In the Wake of the Goose


Let's make a few things perfectly clear in the fresh wake of a 104th U.S. Open that alternately entertained, amused, annoyed and intrigued us until the breezy bitter end on Sunday when Retief Goosen's putter dashed Phil Mickelson's hopes for a modern day Grand Slam.
First of all, it's nice to know these days that a golf course doesn't have to be 7,500 yards to challenge the world's best players. Shinnecock Hills measured 6,996 yards from the tips. Only two players completed 72 holes with an under par score.
The U.S. Open is meant to be the ultimate examination of a player's game. It needs to be a kind of hair shirt. It should be a crucible. Shinnecock showed that not all of our great, old golfing venues are obsolete. This is a good thing.
Furthermore, the USGA was not obligated to own up to the fact that a mistake was made Saturday on the seventh green at Shinnecock. But it did. And that's a refreshing thing in our country right now where too many high level bosses hide behind the kind of thinking that produced the Enron scandal.
David Fay, the executive director of the USGA, volunteered on national television Saturday that the seventh green had been rolled, against orders, and that that had contributed to making the surface slicker than it had any business being.
There are lawsuits all over corporate America these days stemming from officials of big companies failing to do what the USGA did. This was about disclosure and doing the right thing. And the right thing is what the USGA did.
I have found Fay and his senior staff at the USGA, particularly Tom Meeks, Tim Moraghan and Marty Parkes--to be as honest as the day is long. Our national championship, in my opinion, is in good hands on their watch.
Meanwhile, don't worry about Tiger Woods. He is going to be fine. Whether he figures out his current swing problems by himself or with the help of a teacher other than Butch Harmon, make no mistake: He will figure it out.
Woods is the surpassing athlete of our time. And he is not yet 30 years old. When he emerges from his current down cycle, there will be hell to pay. And the other players know it. I still believe Woods will exceed Jack Nicklaus' career mark of 18 professional major victories. I believe Woods to be the most talented player who ever lived.
On our air Saturday on The Sprint Post Game show I opined that, at the moment, Woods needs his former teacher, Butch Harmon, more than Harmon needs Woods. And I stand by that statement.
But the fact of the matter is that both Woods and Harmon will be okay without each other. They made beautiful music together in our sport when they were a team. But Harmon has plenty of students and plenty of money and plenty of fire left in his belly.
For his part, Woods understands the golf swing, perhaps better than any player alive today. It's just that nobody owns their golf swing every day of every year. The swing is just as much a living breathing organism as it is a piece of machinery. It comes and it goes.
One thing that Woods might not know is that his caddie, Steve Williams, has become officious past the point of good reason. Williams is one of the best in the business at his trade. And he serves as a loyal bodyguard to Woods when situations dictate.
But Williams is not the law unto himself on the golf course. Confiscating cameras and controlling unruly behavior by fans is not Williams' job. Woods needs to let Williams know this is no uncertain terms.
Or he needs to find another caddie.
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