Monday, June 22, 2015


Column: U.S. Open course was no beauty


Call me shallow, simple, unsophisticated if you must, but I won’t apologize for preferring Norman Rockwell’s paintings to extremely abstract art. Rockwell’s art tells stories to which we all can relate. Wildly abstract art is not nearly as inclusive.

Similarly, I much prefer to watch golf tournaments played on courses that don’t look thirsty, don’t have multi-colored greens, don’t need dots to inform where the fairway ends and the green begins.

Traditional golf courses, lined with trees, lush grass of different heights, greens with fringes, guarded by bunkers filled with bright, white sand, play better on television.

Chambers Bay, site of the U.S. Open that Jordan Spieth won Sunday, proved a fair test of talent, given that the leaderboard was stuffed with the biggest names in golf. But beautiful? Not on TV. Relatable? Watching it made me want to crawl into my boob tube with a hose so that I could water the greens, or at least with a can of spray paint to remind everyone why putting surfaces are called greens and not “browns” or “measles outbreaks” or “rainbows.”

Yet, even a stage on the ugly side couldn’t kill the drama of a tournament in which Spieth made double-bogey on the par 3 No. 17 and prepared for the possibilities of finishing second, moving onto a playoff, or winning as Dustin Johnson studied a 12-foot eagle putt. Johnson rolled it about four feet past, meaning Spieth at worst would have a shot at winning in an 18-hole playoff. Johnson missed again and one of the first things Spieth told his proud, congratulatory father on Father’s Day was that he felt “terrible” for Johnson. That’s precisely what any father would want to hear his son say at such a moment.

Spieth and Rory McIlroy, replacing Tiger Woods and still-strong Phil Mickelson, are the world’s two best players, but those on tour believe Johnson to be the most talented. His time will come if he doesn’t get in his own way.

With such great young talent battling in majors, golf’s in a great place. In next year’s U.S. Open, the young talent will battle on an old, traditional, green course, Oakmont Country Club in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Yes!

By then, Tatum Gretzky Johnson, son of Dustin and maternal grandson of the great Wayne Gretzky, will be one year closer to world-class-athlete status. And Johnson, with four near misses in majors, might already have won one.

Greg Norman, near the end of the Fox telecast, in timely fashion shared what the great Tom Watson once told him: “Once you bite that snake’s head off, that snake’s dead forever.”

Rare is the golfer who doesn’t know the feeling of having a snake wrapped around his neck.


Suzi Marshall 6 years, 11 months ago

Yes this year's US Open was exciting but personally, I hate the place. The place is far to gimmicky for me. They have the old ruins of the rock quarry, which in someway try to recall the ruins of Castle Rossdhu at Loch Lomond. The Lone Fir somehow recalls the Lone Cypress at Pebble Beach. The crowned greens akin to Pinehurst No. 2. They build the place for Major Championship Golf but put in greens that belong in an amusement park. The dissimilar grasses are a mixture of fescue and a weed called poa annue. The two grasses have completely difference root structure with the poa typically popping up when exposed to the sun. The result making putts guesswork outside of 2 feet. For the finals, DJ (Dustin Johnson) had 33 puts, with ,,,5 ... 3-putts. Yesterday Spieth has 4 3-putts. KU's Gary Woodland missed the cutting shooting 151 (77 and 74) over two days, with 73 putts!!!!! When nearly 50% of a world class golfer's strokes come on the greens, that is a problem. I love challenging fast greens, like Augusta, but if you hit a good putt it should hold its line. The USGA was so hell bent to bring its biggest show to the pacific NW, they compromised the integrity of the competition with a joke of a course.

This Open was also a seminal signal that the Tiger and Phil is gone. They both still have game but they are now incredible successful, do they have the hunger, drive, and desire of the young guys like Roy, Jordan, Dustin, etc etc. Also noteworthy was a big change in the coverage. Fox introduced an entirely new way of presenting golf with a great new crew. Mark Brooks, Morgan Pressel, Greg Norman, Brad Faxon, Natalie Gulbis, the drones, topo maps and variety of internet coverage (featured groups, 360 coverage, and selected holes) was great.

Steve Jacob 6 years, 11 months ago

In the end the cream rose to the top, so the course was fine. Can't blame the course for Spieths' terrible shot on 17 when he had one hand on the trophy. It came down to Spieth hitting his iron shot on 18th in a better spot then Johnson. Johnson was in a tough spot, he saw from Day's putt if he really wanted to make the eagle putt he was going to be 3-4 past the hole if he missed.

