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U.S. Open not the test it used to be

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What do San Giorgio Maggiore at Dusk by Monet and the U.S. Open have in common? Both were stolen just for fun, although the painting disappeared in a movie and the golf championship has vanished slowly over the past five years.

If U.S. Golf Association executive director Mike Davis wore a bolo hat and ran a hedge fund the comparison might be more obvious, but what “The Thomas Crown Affair” did to the painting, Davis has done to the tournament. No alarms went off and Rene Russo is nowhere in sight but rest assured, it’s gone.

Just like “Crown,” too, Davis has replaced the original with a substitute meant to appease us in its absence. It is similar in that both were played on a golf course comprised of 18 holes and, after four rounds, the low score won. That’s where the similarities stop. The original was the most unforgiving contest known to the game with long holes framed by thick rough where countless mistakes were waiting to made. These holes, believe it or not, were played from the back tees and to greens that made sinners of all men. Heartache was everywhere at a U.S. Open as, one-by-one, men realized that embarrassment was their price for a year’s worth of looting less penalizing courses with their skills.

That was then; now tour pros from around the world smile at U.S. Opens, they kiss babies and gaze at the deer. Tees are moved up and when shots are hit into the rough they are immediately found and hit to greens that are not much faster than an arthritic man on ice. Not only is it no longer my father’s U.S. Open, it is not Jim Furyk’s U.S. Open either.

Davis may be the nicest man in golf and while I understand he wants to bring more excitement to the event by allowing for recovery and providing variety in the setup, he has changed what it means to be a U.S. Open champion. Formerly, it was a man with great skill who had a Beethoven symphony in his head, who avoided the obliterating totality of an “Open” setup.

I loved the result of this year’s event and am certain that Rory McIlroy would have won even if fire-breathing dragons lined the fairways. But I want to see a U.S. Open course give us a champion with obstetric forceps and no anesthetic. Otherwise someone needs to summon Rene Russo.

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