that could be played with a 5-or 6-iron off the tee and a lob wedge from the fairway, no one would ever make bogey, and birdies would happen at least 25-35% of the time. But it didn’t. Many bombed for the green off the tee and paid with a bogey or worse.

Poor distance control. I watched time and again . . .the best players in the world were missing approach shots by many yards long and short, even when they weren’t in the rough. What’s up with that? A tour professional should be able to dial in approach shots to within 15-20 feet long or short with absolute precision, especially with anything less than a 7-iron in their hands. But that’s a result of the increasing emphasis on hitting the ball hard and far. These guys just do not exhibit the distance control you would expect, especially under 150 yards. Or at least they sure didn’t this past week.

Missing the 18th green from wedge range. Are you kidding me? Padraig Harrington and Jim Furyk cannot hit a gap or sand wedge on line from the fairway or first cut rough? How many others could not hit that green with their “money clubs”? I find that appalling, to be honest.

All in all, it was great theater for us real golf fans. The heroes and goats, hits and misses.

And my hat’s off to Webb Simpson. A nice young man, it seems, with his head on straight. And one helluva golf game.

He played the weekend in four under par, combining a pair of 68s. No one else did anything close.
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[ comments ]
Backquak says:
I was thinking the same thing. I just couldn't understand how they were constantly hitting approach shots so off the target with short irons. I'm sure the hard greens played into that and they expected the ball to release but the shots right and left of the pin??? crazy And missing fairways with long irons? I know the fairways were narrow but I always think that those guys hit the ball so well that if they have an iron in hand they can place it within a 20 yard wide area. I wonder what I would shoot out there? 120? 130? or would I even finish?
6/19/12
 
Agustin says:
How could Graeme and his caddie miss-read the birdie putt on 18? Seems like everybody knew it would break left, yet they agreed to line the putt to the left edge of the hole... That putt never had a chance.
6/19/12
 
GolfSmith7 says:
Its the heat of the battle Simpson won not because he hit it best but because he controlled the mental game the best which lead to better swings. No one expected him to win so he played his game. Tiger, with the 36 hole lead probably revved himself to high want to win it so bad that it got the best of him. Tiger wins one of the next two majors. You heard it hear first even he is still learning to win again at golf's largest stage the majors.
6/19/12
 
dartboss04 says:
Appalling? Really? It's the US Open, not some weekday round with buddies. You have to think your way around Olympic so much that it makes ordinary shots so much more difficult. I'll cut them some slack with the amount of pressure they are under.
6/19/12
 
joe jones says:
I am still trying to understand the logic that Furyk and Fluff used to choose a hybrid on a reachable par 5 when the tournament was his with an eagle and a tie was probable with a birdie.Two of the announcers said before he hit the shot that it was a stupid choice. I have to believe that Jim didn't take Fluffs advice and played on the side of caution. Does anyone believe that Phil or Tiger would not have gone for the green.
6/19/12
 
GBogey says:
I'm not sure that Terry is giving enough credit to the pressure of the event or the uneven lies or even the risk that the ball would run off the back, but I do agree on some holed that there was surprisingly little accuracy when guys had to hit the green. A long putt might have a chance but a buried chip had no chance. Some of the decisions on 7 were confusing - lots of drivers and few 3W's or hybrids. These guys all hit long irons or hybrids 220-240 - they had the option of hitting a safe shot to 30-50 yards, pitching close and having a good birdie op. That's what Simpson did and he won.
6/19/12
 
dottomm says:
I agree Terry. I couldn't believe I was watching pro's completely hit the ball outside of >30 feet from 100 yards away. I think it speaks to the grind they are enduring out there. That course looked so tough. If it was me...mentally I would have collapsed but probably would have run out of balls first.
6/19/12
 
onedollarwed says:
I would say that the players should have been physically fine - no harsh weather all week. However, it looked like the pressure was really killing them. Simpson had perhaps the fewest cameras in his face on the final two days. As far as accuracy, I don't think there was success with accuracy throughout the week to give them that confidence; second guessing ran rampant. Hole locations changed, and it appeared that changing lies, conditions, and ground contact (heavy rough one shot, tight firm fairway the next) had their nerves jangled. As far as reading putts, would bright sun be any easier than the flat light of Sunday?
6/19/12
 
onedollarwed says:
Some of my musings as related to this column over the past year or so:
1) USGA is concerned about enjoyment, accessibility, and environmental conscientiousness of golf (as these relate to dwindling participation numbers). In the spirit of skateboarding - a form of travel in my day, but a form of injuries today - it was once shunned in public, and there were zero skateparks. Everywhere you go now, golf is forbidden as well. I tried the game for the first time in England at some park. You paid the equiv. of 50 cents to borrow one club and one ball, and whack it around the field/hill for 1/2 or so. There were flags spread around, but no greens or holes. This kind of low budget operation was very fun, easy (one club), and was no extra environmental burden (regular park/city land). Kind of like the skate park vibe. Could be a good fit for what the USGA wants - with some rezoning to do. Kids should be able to golf like kids play basketball!
6/19/12
 
onedollarwed says:
2) The "Tee it Forward" concept is supposed to put average players in the same position on approaches as pros. "The amateur golfer should be using the same club to approach the green as the pro." I know this is something Terry has touched on, in the sense that he often wishes there were a closer correlation to what we watch on TV and what we can do (I think that's right).
3) I rarely watch golf on TV, but knee surgery recovery had me watching every minute this past week. It's worse than I thought; there is almost a singular obsession with increased distance in every ad. Distance to where?
4) It's now common knowledge that voluntary resource conservation in the private sector can save big bucks, boost profits, improve working conditions, and bolster consumer trust. USGA wants to be in a position to pass on this research to all who will listen. With initial investment capital, participating courses should pass the savings on to consumers, employees, and the courses in a sustainability track.
6/19/12
 
onedollarwed says:
It's time for the popular courses with good service and value thrive, and the lousy , wasteful ones can go away.
6/19/12
 
GBogey says:
The USGA's "Tee IT Forward" ads prompted me to look at their guidelines. //www.playgolfamerica.com/index.cfm?action=tif_self_assessment. I play the correct tees, but not by a long margin, so I looked at the next shorted tees at my typical course. It would be a totally different round, more like the pro's with lots of wedges to greens and FW off the tees. Has anyone actually "Teed It Forward" in the interest of fun and seeing what the pro's game is like? Was it good or did you feel like you were cheating by playing so short?
6/19/12
 
jrbizzle says:
I think Terry is quite a bit off in his comment's. Many of the pin placements, and the firmness of the greens mandated that you hit your shots away from the pin. I saw many shots land close to the pin and scatter off the green. Pros know better than you or I that often times there are "safe spots" where the banking of the green will accept a shot and leave you with a putt for birdie. Basically this year the U.S. Open played like a combination of British Open style firm greens, but thick rough from which you can not generate the spin these guys like. And add in that we are only 18 months into the "new groove" rules. And even when in the fairway, how often did these guys have lies where the ball is below their feet?

I don't think the pros as a whole suddenly forgot how to control distances - as you can see, most tournaments the winning score is 12-15 under par. I think the conditions of the greens, the sloping fairways and the pressure of the U.S. Open is what we saw.
6/19/12
 
bkuehn1952 says:
@GBogey: I have played some shorter tees as a change of pace. While it is fun to play holes with driver/wedge, it is humbling if you don't end up scoring well. Hard to create an excuse for poor play (I was TOO close). At least when you have a 450 yard par 4 you can say, "Dude, the hole was 450 YARDS LONG!!"
6/19/12
 
jrbizzle says:
One example of such is Webb Simpson on the 10th hole (pretty sure it was 10). Everyone thought that approach he stuck to 3 feet was amazing. But he admitted he was shooting for 10-15 feet left of the pin and the club just turned over in the rough, and lucky for him it turned out well.
6/19/12
 
Matt McGee says:
I'll defer to dartboss04. My thoughts exactly. Very difficult course.
6/19/12
 
dartboss04 says:
@GBogey - I don't use the Tee It Forward guidelines per se, but I'm well aware of my limitations. At about 6500-6600 yards, it gets a bit dicey for me. Honestly, there are a lot of ways to get to a certain overall yardage. I really just need to look at the par 4's. Par 3's are in their nature limited, and usually varied in a given course, and unless I'm playing in the US Open at Olympic, par 5's are never too long if you hit two quality shots. Par 4's is where I can get into trouble. If the course has a bunch over 410-420, then I'm in for a long day, as I only tend to drive it around 220-230. I take a look at those lengths and then choose accordingly.

