Curdled milk and a looming farce

Other than golf traditionalists who sleep in their blazers, and those who believe the Rules of Golf were ordained by Moses, is there one single person on the planet who believes the USGA handled the Dustin Johnson ruling well?

Saying “okay, jolly good, carry on” to Dustin when he noticed his ball moved, but stated that he hadn’t caused it to do so… then seven holes later saying, “um, we’re not sure now, but we think we might have to assess you a penalty stroke when you’re finished”, and thereby putting Johnson in a state of worry, and everyone else in a state of confusion… then assessing the penalty at the end, basically on a matter of principle…   come on!  The Marx Brothers couldn’t have come up with a sillier routine.

In the end, of course, it didn’t matter.  Johnson smoked the field.  But I think the blazers need to sit down and give themselves a good hard look at how they’re running this tournament, and chat with the R&A lads about revising some of these (many) ludicrous rules that drive mere mortals, like me, nuts.

I don’t know what it is about the U.S. Open, but – maybe it’s just me – it seems to have turned into an almost surreal tournament every year.  Last year at Chambers Bay, it was like watching a Twilight Zone episode, or even a bad dream.  I felt the same way this year at Oakmont, although the course wasn’t the bizarre distant planet that Chambers was.

But the competition still seemed – here’s that word again – otherworldly.  I was half-watching, half-working on Saturday and it seemed every time I looked over at the TV, some other name I didn’t recognize or didn’t expect was leading the tournament.  Nothing wrong about that, of course… I love it when underdogs rise to the challenge.

I think, though, that the USGA makes their Open courses so ridiculously hard that over 72 holes, it becomes an endurance test, in which the luckiest guy wins, not necessarily the best.  Usually the luckiest guy is one of the better players, like Dustin Johnson.   And I’m not saying he got luckier bounces or luckier lies than the rest of them, but I saw so many balls in deep, deep rough, mere inches from the fairway… or 80-degree stances on bunker walls… or putts lipping out and leaving a 10-footer… that I really wondered when they’d bring out the windmills and clown faces.

If the objective of the US Open is to have the cream rise to the top after 72 holes, I would say that, Dustin Johnson notwithstanding, the milk was pretty curdled by the end.

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I’m getting the sinking feeling that the Brazil Olympics are going to be remembered for one or more of the following:

  • not happening at all because they’ve run out of money
  • having a major terrorist attack because they had no money to organize and pay for adequate security
  • having many instances of thuggery, assault, theft of athletes and spectators because of the lack of security
  • having half the competitors not show up at the last minute because they’re afraid the Games will be an organizational and security disaster
  • having widespread complaints and boycotts by athletes who do show up, and find the organization, accommodation and facilities a complete shambles
  • having athletes and visitors getting sick or injured from any number of issues, including Zika virus, poor sanitation, tainted food, inadequately built facilities
  • having events delayed or canceled because athlete transportation was completely inadequate

The news last week that the state government of Rio de Janeiro on Friday declared a “state of public calamity in financial administration” has surely eroded much of the optimistic anticipation that the world was feeling for these Games, and perhaps for the whole Olympic movement.  If I was an athlete (now there’s a joke for you), I’d now be having serious second thoughts about going to Rio.

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of most of the Olympic events, although like many people (including my wife), I do get swept up into the competition, especially if there’s a Canadian in contention.

But frankly, they could cancel the Olympics, now and forever, and I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it.

I’m all for competition, sure, but the whole Olympic thing has become so tainted by outrageous cost, greed, corruption, politics, excessive marketing and promotion, illegal drugs, and bad behaviour that it’s awfully hard to have the respect and excitement for the Games that we had when we were younger and more naïve.

This year, I must admit I was really looking forward to golf’s return to the Games, and I still am, although I now wonder who’s going to show up, and whether the whole golf event will turn out to be a farce.   As I’ve said here before, the format of competition for the golf event is completely uninspired – basically, yawn, a 72-hole individual score tournament, not a team competition – which may end up being interesting only if more big name players give it a pass.

If the Games do turn out to be the disaster that’s looming, I hope it generates a complete overhaul of the Olympic movement, to return it to a simpler, and purer model.   Although in this day and age, “simple” and “pure” are almost anachronistic words.

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