Michael Leiker 6 years, 11 months ago

I think it was a fairway wood Spieth hit on 18, but nonetheless, you're right, best guys were there at the end.

Harlan Hobbs 6 years, 11 months ago

I enjoyed this article and agree that there is considerable room for debate about the course. It is certainly different from what we are used to seeing in America, but that doesn't mean that it is bad.

You are right Steve that the creme rose to the top as it is supposed to in the US Open. However, Suzi offers such a broad perspective of what makes for popular golf in our country. It is obvious from her posts to this and other stories that she is probably an excellent golfer in her own right and is a total student of the game. I thought that I was too, but I can't match her knowledge and insight.

After watching the end of the tournament, one can't help but want to console Dustin Johnson. My guess is, however, that he will come back from this just like he came back from some of his personal struggles. He has so much going for him, and I am sure that when his time to lift the trophy comes, he will receive a standing ovation, just like Jordan Spieth, who by the way is one marvelous young man and champion.

Doug Merrill 6 years, 11 months ago

Tom You are a great sports writer. That said, you are wrong. How refreshing to see these guys have to deal with a course that isn't oredicatbly pandering to long ball hitters, with traps filled with Jewelers pumice, and greens that are boilerplate from Maine to Singapore (going west). They got real links golf and they had to adapt and some of them didn't like it. of them won and did so without being under par by double digits. He didn't win by being over par but that would have been wonderful. Your inability to look at the Puger Sound and this remarkable course in juxtaposition and see beauty leaves me with this suggestion: get out more. Try Whistling Straits in Wisconsin then go to Chambers Bay. I grew up on sand greens inthe great State of Kansas and have grown to love me some of that Links golf. You spend more time thinking and less time worrying about your distance. At your age, surely you recognize the value in that change. Cheers!

Randy Signor 6 years, 11 months ago

So, if it doesn't look good on television, it's broken? I guess that means we've abandoned any true interest in the game itself. I found the course to be strikenly beautiful and believe it challenged the pros in ways they are not used to being challenged and I believe is a good thing. It's not the game's charge to conform to the players, it's the players who must conform to the game and in this case the game was a somewhat different course. I live out here and play disc golf at a course quite near the Open course and we're having a bit of a dry spell, hence the brownish color but why does that make it unattractive? Visually it's a knockout layout and a welcome change of pace.

David Friend 6 years, 11 months ago

First of all the course is less original then anyone knows. A fact is this is basically a replica of the Island Golf club outside of Dublin although this course is more tricked out. There is nothing Pebble or Loch Lomond about this course.
Keegan is right.. The course did not show well on television.. And the greens were not at PGA standards. However one of the reasons it was so hard to watch was Fox'x unwatchable telecast of the tournament. I want to watch golf not Jack Buck. The LA Times did an article on Saturday that kept track of how much golf vs how much the Fox team was shown and on friday in one one hour stretch they showed more of Buck and Norman.

But at the end of the day two of the three best golfers in the world were left to battle and it ended up being a great tournament. If Johnson can hit short putts he would of won several more tournaments this year. His putting woes have been going on all year.

Suzi Marshall 6 years, 10 months ago

David, your comparison to Dublin's Island Golf Club is fairly good but the course's are radically different from the tips (6300 vs 8000). The short par 4s on 6 and 8 are defiantly similar to #12. My only complaint, which is severe, were the greens, specifically the grass selection. The could make Chamber's a world class place if they put bentgrass, which is used at Augustus National, on those greens.

Anyone who reads this column and comments is surely a golf fan and should try mightily to put together an Ireland Golf Outing (Royal County Down, Lahinch, Ballybunion, ClubCorp's Adare Manor, K-Club, Portmarnock , Royal Portrush, Royal Dublin, County Sligo - Rosses Point, Tralee, Mount Juliet, Donegal, etc, etc...). A guy like Keegan, with obvious Irish roots couple with a love for golf should go asap. My earlier comment referencing Pebble and Loch Lomond site specific features, not the course itself.

I did not like the main coverage, headed by Buck, and choose to watch the web version until Sunday's back nine when the web coverage ceased. Way to much chatter while not showing much golf. On the other hand .... Mark Brooks, paired with Natalie Gulbis, covered the "highlighted group for 18 each day, were great, especially Brooks. With every shot Brooks spelled out the problems and how each shot should be shaped. I toggled over to the "360 coverage" overtime Morgan Pressel came on because she was almost as insightful. The Brooks/Gulbis combo knew when to shut the hell up as dramatic puts were lined up.

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