Well, another one has come and gone, and personally, I liked this year’s account of the U.S. Open much better than last. It just doesn’t seem like an Open when the winning score is 16 under par, does it? The test that we’ve come to know for our national championship should be one where par is perfect, and achieving that over four days and 16 miles of golf course should be the ultimate achievement for the most rigorous test of one’s golf mettle, it would seem to me.
And Olympic Club did not disappoint . . . as it never has in its history. Each time the Open comes to this fabulous old course, top names seem to fire and fall back, and those who we least expected to come out on top always seem to do that. Jack Fleck, Billy Casper, Scott Simpson, Lee Jantzen and now Webb Simpson. All showed the patience, precision and perseverance that is almost always required to be named U.S. Open Champion.
As I tuned in from time to time this past week, especially on Sunday, what caught my attention was the magnitude of the misses by the best players in the world, particularly in places where you wouldn’t expect it.
How many failed to birdie the short par four seventh? That really amazed me. I would think that if you gave tour professionals a hole that could be played with a 5-or 6-iron off the tee and a lob wedge from the fairway, no one would ever make bogey, and birdies would happen at least 25-35% of the time. But it didn’t. Many bombed for the green off the tee and paid with a bogey or worse.
Poor distance control. I watched time and again . . .the best players in the world were missing approach shots by many yards long and short, even when they weren’t in the rough. What’s up with that? A tour professional should be able to dial in approach shots to within 15-20 feet long or short with absolute precision, especially with anything less than a 7-iron in their hands. But that’s a result of the increasing emphasis on hitting the ball hard and far. These guys just do not exhibit the distance control you would expect, especially under 150 yards. Or at least they sure didn’t this past week.
Missing the 18th green from wedge range. Are you kidding me? Padraig Harrington and Jim Furyk cannot hit a gap or sand wedge on line from the fairway or first cut rough? How many others could not hit that green with their “money clubs”? I find that appalling, to be honest.
All in all, it was great theater for us real golf fans. The heroes and goats, hits and misses.
And my hat’s off to Webb Simpson. A nice young man, it seems, with his head on straight. And one helluva golf game.
He played the weekend in four under par, combining a pair of 68s. No one else did anything close.