Erin Hills eve: The many complaints of the U.S. Open

By Ryan LavnerJune 14, 2017, 8:16 pm

ERIN, Wis. – The Masters has its own soundtrack, the iconic “Augusta” tune, with its tinkling piano and strings.

Well, the U.S. Open has a theme song, too – a lot of whining.

Sure, there are minor kerfuffles at every big tournament – these are professional athletes, after all – but overall the criticism seems to be muted at three of the four majors. Maybe there’s an odd choice for a tee here, or a questionable pin position there, but the event goes off without a constant chorus of complainers.

Not so at the U.S. Open, which is always rife with controversy and vitriol.

“And usually for good reason,” Brendan Steele said. “The USGA makes a lot of mistakes.”

The first balls aren’t even in the air yet and Erin Hills, just 11 years old and largely unproven on a big stage, has already come under fire.

No surprise here, since it’s become a rite of June. These are the Many Complaints of the U.S. Open:

“The USGA is out of control – that fescue is unplayable!”

By now you’ve seen the videos on social media. Kevin Na tossed a ball into the knee-high weeds just off the fairway and needed a few seconds to actually locate it. Lee Westwood’s caddie, Billy Foster, was nowhere to be seen until he finally emerged, Army-crawling through the tall stuff. (Hope he checked for ticks.)

The oddest part about the fescue is that, on some holes, players are better off missing the massive fairways by 25 yards, not five. It’s the opposite of the graduated rough concept.

On Tuesday afternoon, the USGA decided to trim some of the rough on four holes, citing a “prescribed plan” based on the weather that had blown through and made the fescue lie down and become too dense.

“Really smart,” Steele said … or not.

“Cut the rough?! The USGA has gone soft!”

Rory McIlroy best summed up player and fan sentiment when he was informed that the maintenance staff was out on the course right then, weed eaters in hand.

Really?” he said, clearly exasperated. “We have 60 yards from left line to right line. You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here. If we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

He’s got a point, of course – these are probably the widest fairways we’ve ever seen in a U.S. Open. Miss it in there, and there should be some sort of penalty, whether it’s a hack-out, an unplayable or a reload back on the tee.

The perception was that the USGA caved, that they watched the clips online and scaled back, fearing another revolt like at Chambers Bay.

Not exactly, USGA setup czar Mike Davis said: “It had nothing to do – absolutely zero – with what the players were saying.”

That prompted plenty of eye-rolling, too.

“The U.S. Open SHOULD be tough – it’s only once a year!”

That’s how many justify the four days of ruthless, emotionally draining competition – that next week, and the week after that, players can go back to their bomb-and-gouge mentality.

There has always been more smiles on death row than at a U.S. Open venue. Players came to the year’s second major expecting the worst and usually got it: a long, narrow course, ankle-high rough, and greens that reacted like concrete and rolled like quartz. Oakmont, Winged Foot, Shinnecock, Pinehurst and Pebble are difficult already, no manufactured punishment necessary.

But even the USGA concedes that its philosophy has evolved. It is in the midst of a rebranding, from the “toughest” test in golf to the “ultimate” examination. Accuracy, trajectory, spin, curvature, recovery, management, nerves – they’re all part of the ideal Open package.

“We are never, ever talking about that we have to have even par win or we have to make this as tough as possible,” Davis said.

And then this: “I can promise you, if we wanted to make it really tough, we could make it far, far tougher than what we make them at the Open.”

See, guys – be thankful they have showed restraint.

“Even par should be the winning score!”

Davis insists that even par is not a target score … so it’s purely coincidental, then, that the 72-hole total always seems to creep toward that number.

The winning score has been under par four of the past six years, and that run seems destined to continue this week, with more rain in the forecast and the first par-72 layout at the Open since 1992. Jordan Spieth, in fact, predicted the winning score will be somewhere between 5 and 10 under. Even more eyebrow-raising was this: “And I think the USGA will be OK with that.”

And it should. Even par would be an acceptable winning score if the course was a difficult but fair test. That’s not always the case, as the USGA – which turned a blind eye to golf’s distance boom – has been accused of tricking up the courses to preserve this artificial barrier.

At Merion in 2013, they shifted the mowing lines for fairways and had par 3s in excess of 230 yards and cut hole locations on ridges and slopes. At Chambers Bay in 2015, they destroyed the greens the weekend before the tournament and created such a bumpy putting surface that 5-footers became guessing games.

