Want Whining Simply Call the USGA

By Associated PressJune 15, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 U.S. OpenOAKMONT, Pa. -- The area between the clubhouse and the golf shop at Oakmont Country Club was meant to be a place where players can meet family, drop off caddies, maybe swap a tale or two.
The people who run the U.S. Open tried their best to do everything to make players happy there, just like they do their best to make them squirm everywhere else. It's a genteel place, underneath tall trees with an adjoining dining area for wives, girlfriends and personal psychologists.
Just a few steps away there's a parking lot loaded with Lexus GS450s to ease the drive home.
Life is good for the privileged few who get rich playing golf. Volunteers part crowds for them, bring them food and water and pretty much cater to their every whim.
They can't possibly have anything to complain about.
On Friday, it was about all they did.
'It's dangerous, it really is,' Phil Mickelson said.
Mickelson wasn't talking about the drive across the Allegheny River, or the flight home in his private jet.
The Oakmont rough was his big worry, though the slick greens also gave him fits on this day. He wasn't happy about liquid fertilizer, either, or new machines that suck the grass up so the ball sits down in the rough.
Mickelson won't have to worry anymore because he didn't make the cut. But Lefty wasn't alone.
As the first wave of casualties arrived off the 18th green, the patio area was filled with furtive glances, embarrassed expressions and players who looked like they wanted to rip the numbers off the scoreboards held aloft by the standard bearers.
Some gathered outside to commiserate, though they didn't stay long. There were other places they would rather be, other things they would rather be doing.
'Ready to start drinking?' one said to another after signing his scorecard.
Uh, fellas. Maybe you hadn't heard, but this is the U.S. Open.
You know, the tournament they hold every June with tricked-up rough, tiny ribbons of fairways and linoleum greens. The one everyone loves most to hate, and the one everyone would love most to win.
The one that caused such an outcry years ago that a U.S. Golf Association official was forced to defend it by saying the organization's goal wasn't to embarrass the best golfers in the world but to identify them.
Was there any reason you thought it wouldn't be this way?
Apparently so, judging from the dazed expression on the faces of players who got a break on Thursday only to find Oakmont playing at its snarling best in the second round. The sun was shining, the wind was blowing, and greens were so excruciatingly fast that balls seldom had a chance to settle anywhere near the hole.
'Just walking through the parking lot is tough,' Bubba Watson said.
The field averaged nearly 77 strokes on a par-70 course. The top four players in the world were a combined 28 over par.
No matter, players said. It wasn't really their fault.
Blame the people in the blazers who run the USGA and believe it is their mission in life to make a course so hard that even the best players using the latest in grooved technology and golf balls that dance on command come off it mumbling expletives under their breath.
Amateurs running a professional tournament. Guys who can't break 80 on a good day deciding how to set up a course for a game they're unfamiliar with.
This wouldn't happen at the Bob Hope Classic.
'Sometimes it's hard to accept you hit great shots and make bogeys,' J.J. Henry said.
Par was just a concept on this day, and birdie a remote notion. When two-time champion Lee Janzen rolled a 55-footer through two valleys, across three ledges and through the clown's mouth for one on the ninth hole, it was a rare feel-good moment on a day when embarrassment loomed on every shot.
'There are times you feel if there's a hole next to the bunker and you can crawl in it, it would be great,' Janzen said.
Unfortunately, there aren't many places to hide at Oakmont. The trees that used to line the fairways have been cut down, and the course lays open to both players and fans.
The rough isn't going to get any shorter over the next two days, and the greens aren't going to get any easier. The player who finally scratches his way to win the coveted major will have to deal with both over the next 36 holes.
Tiger Woods understands that better than most because he's won two of these things. But even he was shaking his head with a wry grin on his face, practically begging the USGA to at least water the greens overnight.
They plan to do that but insist that things are just the way they want them. Even par is leading the Open, and that's just fine with the guys in blazers.
Besides, somebody did shoot a 66, right? So what that 35 others couldn't break 80?
Leave it to an Englishman playing another country's national championship to be among the rare few to agree.
'There's no point bitching and moaning that it is a difficult golf course because it is a tough golf course,' Ian Poulter said. 'It is not supposed to be easy.'
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    David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director of governance, acknowledged on Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive" Monday that the new protocols that will eliminate the use of TV viewer call-ins and emails to apply penalties was hastened by the controversy following Thompson’s four-shot penalty at the ANA Inspiration in early April. The new protocols also set up rules officials to monitor TV broadcasts beginning next year.

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