The PGA Tour’s U.S. Open begins Thursday, good news for golf fans —and sports fans in general — as we hit the doldrums of summer. The Warriors claimed the NBA championship in very non-dramatic fashion; the Washington Capitals finally won that elusive Stanley Cup, although I’m not sure they’ll ever stop partying at this point.
Justify nabbed horse racing’s impressive Triple Crown last weekend, and Rafael Nadal continued his clay-court dominance to snatch his 11th(!) French Open title.
So hitting the U.S. Open, one of pro golf’s four major tournaments, this weekend comes at a much-needed time.
I finally made my way to the first tee a few weeks ago and surprisingly played pretty well — a couple birdies, even par on the back nine. I played just my second round of the year last week at the annual Muscular Dystrophy Association Golf Tournament at Kendrick Golf Course. My game was much shakier (back to normal), but it was a good event and a beautiful day to hit the links.
While my teammates and I didn’t bring home any hardware and were far from the top of the leaderboard, I’ve come to a point in my golf career where I’ve finally realized I can’t have astronomical expectations. I don’t play enough to be a really good golfer, yet I’m not completely terrible. I can live with that.
That’s why I love the U.S. Open. While not always the case, the Open typically plays as one of the more challenging tournaments on the PGA Tour. I enjoy seeing these superstars obliterate golf courses all over the U.S., but sometimes I need to see these guys struggle to make myself feel better.
Last year’s U.S. Open champ, Brooks Koepka, won at Erin Hills with a 16-under-par final score. Snooze. In 2016, Dustin Johnson won at Oakmont Country Club with a 4-under. Better, but I still prefer the 1-over winners in 2012 (Webb Simpson) and 2013 (Justin Rose). Even better, in 2006 and 2007, the champs went 5-over.
A 5-over-par champion at a major tournament? That’s amazing. I want to see these lads moan and groan. I want fairways as long and narrow as Mo Bamba’s arms. I want bunkers that are closer to China than they are to the United States. I want greens that roll at, like, 25s.
Even last year, when guys went way low, they complained about the length of the fescue. Boo-freaking-hoo. (The PGA even trimmed the fescue because of the whining — wimps.)
The last time they played the Open at Shinnecock Hills in New York, the site of this year’s tournament, Retief Goosen won at just 4-under, and no player shot under par in the final round. The fast greens didn’t go over well.
“I think they’re ruining the game,” Jerry Kelly said. “They’re ruining the tournament. This isn’t golf. Period.”
That’s what I’m talking about! Put these softies in their rightful place among the rest of us hacks!
The players complain quite frequently when scores go high at these major events. That’s why the PGA will always comes back and throws in an Erin Hills and let the players relax and get birdies and smile and cheer.
But these guys go 8-, 9-, 10-under all the time on tour. Will one insanely challenging course really ruin their summer?
We need that humanizing aspect in golf. We need it in all sports, really. That’s why a lot of people don’t like the NBA; it’s hard to even comprehend what those professional basketball players are doing on the court. The average Joe Schmo can’t relate in the slightest. It’s the same reason I struggled to watch hockey for so long. They’re too dang good.
And with golf being such a hobbyist sport, most Joe Schmos play it.
So it’s nice to bring these pros back down to earth. It’s nice for putts to roll off the greens or drives to ricochet off tree branches. We’ve all been there. Welcome to the party.
This is a sport in which the playing area changes daily. Why not take advantage of that and really stretch the boundaries? These guys are amazing; they’ll make do even in the most perplexing of situations. Seeing how they handle those situations, especially the players atop the leaderboard, is what’s most impressive.
So here’s hoping the course comes out on top this weekend.