Play of the Week 33

June 19, 2012

This week, I’m afraid I have to give the POTW to the USGA. Typically, I am not a fan of the US Open. When I’ve watched the tournament in years past, I’ve typically found it to be rather boring for a number of reasons. In most cases, it is pointlessly difficult, to where even the best in the world can make nothing of the courses (Oakmont, 2007; Shinnecock, 2004). In many cases, the winner is boring or surprising–as if we were playing the John Deere classic instead of a Major (e.g., Lucas Glover 2009, Angel Cabrera 2007, Michael Campbell 2005, Reteif Goosen 2001/2004). Often, it’s just a war of attrition, where the one player who’s lucky enough to find his ball on every hole manages to sift through the gauntlet and survive the fray (GMac, 2010). Or, the tournament is just boring (McIlroy, 2011).

But every few years, the USGA gets it right. One of the most memorable tournaments I’ve ever watched was the US Open at Torrey Pines in 2008, where Tiger edged Rocco Mediate with a gutsy performance that just outlasted one of the most tenacious players in the game. Or 1999, where the image of Payne Stewart sinking a 20-foot putt to save par on the 72nd hole has become an icon of the game of golf. But in 1999, although the winning score was -1, the course played fairly. It showcased how the greatest in the world (a very young Tiger, a younger than now Phil) could play when the pressure cooker was on, and Payne’s lasting legacy of 1-putting the last 3 holes to hold on was truly a riveting watch.

Like ’08 and ’99, this year, the USGA got it right. The US Open this year wasn’t flashy. It was a simple test–a par 70, even. No water hazards to fly over, no forced carries, not even more than a few fairway bunkers. But Olympic Club was just right. The winning score a nice +1, with Webb Simpson coming out on top over Jim Furyk–trying to hold on–and Graeme McDowell, who charged in at the end but couldn’t seal the deal. Webb posted his second 68 of the weekend hours before GMac and Furyk walked off the course, leaving the scene for great tension and excitement. Olympic was a true test–not just a slaughterhouse. It TESTED the best in the world, but the test could be passed. Players didn’t complain that it was unfair or say that it was too penal. Instead, they went about their business, and the winner played under par both rounds on the weekend. When was the last time you said that about a US Open winner? (well, other than 2011, when Rors was on an absolute tear, but who else?) And, for the second time this year, the winner of a major has come from a pairing other than the final group, which is some welcome excitement that we don’t often see.

I’m not saying this was as exciting as the Masters is every year, or that the US Open is no longer my least favorite of the majors. What the USGA typically does to the players isn’t right, on any level. But this year, the course was what a true test should be. When a player masters that test, he should get the trophy, and Webb did. So, to the USGA, we solute you. And, to Webb Simpson, congrats on passing the test.

us open olympic

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One Response to “Play of the Week 33”

  1. LG Says:

    Let’s not forget to have a shout out to Olympic Club. The course was phenomenal. I can’t really imagine a better test for the US Open than the lake course. As JK said, no water, no forced carries, only one fairway bunker, but the winning score was +1. Aside from the perennial favorite of Pebble Beach, I can’t remember the last time I was excited to watch the US Open because of the course. Other than the USGA’s screw up of moving the tees forward 100 yards on the 16th on Sunday, nothing can be said about the course or the setup to take away from the quality of the championship. Congratulations to the membership on this fantastic weekend.


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