I've found that my favorite courses are those that vary par 4 length and style. It's nice to have a couple short par 4's where accuracy rules. It also makes me feel like I have the chance to score. If I'm able to fight through those longer par 4's, the course gives me the opportunity to take advantage when I can.
6/19/12
 
Mandelbaum! says:
I agree with @dartboss and @jrbizzle. To say the performance of some of the best golfers in the world is 'appalling' is to imply that you could have done better. To me, it was a lot of very tense situations on a very difficult course. Watch the Travelers this weekend, and if they're not knocking down the pins at TPC River Highlands, then you could make the claim that something's wrong. The course is a virtual playground for these guys.
6/19/12
 
GBogey says:
@dartboss - I drive about the same and know that I'm comfortable at 6200-6400 yards - at that distance I generally get to hit a wide variety of shots, but would never reach a par 5 in two. The USGA has changed the tone of its campaign from playing faster to have more fun and play the same game as the pros. I was surprised, maybe I shouldn't have been, at how much impact 300-400 yards might have - par 5's look reachable, a lot less driver off tee, few distance clubs except to tee off and perhaps reach par 5's. I'm thinking about giving it a try the next time I am matched with someone who plays forward, but I see bkuehn's point - the scorecard/handicap says I should play 2-3 strokes lower and I'll probably be real disappointed if I don't.
6/19/12
 
GBogey says:
I think that the USGA probably played with some of their heads this weekend. It seemed like the greens held shots better on days 3 and 4 when usually it is the reverse. I think they may have had problems adjusting - they're pros and they should adjust. I know I do ... around hole 17.
6/19/12
 
mantajim says:
Am I the only one that thought the course was set up 'TO HARD' I will agree that last year was too easy, but I would hate to see the US Open set up this hard from here on out. Yeah Furyk chocked, but did anyone really expect him to make any birdies on the last few holes. There were so few birdies made by the field, to see one was a freak. I don't want to watch the best players in the world play mediocre golf (how I discribe my game), because the course was brutal. And finally Webb Simpson did't win so much as he simple outlasted everyone else and I think that is sad.
6/19/12
 
onedollarwed says:
I watched every minute of the US Open almost. Mike Davis's elves were watering before each round - most heavily before Fri and Sat I think. He felt that the Tiger-Phil-Bubba group, who played early Thursday, and the late Friday, would feel that the course was softer on the first day by a good deal. Oppositely, guys who played late Thursday, and early Friday would feel that Olympic was holding better on Friday. The early players on Sat and Sun seemed to be making more birdies. Play out of the bunkers was superb - something Terry has mentioned a number of times (such a consistent and predictable sand density!). Mike Davis also mentioned that viewers like to see bad shots and some big numbers from top players. I can attest to the emotional pressures of golf. Once you learn to hit it, the emotional and psychological factors loom large in the golf experience, namely... humility and unpredictability.
6/19/12
 
dartboss04 says:
@mandelbaum - it's funny. I just played the TPC River Highlands twice, once from the championship tees which is the set right in front of the tournament tees, sometimes within 15 yards or so. Its amazing how long these guys are. It was a different game back there, even on an "easy" pro course.

