Sundays 18th hole nightmare represented the best demonstration of the unique head in the vice pressure of a U.S. Open since Tom Lehman hit a hook in the pond on the 71st hole at Congressional in 1997.
Other sports offer either a chance to react to a traveling ball or teammates to lean on in a competitions most critical moment. Golf is a terribly mental and solitary exercise, a man staring at a still ball with millions staring at him.
Whats more, in a country which often bases greatness on media likeability, the outspoken and sometimes irascible Mark Brooks may have disappointed many who wanted a superstar name in the mix. But those glossier types just didnt get it done. Brooks did, with the best combination of greens and fairways of any player in the field. How a guy without a single top three in the last five years managed that is another question. Perhaps it was lightning in a bottle, or a golf course, which, without overly penal rough and with no great emphasis on length, suited him perfectly.
In retrospect, the USGA will likely not look back with pride at what transpired from start to frightening finish at Southern Hills closing hole. At first it was too tricked up. At the end, its speed was too slow and not consistent with the other greens.
Whats more, we leave with a growing appreciation for what Jack Nicklaus accomplished in meeting the challenge of so many gritty winners like Lee Trevino, Gary Player, Billy Casper, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Seve Ballesteros and Johnny Miller. Their modern day counterparts have not yet surfaced.
Ultimately, pundits will debate the relative ugliness of this U.S. Open for a long time. But its still a U.S. Open, and thats good enough for Retief Goosen. Its not often that one can erase a monumental humiliation inside of 24 hours. Goosen not only did that, he did so with uncommon grace and a high level of skill. Those are admirable traits in any U.S. Open champion.