Watching The US Open
I have been looking forward to this U.S. Open at Merion ever since the USGA announced it several years ago. I was anxious to see if a sub-7,000 yard course could still challenge today's golf professionals, who hit the ball such prodigious distances. But I was so disappointed to see this week's torrential rains change the course's playability so much from what the USGA and Merion's brilliant staff had hoped. Firm fairways and firm, fast greens have given way to receptive dart boards for tee shots and approaches. And these guys can throw darts in conditions like this.
I watched a little of the tournament yesterday and saw players backing up shots 5-20 feet on their short approaches, and it almost made me cry. It's the U.S. Open and they get that!!!?? Sure, they are fast, and the course rough is treacherous, but I was hoping to see them have to play the ball to release after impact on the greens, drives that could bounce and roll into the rough if hit on the wrong line. Looks like that's not going to happen.
But it's still a beautiful course with plenty of trouble. I have to find a way to get there and play it sometime, so add one to my bucket list.
Who knows if they will tear it apart ... or not?. If the weather cooperates, it will get firmer and faster each day, and maybe Sunday will be the "survival test" that the Open is somewhat known for. I love watching these guys struggle for pars and making only a few birdies. I like seeing them tested by making them hit some long clubs into greens for a change, not just on par five holes. And par fives that are true three-shot holes, which have become almost extinct on the PGA Tour the past couple of decades.
In other words, I want to watch the best players in the world tackle a golf course like I do. Hitting everything from fairway wood to wedge to par fours and threes. Having to hit TWO good shots on a par five to set up the approach. Having greenside saves that require creativity and skill, and a bit of luck.
If they could just make the bunkers a real hazard for these guys, golf would be almost perfect.
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I think with what I saw on day 1, they are playing the course the way we SHOULD. Granted I only got to see 1 feature group (Phil, Steve, Keegan), but it seemed to me that Steve and Phil had it figured out. Put the ball in the fairway, hit the green, and give yourself a shot at a birdie. Keegan was playing a little too agressive and it cost him.
Does it really matter how well they can "throw darts"? I always thought that the US Open should be about protecting par, which the USGA has done great with.
With wet soft conditions and a "short" course there are only 5 people under par.
I think this weekend when it gets firmer and faster will be interesting (specially if the rough grows like my gras and they decide just to let it go). I honestly was expecting the leader to be -7 or so and have 30% of the field below par given the course and conditions.
I think the biggest difference, besides the difficult setup, is that there are neither par 5's to take easy aim at nor are there many Par 3's that are available as easy par / birdie opportunity. If you think about the average PGA tournament, they are going for almost every par 5 to at least get it close and the Par 3's are never a big challenge unless there is a hazard involved. I agree with Terry in that it is interesting to see them play the Par 5's and Par 3's the way we have to. I don't know when the last time I saw a pro hit a 5W into a Par 3 - I play a hole one every week that requires either a 5W or very well hit 3H to reach the green.
Terry - I agree with most of your post in that the US Open should have the pros playing like we do. The only reason the iron shots are stopping on the green is because of the rain. The greens are still super slick and the rough is awesome. I have played in hay like that before on a country course where they don't have the money to mow all the time. It is a great survival test and I really enjoy the irons off tees and narrow fairways. One time a year they can deal with the difficulty we all normally play with.
"One time a year they can deal with the difficulty we all normally play with."
I've been playing 25 years and have never come close to playing a course as hard as one of the easier US Opens.
I've played a couple good courses the day before/after either US Open qualifying of Q-School but still they aren't nearly as hard.
I do like to watch creativity on the course - and I think we're seeing some. Also, the OB against real roads are more like the courses I play. No matter what the weather does, It's nice to get a break from the anesthetic blahs of autopilot/autocad designs.
The courses most of us play are way worse than the US Open.Fenced yards 5yds from the fairway,holes on the side of escarpments so steep they are unrecoverable,fairways with no grass in spots.
I did hear somebody from the USGA actively talk about the prospect of using "reduced distance" balls. I saw it following the US Open online. Tennis uses different compression on balls for different tournaments, and even released a "Rally Ball" which goes slower and bounces more (I think) for recreational players.
It's interesting to think that a reduced distance ball could both make the pro game more easy to relate to, and easier for recreational golfers. Bigger clubs help the newbies, would bigger balls? Perhaps tee restrainers - like batting practice cages, would not allow a new golfer to hit it in the rubbish, How about water tthat was painted concrete, or holes with walls on the side?
joe jones says:
To my knowledge there is no "different" ball in tennis tournaments . The playing surface alone is what determines how fast the ball goes and how it bounces. Penn has been the ball of choice for all players whether they are pro's or amateurs.Balls do change how they play by fluffing up after being struck often. That is why in tournament play they change balls every six games at the change over. Grass is the fastest surface followed by hard courts, followed by clay.
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