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Teed Off (Jun 08, 2014)

Update: June, 08/2014 - 17:21

with Robert Bicknell

What would you do in this situation? A player managed to get into a qualifying event for the US Open golf tournament and shot 71-71, but mistakenly signed for a 70 on the second round, which would let him eke into the field.

Getting into the US Open would expose him to sponsorship by equipment sponsors, clothing sponsors and would be a huge boost to his career. The temptation to let the 70 stand and keep his mouth shut would be enormous…

If you were in his shoes, would you shut-up and quietly accept entry into the event, knowing that you didn't actually deserve it, or would you notify the officials of the error?

Well, this situation actually happened and the player, Landon Michelson, a 22-year-old wanna-be fought off his inner demons and reported the error. Ergo, his dream of playing in the US Open was ended, but it did earn him his 15 minutes of fame (which in today's Internet age means two and a half minutes, if that).

Pinehurst course number two was the site of a fantastic US Open when the late Payne Stewart defeated Phil Mickelson to capture the trophy. The win was marked by the incredible act of sportsmanship and compassion showed by Stewart when he reminded Mickelson of what is truly important - the fact that Phil was about to become a papa. Mickelson actually wore a beeper during the event in case his wife went into labor and swore that he would leave the course for the birth.

Needless to say, his wife was able to hold out and let Phil finish the event and Payne Stewart went into the history books. Sadly, he would later die in a plane crash a few weeks later.

The US Open has been called by some, the "truest test of a player", while most of the professionals would regard it as the USGA's best attempt to humiliate them and, considering the conditions they play under week after week, I can understand why they would feel that way.

Very simply put, PGA Tour courses are set up for low scores and allows players to make incredible saves when necessary. While the players consider it to be the highest form of professional competition (and it is), it is also entertainment and the powers that be realized that spectators don't want to see professionals struggling with fried eggs in bunkers, hacking balls out of the rough and generally playing like low handicappers at their own club. They want to see drama. They want to see spectacular shots…and the PGA Tour does its best to set conditions which make this possible.

On the other hand, the US Open courses usually see winning scores close to par, which should give you an idea how truly difficult the event is. Players used to winning with scores of 17-under par take an ego pounding out there.

The US Open is set up much like a normal course where players can expect fried eggs in the bunkers, knee-high rough as well as fast, rock hard greens which will deflect any shot that is less than perfect. Donald Ross design greens are inverted saucers which are not too forgiving and, with a lack of deep rough, missed approach shots will run away from the green like a scalded cat.

Having grown up playing Ross design courses, I can tell you that the only safe approach shot is a towering fade which comes down almost vertically, otherwise it will scamper off to oblivion. Now you know why I play high fades.

It also explains why the players will be stocking their bags with Maalox and Alka-Seltzer tablets.

The only saving grace for the players this year is that Pinehurst is not known for deep rough, so driving the ball will be a tad easier for them.

While the Masters will always be my favorite tournament, the US Open is a close second because I'm American and this is my national championship, but also because I have a nasty streak and enjoy watching the best players in the world losing their minds and getting a heavy dose of humility.

With Tiger out of action and Phil Mickelson being investigated for insider trading, it's anyone's guess who will win, but my bet is Jordan Speith, Adam Scott or Bubba Watson,. — VNS

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