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Eye of the Beholder

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2010 U.S. Open

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – The USGA’s aim at the national championship sounds simple and reasonable: Identify the best player through a rigorous examination.

Rigorous? What we saw today made Computational Mechanics at MIT seem easy. In a typical U.S. Open game of he who bleeds the least wins, everybody looked like Jerry Quarry in the ring against  Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier at the same time.

And poor Dustin Johnson. He got clocked by Mike Tyson in the second round and never got up, a sad almost pitiful sight

U.S. Open Sundays can be damn cruel. They can also be sweet and sentimental. It was for Tom Watson.

Yet when Watson was about Johnson’s age he coughed up a U.S. Open at Winged Foot with a 79 in the final round. So Johnson should know before he reads the papers that before Watson ever won the first of his eight majors he suffered the same kind of searing pain Johnson has to be feeling now.

But Johnson’s not alone at the pain clinic.

There would be no Cherry Hills charge for Phil Mickelson. And goodness it looked possible when he drove the fourth. Then he three-putted. Invest in Phil at your own peril.

Now, instead of comparisons to Arnie, we’re left with echoes of Ben Hogan, who claimed that not a day went by in his life that he wasn’t gutted by the disappointment of that blown U.S. Open 50 years ago.  

Ernie Els will have to live with the missed putt at 15 as Hogan did the water ball at 17.

And The U.S. Golf Association will live with the bumpy greens and grumbling players and likely not lose an ounce of sleep. Par was protected. Mission accomplished.

As for the Frenchman, Gregory Havret came shockingly close to rounding out Pebble’s U.S. Open starting five: Nicklaus, Watson, Kite, Woods and Havret.  Sounds right to me.

Was it a great Open?  It had great moments and a couple of great rounds, notably from Mickelson on Friday and Woods on Saturday. But it won’t be recalled fondly the way Nicklaus in ’72, Watson in ’82 and Woods in 2000 are.

And when the tents come down and the dust settles, Pebble Beach will be beautiful again.

It was not, however on this Sunday, but for one man. Three back, Graeme McDowell shot 3 over. And won.

Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder.