TROON, Scotland – The USGA was widely criticized last month at Oakmont for green speeds that reached close to 15 on the Stimpmeter. They were lightning.
Although the USGA won’t admit it wants a winning score to be around par, history shows that to be the case.
The R&A’s philosophy is to set up a course without a winning score in mind. If wind and rain is awful, the score may hover around par. On a week like this at The Open, where weather was only bad one day, but more peaceful the other three, the R&A doesn’t get worked up when the winning score is 20 under, which was Henrik Stenson’s mark at Royal Troon.
Open runner-up Phil Mickelson was asked if he could explain the differences between how the USGA and R&A set up respective golf courses.
“I think that the R&A sets the golf course up to be as fair as possible and to try to kind of identify who the best player is regardless of what the score is given the conditions and so forth,” Mickelson said Sunday after shooting a final-round 65. “Sometimes it's 20 under. Sometimes people don’t want that many under par. But the fact is if somebody plays some incredible golf, that’s what it should do. You shouldn’t have to mess with the course too much to try to control the score.
“The USGA has it in their mind that the score needs to be par, so no matter what lines they have to cross to get there, that’s got to be the standard, and it kind of disregards and doesn't take into account the difference in talent level and abilities that the players of today now have.”
Pretty easy to tell which one Mickelson prefers.
“I prefer this one, yeah,” Mickelson said, referring to the R&A setup. “I think that it’s much more fair. I think we all enjoy it. But I’m also biased because I’ve won this one and I haven’t won the other one, so I’ve got that working against me.”