I did! – And normally in this column, I cover the individual events on the world’s professional tours
within my “Golf Shots” section – but this event seems to cry out for an article all its own! Why? – Well, if
you missed our nation’s most important men’s golf championship, I will try to explain – If, as I did, you
were able to watch a great deal of the coverage, you will know exactly why I think this article is warranted.
So, let’s see what we witnessed. First, we saw a great field – maybe one of the best assemblages of world-class players…ever…at one of the best golf courses – the fantastic Shinnecock Hills G.C. – which was established in 1891. Sounds great, right? Well, this event was soon reduced to: complaints…controversy…and (thank goodness) ultimately a pure “conquering”… by the player – (2017 U.S. Open champion, Brooks Koepka) – who played the best over the (72) holes.
(#1) – Complaints – The playing conditions. Largely because of the weather – mostly higher than expected winds – the already extremely fast and “smallish,” rolling greens, (an understatement of the true “pitch” of these greens) – became “baked” – (and) with some very difficult – (yes) very difficult pin placements, especially on Saturday – the chief complaint was that this created conditions that many of the players considered unfair.
(Ok), yes! The pin placements that caused the most problems were “over the top” – and yes, the USGA, with all the information at their disposal – modern forecasting equipment, etc., should have known that the wind will blow off the ocean – you think? – And they should have known those positions would be too difficult to facilitate all but the best (almost perfect) shots – in order to give the players a “normal” opportunity to make a solid attempt at recovery from shots that were just the slightest bit off target -or- a putt that was well struck, but missed its mark by maybe an inch or two…(but) – (a big “but” here) this is what “all” the players that afternoon faced. *(The morning wave did get a break with softer greens, less wind, etc.) – and did take advantage.
So, let me repeat this – “all” the players faced the same, difficult – most probably – “excessively difficult” conditions. My question to these players then is…so what? …The USGA runs our open – an event where par should be difficult, and I saw some great shots – truly great shots – hold these greens; and some players were able to navigate these conditions – most notably Brooks Koepka – who beautifully “managed” his way around the course all four days – capturing his second open title in a row!
All that being said – I do sympathize with the golfers – golf under less than ideal conditions can be brutally tough (and) seemingly unfair at times. Another “but” here – for those of us who have played golf on some not so perfectly kept greens, in some non-ideal weather conditions here in the region…it’s pretty hard to listen to these players “sound off” on how this was an unfair test…again – did you see who won?
A large part of the game (is) making nearly impossible shots – and the fun of watching golf on T.V. (is) watching the best players in the world perform these impossible shots – because most of us can’t! I do not remember shots of insignificance! I remember Jack Nicklaus’s (2) iron on #17 at Pebble Beach – Corey Pavin’s (4) wood (at Shinnecock) in 1996 – Bubba’s (8) iron at the Masters – Do you remember any others? I’m sure you do. Were they (18) drives & wedges & made (6) foot putts – I’ll bet they’re not! (So) as for the “complaints” – I understand – I got it – but I just would like to remind all these great players, the hole is four and a quarter inches. It is placed in an area hundreds of yards away (and) it is your job to put it in that hole in less strokes than your competition – end of story!
(#2) – The controversy – No, I’m not still talking about the USGA’s handling of the course set up, etc. …I’m now referring to the “spectacle” of – one of our greatest players of the last quarter century doing something that I (now) sincerely hope he regrets.
(What happened?) …This player, who was faced with an extremely – probably impossible to stop – downhill putt of about (20) feet on the 13th green during Saturday’s round – struck his putt – (which moved so slowly that a butterfly probably could have landed on it and posed for pictures!) – (and) – realizing that it was not only going to miss the hole, but would unquestionably roll past the hole and off the green, hurried to the other side and took a swipe at this still moving ball, redirecting it back up the hill – close enough to make the next putt. – No exclamation point needed. Yes, I said he struck the moving ball (on purpose) in order to avoid his ball from rolling off the green, on Saturday, at the 118th playing of our national championship. *Did I mention that this was one of the finest players of the past quarter century?
