As the buzz builds for next week’s U.S. Open, we offer a national championship primer that covers the good (Phil Mickelson and Steve Stricker), the fair (Adam Scott’s warnings) and the kooky (alternate list).
Family Man. Mickelson has lost a U.S. Open on the final hole (2006 at Winged Foot) and been beaten on the final hole (1999 at Pinehurst), but this is a first for Lefty.
Mickelson will likely not win the 117th U.S. Open because of a scheduling issue. Well scheduling, and a personal list of priorities that supersedes any professional aspirations – like his daughter’s graduation from high school.
Lefty revealed last week that barring some sort of delay on Thursday he’ll be skipping next week’s U.S. Open so he can attend his daughter’s graduation on June 15, the same day as the opening round of the lone Grand Slam event that Mickelson has not won.
Asked this week in Memphis if the decision to miss the U.S. Open was difficult, Mickelson’s answer was a testament to priorities.
“I love the Open, but this is a special moment for us,” he said. “I mean my daughter's speaking, she's giving the speech there at graduation. It's one of those things you just need to be there, so it wasn't a hard decision.”
Mickelson has found all sorts of ways to lose the U.S. Open, but picking family over potential fame is his best finish yet.
Home game. Stricker asked the USGA for a special exemption into the U.S. Open, which will be played about an hour from his home in Madison, Wis., but he didn’t expect the request to be fulfilled.
Instead, the 50-year-old U.S. Presidents Cup captain earned his spot the old fashion way, enduring the 36-hole sectional qualifier on Monday in Memphis, Tenn.
Stricker took medalist honors with rounds of 67-65 to secure his 20th career start at the U.S. Open and first since 2014.
“It was a good day. It means a lot. It's been at the forefront of my thinking for a while now. It's kind of a relief I got in on my own terms. I went through qualifying. I'd rather have it that way. I'm glad I did it this way,” Stricker said.
We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, but imagine how Cheesehead Nation will respond if Stricker figures out a way to keep the fairytale going next week.
Tweet of the week:
The accompanying photo of Kisner’s caddie Duane Bock next to a new truck speaks volumes about the duo’s relationship. After Kisner’s victory last month at Colonial, Bock had this to say about his boss: “He impresses me every time he tees it up.” It’s really no surprise that Kisner is just as impressive off the course.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Warning label. It hasn’t been a great run for the USGA at the last few U.S. Opens. In ’15, Chambers Bay produced a worthy champion, Jordan Spieth, on a course that was neither user nor spectator friendly; and last year’s penalty involving Dustin Johnson still doesn’t add up to many.
Given the association’s recent history, and an untested venue at Erin Hills, Adam Scott’s not-so-subtle warning was fully warranted.
“Let's just have something that's a challenge and interesting, not just playing brutal,” Scott said last week at the Memorial.
Scott is one of the game’s most measured and respected voices and his take shouldn’t be ignored. While no one at the USGA will confirm that even par is the preferred winning outcome, consider that over the past 11 years, four U.S. Opens have been won with over-par totals.
“Maybe it's time to do away with the even-par target,” Scott said.
Or, maybe it’s time the USGA heeds some unsolicited advice.
Save the date. PGA of America CEO Pete Bevacqua took to the internet this week to explain the association’s pending decision on whether to move the PGA Championship from August to May.
While Bevacqua was clear that “we have not made a decision” and he added that the PGA is “deep into analysis,” his 3 ½-minute video seems to set the foundation for the move.
Bevacqua explains that the championship would enjoy a stronger TV market in May, and the timing would be beneficial for PGA professionals who are just beginning their seasons and can use the exposure to enhance player development initiatives.
The PGA’s possible move to May appears to have taken on a new urgency in recent weeks, and Bevacqua’s video is only going to feed that notion but he seems to be sidestepping the real issue for the potential move and the entire schedule makeover.
A condensed season, outside of the shadow of football, is good for golf, not just the PGA of America or PGA Tour.
Mystery theater. Every year the alternate list for next week’s U.S. Open becomes an issue and every year the USGA goes to ground like Jason Bourne.
Alternates for next week’s championship are picked from the sectional qualifying sites, but the USGA doesn’t make the priority list public.
The association does keep players informed of potential changes in order to give them time to make travel plans, but the formula for deciding alternates – which includes how many spots each sectional event was allocated, and the strength of field determined by the world ranking – is a closely guarded secret.
There’s little doubt the formula is complicated, it does include the world ranking, after all, and it would likely mean little to most golf fans; but the non-profit association that’s charged with overseeing the game in the United States should not be in the business of keeping secrets.