Want Whining Simply Call the USGA

By Associated PressJune 15, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 U.S. OpenOAKMONT, Pa. -- The area between the clubhouse and the golf shop at Oakmont Country Club was meant to be a place where players can meet family, drop off caddies, maybe swap a tale or two.
The people who run the U.S. Open tried their best to do everything to make players happy there, just like they do their best to make them squirm everywhere else. It's a genteel place, underneath tall trees with an adjoining dining area for wives, girlfriends and personal psychologists.
Just a few steps away there's a parking lot loaded with Lexus GS450s to ease the drive home.
Life is good for the privileged few who get rich playing golf. Volunteers part crowds for them, bring them food and water and pretty much cater to their every whim.
They can't possibly have anything to complain about.
On Friday, it was about all they did.
'It's dangerous, it really is,' Phil Mickelson said.
Mickelson wasn't talking about the drive across the Allegheny River, or the flight home in his private jet.
The Oakmont rough was his big worry, though the slick greens also gave him fits on this day. He wasn't happy about liquid fertilizer, either, or new machines that suck the grass up so the ball sits down in the rough.
Mickelson won't have to worry anymore because he didn't make the cut. But Lefty wasn't alone.
As the first wave of casualties arrived off the 18th green, the patio area was filled with furtive glances, embarrassed expressions and players who looked like they wanted to rip the numbers off the scoreboards held aloft by the standard bearers.
Some gathered outside to commiserate, though they didn't stay long. There were other places they would rather be, other things they would rather be doing.
'Ready to start drinking?' one said to another after signing his scorecard.
Uh, fellas. Maybe you hadn't heard, but this is the U.S. Open.
You know, the tournament they hold every June with tricked-up rough, tiny ribbons of fairways and linoleum greens. The one everyone loves most to hate, and the one everyone would love most to win.
The one that caused such an outcry years ago that a U.S. Golf Association official was forced to defend it by saying the organization's goal wasn't to embarrass the best golfers in the world but to identify them.
Was there any reason you thought it wouldn't be this way?
Apparently so, judging from the dazed expression on the faces of players who got a break on Thursday only to find Oakmont playing at its snarling best in the second round. The sun was shining, the wind was blowing, and greens were so excruciatingly fast that balls seldom had a chance to settle anywhere near the hole.
'Just walking through the parking lot is tough,' Bubba Watson said.
The field averaged nearly 77 strokes on a par-70 course. The top four players in the world were a combined 28 over par.
No matter, players said. It wasn't really their fault.
Blame the people in the blazers who run the USGA and believe it is their mission in life to make a course so hard that even the best players using the latest in grooved technology and golf balls that dance on command come off it mumbling expletives under their breath.
Amateurs running a professional tournament. Guys who can't break 80 on a good day deciding how to set up a course for a game they're unfamiliar with.
This wouldn't happen at the Bob Hope Classic.
'Sometimes it's hard to accept you hit great shots and make bogeys,' J.J. Henry said.
Par was just a concept on this day, and birdie a remote notion. When two-time champion Lee Janzen rolled a 55-footer through two valleys, across three ledges and through the clown's mouth for one on the ninth hole, it was a rare feel-good moment on a day when embarrassment loomed on every shot.
'There are times you feel if there's a hole next to the bunker and you can crawl in it, it would be great,' Janzen said.
Unfortunately, there aren't many places to hide at Oakmont. The trees that used to line the fairways have been cut down, and the course lays open to both players and fans.
The rough isn't going to get any shorter over the next two days, and the greens aren't going to get any easier. The player who finally scratches his way to win the coveted major will have to deal with both over the next 36 holes.
Tiger Woods understands that better than most because he's won two of these things. But even he was shaking his head with a wry grin on his face, practically begging the USGA to at least water the greens overnight.
They plan to do that but insist that things are just the way they want them. Even par is leading the Open, and that's just fine with the guys in blazers.
Besides, somebody did shoot a 66, right? So what that 35 others couldn't break 80?
Leave it to an Englishman playing another country's national championship to be among the rare few to agree.
'There's no point bitching and moaning that it is a difficult golf course because it is a tough golf course,' Ian Poulter said. 'It is not supposed to be easy.'
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - U.S. Open
  • Getty Images

    Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

    The Monday morning headline will be …

    REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

    RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

    MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

    JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.

    Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

    HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

    LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

    BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

    COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.

    Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

    HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

    LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

    BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

    COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.

    What will be the winning score?

    HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

    LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

    BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

    COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

    @kharms27 on Instagram

    Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

    Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

    Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

    This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

    While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

    Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

    Getty Images

    McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

    Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

    “It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”

    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

    “Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

    He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.  

    @radiosarks on Twitter

    Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

    A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.

    Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.

    Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.

    And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”