@gbogey - I should clarify. On the par 5's I meant if I hit a quality drive an 2nd shot, I should never have a third beyond a mid iron. I typically cannot reach in two either.
6/19/12
 
wedgeguy says:
Hello Guys, I will admit that "apalling" was possibly the wrong word to use, but some of the golf surely wasn't impressive, we all admit. As for the difficulty of Olympic, it's nice to see these guys have to really tough it out a couple of times a year -- they'll get their chance this week and many others on courses that are relative pushovers for their length and skills. As for the pressure of a U.S. Open -- real competitors love that cooker. It brings out the best and worst of anyone.
But we all face real pressure in our everyday lives as well . . . making the next sale, surviving a layoff, making sure you can make payroll. They chose this life, and the pressure that goes along with it.
6/20/12
 
DoubleDingo says:
I enjoyed watching them flub shots that they normally would hit close or hole out from the fringes. Little chips and pitches that they normally would make birdie or save par from, just simply didn't work. When Jim Furyk hooked his drive in the final round, I looked at my girlfriend and said, "That's my go to shot anymore! (I hate the duck hook, but it has crept into my game and is something I fight tooth and nail)". It was nice to see them struggle, and be humbled by a course that they couldn't dominate. It was nice to see the course play them and make them tremble. They all hit many great shots that ended up in bad places. That is what my game has evolved into, and to see them do it made watching the tournament more enjoyable.
6/20/12
 
joe jones says:
I think there is a misunderstanding about the purpose of playing it forward. As I understand it, a golfer should be given the opportunity to reach a par three in one, a par four in two and a par five in three. It is not about hitting wedges into every green. It gives a player who has lost distance for what ever reason an opportunity to compete and enjoy playing the way they used to. I usually play a composite course where ever I play. I cherry pick the particularly long holes to play it forward to a more comfortable yardage. That usually creates a 6100 to 6200 yard course. That is enjoyable to me. As I get older and shorter I will reduce that yardage as required.Hitting the ball straight and getting the ball in the hole is still the goal.
6/20/12
 
onedollarwed says:
I think in that spirit many courses no longer use red tee markers, and have done away with those very distinctly separate tee boxes with the flowers.
6/21/12
 
dooboo says:
This years US Open gave me an opportunity to find out that game of golf is very mentally challenging. We all know these pros are good, however, the course itself challenged the best of the best in their head. Wind, lie, temperature, rough, hard greens, etc. All these little factors you start add/subtract in your head, plus the pressure of being a major, made it that much harder for these guys. Knowing one bad hole can take you out of the winner circle, make it more dramatic, as in case with Jim on 16th par 5 with the hook off the tee. Love it every moment.
6/21/12
 
Gromit5 says:
I like onedollarwed's comment on accessibility. Where I live, nearby elementary schools with huge open fields are fenced in and locked down after class and ALL SUMMER LONG. The b-ball courts are empty, and signs are posted for any and all activities. Why? Liability. And so kids end up playing in the street (duh), and no wedge practice for this kid, or anyone else. Also, years ago there were more par-3 courses, night-lighted, long gone thanks to development. Revolt! Pass the bolt cutter!
6/21/12
 
onedollarwed says:
I've seen little operations come and go over the years - practice ranges, golf tech type of thing, a year-round dome (I'm in RI). Golf is very seasonal here (this past winter was quite mild, but typically Dec-March is right out). If economics alone will dictate who plays, then that is not enough. The reps that one needs to get positive feedback from the game is insurmountable for most. I was lucky enough to play in high school for free for two seasons - two months in the spring, twice a week. We played twilight golf at a decent range for $5 after 6PM in the summers (that was the 1980's!). My equipment broke down and so I went about 10 years w/o playing. I bought my way back in the late 90's - $300 clubs, and again played the bargain courses and times. Now with decent equipment, and the resources to pay up to $50/rnd once a month, and cheaper rounds in between (around $16-$28 for 9-18). A trip to the range is $8-$15. Leagues now fill most courses, so timing is crucial.
6/22/12
 
onedollarwed says:
My kids are growing up now 9 and 6. How can I possibly get them into the game. Home economics vs. course economics, and home economics wins. I managed to maintain a single digit handicap through all of this, but I always had the hunger and desire to play into the darkness, get bitten by mosquitoes, search through the woods for balls, forgo carts, snacks, and drinks. In the long run, playing the crappy courses, in the cold and rain/snow, with the trees and the leaves, and the tiny greens, the hard pan, the roots and brambles, the uneven/rutted tee boxes, the volcano holes, and goose turd greens makes one a better player - also because you can get your reps. But like Gromit says, beyond those extremes, where is the accessibility? The kids need the reps. Courses and ranges just can't supply that level.
6/22/12
 
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