U.S. Open should take lesson from Travelers

By Doug FergusonJune 28, 2017, 9:50 am

A sure sign that the USGA needs to take a closer look at how it sets up the U.S. Open is when it draws comparisons with the Travelers Championship a week later.

Only this has nothing to do with the scoring.

To suggest that TPC River Highlands at 1,000 yards shorter was a tougher test than Erin Hills is to ignore that the U.S. Open played as a par 72 for the first time in 25 years. Golf is about the lowest score, not the lowest score to par. Jordan Spieth won the Travelers after finishing at 268. Brooks Koepka won a U.S. Open in soft conditions and moderate wind at 272.

It's not about the finish, either.

Spieth, as popular as any player today, holed a 60-foot bunker shot in a playoff to beat Daniel Berger. Those moments are rare, even for Spieth. They hardly ever happen in a major, perhaps because there are only four majors a year. And even then, it usually involves only a putter (Phil Mickelson at Augusta, Payne Stewart at Pinehurst).

What the Travelers Championship had was noise.

It had atmosphere.

''I mean, the ground was shaking it was so loud,'' Spieth said. ''What a tremendous last four holes, finishing holes, where you can get the crowd super involved with an amphitheater setting. If I were a fan, I would pick this tournament.''

He also mentioned the Phoenix Open, and the list would have grown had he had more time to think, such as Muirfield Village or TPC Sawgrass.

The U.S. Open had 652 acres of Wisconsin pasture.

It also had an outstanding golf course in Erin Hills that didn't play to full strength when the wind didn't fully cooperate until Sunday. Part of its appeal, however, was the size of its property. Major championships are the biggest shows in golf and need space. They attract more corporate interest and more fans from outside the local market than the Travelers Championship or the Honda Classic.

But the value of atmosphere should not be overlooked. A big atmosphere comes from energized, enthusiastic fans. And those fans get their energy from being close to the action, feeding off the noise around them. That starts with being able to see golf without having to squint their eyes.

The lack of major atmosphere was evident at Erin Hills.

It was even worse at Chambers Bay, the public course built out of a sand and gravel pit next to the Puget Sound. On one hole, fans were perched high on a ridge and looked like a row of figurines from down below. The par-5 eighth hole at Chambers Bay didn't have any fans at all.

That's the biggest risk the USGA is taking by going to big, new courses.

Years ago while playing a U.S. Open course a few months ahead of the championship, a USGA executive whose role was enhancing the fan and corporate experience was talking about ways to bring them closer to the action. Mike Davis, the USGA's executive director, was more interested in the competition, and his decisions were geared toward creating space for the players.

Davis was winning the majority of those battles.

He had plenty of room at Erin Hills. But at what cost?

What makes Augusta National so appealing are the roars from every corner of the golf course, particularly when they rise up the hill from Amen Corner. PGA Championship venues put fans on top of the action, particularly at Valhalla and Baltusrol and Hazeltine.

The U.S. Women's Open at Lancaster Country Club in Pennsylvania attracted record crowds on a golf course where the noise was contagious. It was such a roaring success that Lancaster is lobbying for a Solheim Cup.

The LPGA's biggest event on the calendar is the Solheim Cup, and this year in Iowa it should be as loud and vibrant as any.

That wasn't the case four years ago. The LPGA Tour, when Carolyn Bivens was the commissioner, decided to take its showcase event to Colorado Golf Club, just south of Denver. The golf course, designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, was ideal for the highest level of golf. But for the Solheim Cup, it was a bad choice. The property was enormous. The holes were spread out, and so was the gallery. The crowd appeared smaller than it was, and much quieter.

The Americans needed all the help they could get that week, but it wasn't coming from a diluted gallery.

The Travelers Championship also had the advantage of its strongest field. Then again, it traditionally has great crowd support. And being close to the action gives the fans reason to return, and tell a friend.

The U.S. Open returns to traditional courses with a smaller blueprint over the next decade. Even after a soft, calm year, it should not lose its reputation as the toughest test in golf.