And last year, at Oakmont, they pushed some of the fastest, most undulating greens in America to the edge, and then past it, as Dustin Johnson’s ball moved while he addressed a short putt.

“If their major pinnacle event for them requires courses to be the way they are,” Adam Scott said, “then it doesn’t set a good example for every other bit of golf that they try to promote. Maybe we should get the numbers out of our heads and try a new strategy.”

“Suck it up! Pro golfers are such babies!”

Not quite. The Open has become an excuse to take a flamethrower to the USGA, which gets one chance a year to exert its influence and challenge the world’s best players. Unfortunately, because of their various blunders – confusing rules, faulty setups, unpleasant fan experiences – the blue blazers lost the benefit of the doubt years ago, thus it’s open season on their various tactics.

There’s this aspect, too, according to Steele: “What’s the worst thing that’ll happen to you if you criticize them? They’ll put you in the last tee time? If you get in, you get in. I think that’s why you see guys speaking out a little more.”

Jack Nicklaus loved when players used to chirp about the course because he could immediately rule them out from contending. In 2017, would there be anybody left?

Mike Davis is way too involved!”

Quick: Name the person who sets up the courses at The Open Championship.


You can’t. And you shouldn’t.

Too often Davis is front and center, defending his setup choices. As a result, the Open becomes as much about Davis as it does the participants, and that doesn’t sit well.

And yet, through all of that, the USGA still holds all the power here.

As much as players might complain about the fescue or the setup or the scores, they aren’t going to boycott the U.S. Open. They’ll still show up and compete for the silver trophy … even if it’s through gritted teeth.

Day (68) just one back at Australian Open

By Nick MentaNovember 24, 2017, 6:40 am

Jason Day posted a second-round 68 to move himself just one off the lead held by Lucas Herbert through two rounds at the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand after 36 holes in Sydney.

Leaderboard: Herbert (-9), Day (-8), Cameron Davis (-7), Anthony Quayle (-6), Matt Jones (-4), Cameron Smith (-4), Nick Cullen (-4), Richard Green (-4)

What it means: Day is in search of his first worldwide victory of 2017. The former world No. 1 last visited the winner’s circle in May 2016, when he won The Players at TPC Sawgrass. A win this week would close out a difficult year for the Aussie who struggled with his game while also helping his mother in her battle with cancer. Day’s last victory on his native soil came in 2013, when he partnered with Adam Scott to win the World Cup of Golf for Australia at Royal Melbourne.

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Round of the day: Herbert followed an opening 67 with a round of 66 to vault himself into the lead at The Australian Golf Club. He made six birdies, including four on his second nine, against a lone bogey to take the outright lead. The 22-year-old, who held the lead at this event last year and captured low-amateur honors in 2014, is coming off a runner-up finish at the NSW Open Championship, which boosted him from 714th to 429th in the Official World Golf Ranking. His 5-under score was matched by Dale Brandt-Richards and Josh Cabban.

Best of the rest: Matt Jones, who won this event over Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott two years ago, turned in 4-under 67. Jones is best known to American audiences for his playoff victory at the 2014 Shell Houston Open and for holding the 36-hole lead at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, which was eventually won by Day. Jones will start the weekend five shots off the lead, at 4 under par.

Biggest disappointment: Spieth has a lot of work to do this weekend if he expects to be in the title picture for the fourth year in a row. Rounds of 70-71 have him eight shots behind the lead held by Herbert. Spieth made a birdie and a bogey on each side Friday to turn in level par. The reigning champion golfer of the year has finished first, second and first at this event over the last three years.

Storyline to watch this weekend: The Australian Open is the first event of the 2018 Open Qualifying Series. The leading three players who finish in the top 10 and who are not otherwise exempt will receive invites into next summer’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 8:49 pm

Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.

In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.

"It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.

“Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.

“That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’

Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.

The golf world celebrates Thanksgiving

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 6:01 pm

Here's a look, through social media, at how the golf world celebrates Thanksgiving.

Lexi Thompson:

Baking time!!

A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi) on

David Feherty:

Jack Nicklaus:

GC Tiger Tracker:

Steve Stricker:

Golf Channel:

Frank Nobilo:

Ian Poulter:

Tyrone Van Aswegen:

Happy Thanksgiving: Biggest turkeys of 2017

By Grill Room TeamNovember 23, 2017, 3:00 pm

Thanksgiving brings us golf's biggest turkeys of the year. Donald Trump, Grayson Murray and a certain (now-former) tournament director headline the list. Click here or on the image below to check out all the turkeys.