…(Now) – the rules only allow for a (2) stroke penalty for his action – but, I am sure that this rule – the “spirit” of this rule – is to allow for an unintentional striking of a moving ball – a ball which may roll back towards you, or otherwise move in some fashion (and) you strike this moving ball – not intentionally, as was done here, but inadvertently -or- because you could not stop the momentum of the stroke that has already begun, etc.
…I just said…”I am sure of this.” …Well, I am (not) sure – the rule is rather vague – but, I am sure about my opinion as to the “spirit” of this rule.
(And) anyway, this person was not worried about this rule (as he later said he was) – but was just frustrated with the circumstances of the moment – (again) – my opinion – and having broken and thrown more than my share of clubs over the years! I know exactly how he felt. (But) *I know I use this word a lot! -But- he did this in front of approximately (200) countries worldwide, who were tuned in to watch him – (one of the best known players in the world) – compete in the United States Open.
(And) when asked about his actions after his round, he was less than “genuine” in his reply – saying that he was only using the rules to his benefit – implying that his action was reasonable, and in fact some form of golf rules “genius” usage on his part. Well, everybody screws up, and this player who, has otherwise been a pretty solid ambassador for golf over the years, deserves a break as much as most -and- he gave a pretty solid apology a few days later…so let’s just put this controversy behind us -but- rule or no rule – golf in my estimation (and the estimation of many) is best played with completely honest intent. As the only game where the player calls a penalty on (himself/herself) – even if no one is there to witness the infraction – the rules are only there to help guide us, help us, etc. It’s the “spirit” of the rules that matter.
Well, anyway, there was a “conquering” of this great event and this great course – Mr. Brooks Koepka – great job sir! (And) best of luck to the USGA going forward because no matter what feelings anyone may have towards the decisions/actions that were taken this year at Shinnecock Hills G.C. – I know these folks sincerely love doing what they do – and have nothing but the best of intentions to make all of the many championships they run a fair – (and yes difficult) – test – a test that is always deserving of crowning a true champion.
*And one last note on this subject: Here’s hoping that this month’s 147th edition of the British Open – being held at the venerable Carnoustie Golf Links in Scotland – goes off without a hitch! And if the wind blows and (80) turns out to be a good score – shoot your (80) – tip your cap to the course, the conditions, and…to this marvelous game that we all love!
Golf Shots Around the tours in June:
On the LPGA Tour – Youth once again took over – as (22) yr old Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand won the 73rd US Women’s Open for her 2nd major victory; followed by (23) yr old Annie Park of the U.S. who captured her 1st ever title at the Shoprite LPGA Classic. The Meijer LPGA Classic win the next week went to South Korea’s So Yeon Ryu for her sixth career championship – and closing out the month – (19) yr old Japanese “star on the rise” Nasa Hataoka won the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship – her 1st win on tour. *Note: Her mom named her Nasa when she was born because she wanted her daughter to “reach for the stars.” – Nice!
The men’s European Tour held there events in June – the 75th Italian Open – where Denmark’s Thorbjon Olesen won for the 5th time of his career on the Euro Tour. Finland’s Mikko Korhonen won the next week at the “Shot Clock Masters” Championship in Vienna – his 1st ever win on tour – an event that featured a real shot clock for the 1st time ever at any full field world golf championship – where, if you did not get your shot off in the designated time of (30) seconds – (you are allowed a couple of “time outs” for problems shots) – you are penalized (1) shot! For the tournament, only (+) penalty was given – and the average round took (45) minutes less than the last time an even was played here with no clock.
*Note: This could have helped a great deal here in the states – (the same week) – as the Memorial Tournament’s last group took a whopping five hours and forty minutes! to complete their round! – Closing out the month on the Euro Tour – England’s Matt Wallace won for the 2nd time this season at the prestigious BMW International Open in Cologne, Germany.
The Champions Tour held two events last month – the rain-shortened Principal Charity Classic in Des Moines, Iowa – where Tom Lehman won for the 11th time on the senior circuit. And in Madison, Wisconsin, the American Family Insurance Championship title was taken home by Scott McCarron for his 7th title in his Champions Tour career.