But setting up the courses involves more than the length of the rough, width of the fairways and speed of the green.

It also includes where to put the ropes.

Getty Images

CareerBuilder purse payouts: Rahm wins $1.062 million

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 12:50 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry on the fourth hole of sudden death to win the CareerBuilder Challenger. Here's a look at how the purse was paid out in La Quinta, Calif.:

1 Jon Rahm -22 $1,062,000
2 Andrew Landry -22 $637,200
T3 Adam Hadwin -20 $306,800
T3 John Huh -20 $306,800
T3 Martin Piller -20 $306,800
T6 Kevin Chappell -19 $205,025
T6 Scott Piercy -19 $205,025
T8 Brandon Harkins -18 $171,100
T8 Jason Kokrak -18 $171,100
T8 Sam Saunders -18 $171,100
T11 Harris English -17 $135,700
T11 Seamus Power -17 $135,700
T11 Jhonattan Vegas -17 $135,700
T14 Bud Cauley -16 $106,200
T14 Austin Cook -16 $106,200
T14 Grayson Murray -16 $106,200
T17 Andrew Putnam -15 $88,500
T17 Peter Uihlein -15 $88,500
T17 Aaron Wise -15 $88,500
T20 Ricky Barnes -14 $57,754
T20 Stewart Cink -14 $57,754
T20 Brian Harman -14 $57,754
T20 Beau Hossler -14 $57,754
T20 Charles Howell III -14 $57,754
T20 Zach Johnson -14 $57,754
T20 Ryan Palmer -14 $57,754
T20 Brendan Steele -14 $57,754
T20 Nick Taylor -14 $57,754
T29 Lucas Glover -13 $36,706
T29 Russell Knox -13 $36,706
T29 Nate Lashley -13 $36,706
T29 Tom Lovelady -13 $36,706
T29 Kevin Streelman -13 $36,706
T29 Hudson Swafford -13 $36,706
T29 Richy Werenski -13 $36,706
T36 Jason Dufner -12 $27,189
T36 Derek Fathauer -12 $27,189
T36 James Hahn -12 $27,189
T36 Chez Reavie -12 $27,189
T36 Webb Simpson -12 $27,189
T36 Tyrone Van Aswegen -12 $27,189
T42 Bronson Burgoon -11 $18,983
T42 Ben Crane -11 $18,983
T42 Brian Gay -11 $18,983
T42 Chesson Hadley -11 $18,983
T42 Patton Kizzire -11 $18,983
T42 Hunter Mahan -11 $18,983
T42 Kevin Na -11 $18,983
T42 Rob Oppenheim -11 $18,983
T50 Alex Cejka -10 $14,025
T50 Corey Conners -10 $14,025
T50 Michael Kim -10 $14,025
T50 Kevin Kisner -10 $14,025
T50 Sean O'Hair -10 $14,025
T50 Sam Ryder -10 $14,025
T50 Nick Watney -10 $14,025
T57 Robert Garrigus -9 $13,039
T57 Tom Hoge -9 $13,039
T57 David Lingmerth -9 $13,039
T57 Ben Martin -9 $13,039
T57 Trey Mullinax -9 $13,039
T57 Brett Stegmaier -9 $13,039
T63 Scott Brown -8 $12,449
T63 Wesley Bryan -8 $12,449
T63 Brice Garnett -8 $12,449
T63 Sung Kang -8 $12,449
T67 Talor Gooch -7 $12,095
T67 Tom Whitney -7 $12,095
T69 Matt Every -6 $11,623
T69 Billy Hurley III -6 $11,623
T69 Smylie Kaufman -6 $11,623
T69 Keith Mitchell -6 $11,623
T69 Rory Sabbatini -6 $11,623
T69 Chris Stroud -6 $11,623
75 John Peterson -5 $11,210
76 Abraham Ancer -4 $11,092
77 Ben Silverman 4 $10,974
Getty Images

After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard


On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

Getty Images

Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

Getty Images

Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.