The 2012 US Open was played on the Olympic Club golf course overlooking San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. The course was constructed in 1920 and is devilishly difficult even without 12 inch deep rough typical of past US Opens. Level lies are almost impossible to come by. A new par 3 8th hole was constructed for the tournament and the 16th hole was lengthened to 671 yards, the longest par 5 of any US Open venue. The weather was good for golf. The professional commentator was Johnny Miller who as a youngster was a merit member of the Olympic Club. He knew the course intimately and his comments as usual were bluntly informative and wryly humorous.
Winning the US Open is the dream of every serious golfer and the Ultimate Thule of every professional. Winning the US Open allows a pro to play the Open for the rest of their lives and comes with a 10 year exemption from qualifying for any other tournament. To top it off the prize money is usually somewhere in the range of a million and a half bucks. No amateur has won the open since the legendary Bobby Jones. I had to wonder what the pros were thinking at the end of the 2nd day when they saw their butts were being kicked by a 17-year-old. After all, these guys have high-profile endorsement contracts and enormous egos, though for some of them, the bloom is off the rose.
It was a treat watching the antics and agonies of multimillionaires unable to consistently break par. The winning score was 1 over, but there were moments of brilliance. A 17-year-old amateur made the cut, allowing him to play the week end and at one time was just three over, far better then most of the pros. I think in all there were 3 teenagers who finished the tournament. A 14 year-old had qualified! 14 years old? Gimme a break! A 53-year-old Olympic Club member who has spent his entire golfing life trying to qualify for a US Open, made it this year and on his home turf. This guy made the cut and played on the weekend. I’m sure he was not happy with this final score but by golly did he play well.
As Johnny Miller pointed out, Tiger Woods – can you imagine calling yourself Tiger – had his game face on and sure enough Tiger played 2 rounds of very good golf. By the time the weekend came around it looked as if the pros were going to grab the tournament back and save face. As expected the amateurs began to fade, but still made statements strong enough to capture the attention of TV execs who gave them equal on- camera time with the pros. The tournament maintained its excitement and wonderful blend of youthful and aged amateur and professionals, many of the latter completely unknown or on their last major tournament go rounds. It came down to the last day.
Sometimes it doesn’t. For example, when Ben Hogan, Jack Nicolas and the Tiger of recent fame were on top of their games and leading by a few strokes on Sunday, you could pretty well bank on the final outcome. This time you couldn’t bank on anything.
The guy who won is well over 6 feet, looks to be in his early to mid twenties, has a flat belly, blond hair and Phil Mickelson’s baby flushed cheeks and is married. He’s too good looking, too happy and his wife is blond, pretty and seven months pregnant. Almost unknown except to family and friends, he appeared from out of the blue. He had attended Wake Forest University on an Arnold Palmer scholarship. He said he hoped his win would bring a smile to Arnold. He said he had been at peace and had prayed 3 times during the last few holes. Now we have to wait to see if his name ever appears again at the top of a Leader Board.
The average pro golf tournament is made for TV and its sponsors. Scores usually range from 10 to 20 strokes under par and if a pro can finish in the top ten a few times, he’s made plenty enough money to live on for the year and probably beyond. It was a satisfying experience to see some of the best players in the world sweating just to get around at level par and not succeeding. Two pros hit tee shots that disappeared into a Cypress tree alongside the first fairway – imagine an eagles nest – and never dropped to the ground. One of those guys provided a real US Open moment when he borrowed a pair of binoculars and stood in the fairway scanning the offending tree. A golfer has 5 minutes to find and identify his ball before declaring it lost and re-hitting his shot. Both players had to make a humiliating walk back to the tee to try again.
This US Open was fun to watch and exciting. Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Jim Furyk, last year’s open winner McDowell and a phalanx of other well-known professional golfers either did not make the cut or committed non-pro-no-nos along the way. The winner of course was the course; the Olympic Club and a winning score of 1 over par. That’s the way it should be.
Golf and the Papal We.
Tiger Woods was expected to win every tournament he entered and looking back on his career, it seems he did. Then his wife attacked him with a nine iron and he sought refuge in his SUV. We may never know exactly what happened that night. To date, El Tigre has never been the same. Two years ago he won five tournaments, a career for most professional golfers, but Tiger feeds on the four majors, those tournaments so coveted by golfing super staars like Jack Nicklaus.
He’s still got game, somewhere. In last week’s tournament he played three and two thirds rounds with his old brilliance. He then shanked a chip shot to the opposite side of the green, flubbed the return and then putted thirty yards past the cup, putted twice more for an easy seven and blew himself out of contention.
Still, he changed the game. Soon after losing his baby fat and turning pro, he was the hallmark of buff. No golfer had ever donned a glove who looked anything like Tiger. Word got around about his training schedule and an entire generation of young golfers followed his lead. Now there are a dozen twenty somethings that can hit a ball hitherto unimaginable distances whilst curving it high or low or this-a-way or that-a-way.
These freshmen have been around for a few years – Bubba Watson comes to mind, but 2015 is a “What Has God Wrought” kinda year. The Professional Golfers Association now has a plethora of young stars who in a single season rejuvenated the game by regularly putting blankets over Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Steve Stricker and alas,Tiger.
With the older generation flailing about, the PGA and the media jumped all over Jordan Spieth, touting him as the next Tiger, only better. He possesses many sterling features. He is very nice looking, short hair and no five day beard. He speaks clearly and employs lots of people. Besides the obligatory caddie, his payroll sports a professional support team consisting of a trainer, physiotherapist, sport psychologist, golf swing guru, accountant, public relation specialist, dietician, agent, a lawyer and manager. He doesn’t have a wife and his Mom and Dad appear to be nice folks.
The media and the PGA got excited when Spieth won his first major at the 2015 Masters Tournament, becoming the second youngest to win the Masters, behind Woods. He won the U.S. Open, the youngest since Bobby Jones in 1923. The Open (British Open) was next and if he won that, he’d be a Grand Slam winner, depending on your criteria, something only Bobby Jones, Gene Sarazen, Gary Player, Jack Nickus and Tiger Woods had accomplished.
He lost the Open and the PGA, but he was already a household name with as many endorsements as his Nike shirt could possibly hold. The media began to concentrate on his sportsmanship and humility. Humility was the winner. The reason? Everytime he was interviewed, he used the Papal or omniscient we. “We won, we worked hard, we had a plan, we had a strategy, we’re happy the way we played”. Television people interpreted this as humility. I don’t think I heard him once say “I”.
Golf has changed indeed. As Spieth walked off one of the final teeing grounds, he was followed by a group of about 20 people, portable cameras, the usual score keepers and sign carriers, a couple of rules officials and a dozen or so hangers on. What the hell is going on, I thought. Anyway, I wonder who suggested to Jordan Spieth that he use the omniscient we. I don’t expect him to know anything about the Papal we, but I do thinnk someone should tell him how this sounds on national television.
Golf is and has always been an individual game and should remain an individual game. Jordan Spieth looks and speaks as if he’s on a corporate outing. Perhaps he is. Perhaps they all are.
Posted by robinengelman on August 26, 2015 in Articles, Commentaries & Critiques
Tags: Golf, Jack Nicklaus, Jordan Spieth, the Majors, Tiger Woods