The men’s PGA Tour started in Dublin, Ohio at Jack’s Place for the 43rd edition of the Memorial Tournament – where the “Mechanic” Bryson Dechambeau worked his magic in capturing his 2nd career PGA victory. The 61st St. Jude Classic saw Dustin Johnson get his 18th career victory, vaulting him back into the #1 in the world position – a position he only “loaned” to Justin Thomas for a period of (4) weeks. The US Open then followed that – but you know what went on that week? …back-to-back titles for Brooks Koepka. (And) rounding out June – The 67th Travelers Championship title went to Mr. Bubba Watson – Bubba’s 3rd time winning this event, his 3rd win of the year, his 12th career victory on tour -and- this from a man, who at (39), has been mentioning retirement…?...Come on Bubba – you are the only player on (any) tour with (3) wins this year – retire? No Way – You’re just getting going!
A couple more tour notes: The Champions Tour will be in Highland Park, Illinois July 11th thru the 15th for the Senior Players Championship – being played at the historic Exmoor C.C. / the US Senior Women’s Open is being held at the (even more) historic Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton, Illinois July 12th thru the 15th – both events are considered Majors on their respective tours – go on out and see some great golf in our area! And – yes, I am burying my pick for the British Open here at the end - *Still having a problem picking Major winners – my pick? – Rory McIllroy! He can do it!
It’s time again for the Susan G. Komen Charity outing at the wonderful Duck Creek CC in Portage Township – the event is Saturday, July 14th – call the course to sign up – (219)759-5870 – great people – great time – great cause!
For your kids and grandkids – sign them up now for the junior program out at Wicker Park G.C. in Highland, Indiana – Bill Springer in conjunction with his team of “1st Tee” organizers do a great job teaching kids (7-18) the game & the core values that golf carries with it. July 16th – 19th from 10:00AM – Noon everyday – and a great value – call (219)838-9809 for further info.
The 8th annual J&M Golf Tent Sale will be held this year from July 19th thru the 22nd at their fully stocked store on Rte. #41 in St. John, Indiana. Low-low prices on all items -and- a special free drawing – go see them & get some new magic weapons to help your game – call (219)365-5611 for directions, etc.
The 88th edition of the Lake-Porter Golf Classic will be held at the beautiful Palmira G.C. (also) in St. John, IN – Aug. 4th & 5th – all hdcp players are welcomed, as well as, women’s, seniors, and super-senior flights are available. Info at lakeportergolfclassic.webs.com -or- call (219)365-4331 – go on out and make some history of your own!
(And) if you have a suggestion for a feature article you would like to see covered -or- if you just want to chime in – please contact me at our e-mail address: email@example.com or leave me a voicemail at (219)617-3276, and to read past golf course reviews – or to just visit Golf Plus online – visit golfplusonline.net.
A special thanks this month: To my great friends and wonderful helpers Mike & Kathy Modrzejewski. And to all who called in to our June contest – including the winners! Stan R., Steve D., Lee R., Terry R., Pete R., and Dan R. – thanks for joining in, and keep following this column for other contests this summer. (And) a special thank you to the participating courses who generously donated the prizes of (2) free rounds of golf, including cart, which every winner received – Duck Creek CC – Wicker Park GC & The Course at Aberdeen. Thanks to all!
Lastly: As we saw at this year’s US Open – this game often frustrates us all – and sometimes we (and others who comment on our game!) – feel like throwing in the towel! But at these times, I think it is fun to remember (that) even though Babe Ruth set all kinds of home run records – he also struck out more than anyone in his era! And that department store mogul Mr. Macy went bankrupt several times – (as did Henry Ford!) – before he found the correct formula for success. (And) two of the most prolific and successful musicians of all time; Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys – who wrote a song he later titled “Surf City” and turned in to his high school music teacher – was given a “C” – for his efforts -and- “The King” Elvis Presley received a “D” in his music class – also in high school! So, don’t give up, keep trying! – Set some goals! – and you too can find your special success on the golf course!
See ya next month - Pete