By Robert Bicknell
OK, well, first congratulations to Gary Woodland for winning the US Open at Pebble Beach by taking the lead on day one and running with it. Going wire to wire in any major is difficult, especially with Brooks Koepka continually knocking on his back door in the final round. One big mistake and it would have been all over for him, so he deserved credit for keeping it together.
But, on the other hand, the USGA didn’t actually bring the course to what we have become accustomed to in regards to a US Open. In fact, compared to the past events (no, not the disastrous ones where the course was virtually unplayable. I’m talking about the good difficult ones) Pebble Beach seemed downright friendly.
OK, there was some murderous rough to contend with, but I saw a lot of guys still hitting the green from it, and managing to stop the ball too. What’s up with that? We didn’t see too many players falling off into the ocean either (no, not literally. I’m talking about their ball, although it would have been fun to see Matt Kuchar screaming “aaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh” on the way down and then seeing the replays in slow motion… Yeah, I’ve never been one of his fans).
Look, when the players themselves claim they enjoyed the event and the course was “tough, but fair” you know the USGA screwed up. What happened is they replaced Mike Davis with John Bodenhamer, who normally sets up the courses for the US Amateur and, in my opinion, it showed.
When I watch the US Open, I expect to see hair-pulling, gnashing of teeth, a few broken clubs and, most importantly, the best players in the world reaching for Maalox. Anything short of that is just another boring tournament.
When the winning score is 13-under par, you know something is wrong.
Normally, the winning score should be around par or close to it. Going that far under par is an affront to the US Open history. Oh sure, there have been times when the score was ridiculously low, but it’s the exception rather than the norm.
Some pundits will claim this is because the “wind wasn’t howling” or because “there was no rain”, but that simply isn’t true. It’s the Open Championship which relies on weather for the drama. At the US Open it’s the USGA who usually supplies it, remember?
The Open Championship usually sets their courses up in a manner not too different from normal play. Sure, the rough is a bit longer, the fairways narrowed a bit and the greens may be a foot faster, but that’s about it. They select locations where they know the weather will provide the fireworks.
The USGA, on the other hand, takes a relatively difficult course, then adds all sorts of horrible dangers to it, including rough where you can lose your golf bag, greens that are rock hard and reject almost everything except a perfect approach shot, and pin locations that border on ludicrous.
That’s a US Open…
While I’m on the subject of ludicrous, and still grouchy, Woodward won using Wilson Irons… yes, I said WILSON irons… Who the hell plays Wilson irons anymore. Back in the ’80s when I was with Phuket CC, I played Hogan Apex irons and the head pro played Wilson F22 irons (or something like that) and they were the cat’s ass. Beautiful club.
But then, both big names disappeared as TaylorMade, Callaway and Ping began to take over the market. Even Titleist was rocked backwards a bit, but eventually recovered on strength of name alone.
And now, the US Open was won by Wilson Staff Irons…
Back in the day, Wilson was a big name. Then it got bought out by Pepsico and they did what they do best, mass market it. Pretty soon Wilson was known as “boxed set” clubs, AKA “Walmart Specials” instead of top line clubs. They’re still trying to recover from that.
With Gary Woodland’s win, I have a feeling more people will take a look at the new line of Wilson clubs, but I’m not sure it will make that much of a difference. Sure, if Tiger Woods played Wilson, the brand would explode overnight, but that seems to be the nature of the business nowadays.
It’s not the name, but who’s using it. VNS