Sunday, February 23 2020


Teed Off (Jun 21, 2015)

Update: June, 22/2015 - 16:01

with Robert Bicknell

Sorry about last week, but I was so busy trying to get my surgeon, insurance company and all the other people involved with fixing my feet onto the same page. Unfortunately, there are still disagreements, so I am still limping along like a 2,000- year- old man. C'est la vie, it will get sorted eventually or I'll jump in front of a bus.

Enough of my problems, let's talk about other people experiencing disasters - yes, it's that time again. US Open, and the USGA, doing their damnedest to drive the "best players in the world" completely out of their minds.

If I was to ever open a concession stand at a US Open venue, it would sell Valium, Prozac, Maalox and Pepto Bismol and be located right next to the entrance to the locker room because I'd make a fortune off the players and their caddies.

The current US Open venue is a links style layout, but unlike the R&A who prefer to sit back and allow nature to provide the drama, the USGA seems to have an unwritten credo which is diametrically opposite of the Hippocratic Oath (First, do no harm) and insist on tricking up ever course they can find. Unfortunately, sometimes this backfires on them.

Last week, at the Memorial, players had some of the best greens they have played on all year - true roll, quick and readable.

This week, the greens are browns, bumpy, grainy and simply nasty. You know, just like what a weekend golfer at a cheap municipal (muni) course would face.

Toss in fairways which have a horrible case of the mumps, bunkers where they shouldn't be and the usual USGA rough and you have the makings of a wonderful disaster. This will be glorious. Make the popcorn, set your alarm clocks and get ready to see the best players in the world muttering to themselves, throwing clubs in disgust and resisting the urge to hit the beer tent halfway through the round.

What makes the US Open and the Open Championship different from other events is that they are not governed by the PGA Tour or European Tour. They are organized and run by their national golf associations - the USGA and R&A, respectively. So, conditions are out of their control. Courses which would normally be set up to allow for low scoring, amazing saves and dramatic finishes are not the norm in an Open. Bunker sand isn't tricked up, so you actually see a few fried eggs, plugged lies and pros looking disgusted. Fairways are hard and fast, so drivers aren't always the best club off the tee.

Greens are usually very hard and very fast, sometimes bordering on unplayable conditions (remember the disaster at Pinehurst years ago where players would chip the ball towards the hole then run to mark it the second it stopped for fear it would roll someplace horrible?)

That is the US Open at its finest.

Now, considering that I am writing this column on Wednesday, the event will be almost over by the time you read this. So, I have no idea who will win, but I think it would probably be either Mickelson, Spieth or a dark horse out of nowhere.

Phil Mickelson has the type of game which is perfect for this course. He can get up and down from the upstairs bathroom if necessary. He can dream up whatever shot is required for the situation. The only question is if his putter will cooperate.

Jordan Spieth has game, momentum and is young enough to not know there are some shots which are impossible, thus, he successfully pulls them off.

Many dark-horses in the field who could find victory out there, especially if they are used to playing public courses.

Here's the funny thing - because Tour pros are used to playing under the best possible conditions, they are not prepared mentally to deal with a course set up like a weekend Muni. Sure, they are amazing players, but if they forget their roots, they will have trouble.

Strange bounces, untrue greens and plugged lies are normal for public links guys, but not Tour pros. This is why sometimes an unknown wins.

No, I don't think Tiger will win, nor even make the cut. Get the popcorn! — VNS

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