It’s always entertaining listening to sports radio the morning after a U.S. Open that Tiger didn’t win. The course is always too hard, the action is always too boring. There weren’t any great shots. It was nothing like the Masters. I agree that it was nothing like the Masters, but you don’t have to string together eagles and birdies to be playing great golf. Webb Simpson’s 68-68 weekend was a ball-striking clinic. Most casual golf fans don’t comprehend that not all 68s are equal, and so they bemoan the lag putting and Tiger’s demise. This is why golf is in no danger of supplanting the NFL, only so many people actually find it compelling without Tiger or highlight reel shots.
Instead of charging with a back nine 30, Simpson stayed steady while the players around him crumbled. Several contenders didn’t survive the opening six holes (see Tiger Woods). Ernie Els, who vaulted himself into contention with an early eagle, couldn’t hit a fairway on the back nine. Hacking out of Olympic’s rough, to its dangerously sloped targets ended Ernie’s quest for a 3rd U.S. Open. Some young contenders, Michael Thompson and John Peterson, missed crucial putts late. Jason Dufner didn’t make a putt all week. And, of course there was Furyk, hitting the granddaddy of all rope hooks on the 16th hole. Simpson won because he played mistake free golf, which on Sunday was as rare an accomplishment as blitzing the back nine at Augusta National.
Simpson’s win made it three straight majors for young American players. It made it 15 straight majors without a repeat champion. Parity was also exhibited by the atrocious performance of several of the game’s supposed elite. Luke Donald, world number 1, was alleged to be a perfect fit for Olympic. He shot a million. So did Rory McIlroy, who is suddenly facing questions about his dedication. The defending champion has been stringing together missed cuts like he once strung together top-3s. Phil Mickelson and Bubba did their parts as well. The left-handed section of the opening dream threesome was throttled by Woods over the first two days and never had a chance.
Nothing against the skills of a Cinderella story like Beau Hossler, but if a high school junior can navigate Olympic, the game’s best players should at least make the cut? Without a dominant player, you have to wonder whether the hot golfer winning every week is a good model for the PGA Tour. The powers that be, the media, clearly want a dominant figure, but could the wide open nature of a big golf tournament become appealing if people can move past the Tiger era?
My closing thought on Olympic is, how tough will the PGA Championship be at Kiawah Island? What struck everyone, especially Johnny Miller, was that the week passed with almost no wind. What would have the winning score have been if there were some gusts, or a sustained 15 mph breeze? Eight over? 10? The water added to the course Friday night kept things reasonable, and still no player broke par. I wonder what the PGA of America was thinking when they saw this setup. At Kiawah, you’re talking about a course widely regarded as one of the most difficult in the entire country. You expect the wind to be up there, so if it blows and they get the course as firm and severe as Olympic was, what kind of numbers could we see in August? The USGA wants the toughest test, but the PGA will be in a position to make Kiawah as hard as they’d like–how far will they go?
Blog Schedule for the Week:
*Later Today–Some more tidbits on the weekend, LeBron, etc.
*Tomorrow Evening–Late Inning Phillies Live Blog. The Phils are a total train wreck right now. Most of the pain has come late in ball games. I’ll use tomorrow’s game to touch on all the painful Phillies’ topics.
*Thursday–The Mail and Picture Bag. Already have a picture or two, and a couple of questions, so keep them coming. Also, if you fancy yourself a humorist, feel free to send a picture w/caption and I’ll be happy to give you full credit.