This week in golf
Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.
This U.S. Open had so many storylines, it’s difficult to pinpoint just a few: Tiger’s game or lack thereof; Rickie’s bomb; another miss for Phil; Sunday charges by Rory and Adam and Louis: collapses at the finish by Grace, Spieth and ultimately DJ. What’s your takeaway from this year’s U.S. Open?
Jim Deeks, Fairways magazine (@jimdeeks): Yup, memorable in many different ways, but ultimately it’ll either be remembered as the first of Jordan Spieth’s many U.S. Open titles, and/or the one that Dustin Johnson let slip away… somewhat like the 1970 British Open that Doug Sanders handed to Jack Nicklaus by missing a 3-footer on the 18th, then losing a playoff the next day. The Mickey Mouse golf course, and the other elements that made this event such an interesting ride, will fade with time, but boy what a treat it was to watch yesterday!
Matthew MacKay, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTours): My takeaway is that tour pros are a bunch of whiney brats. That little tantrum Billy Horschel threw, mocking the roll of the greens, was sad to watch. I thought it was an extremely compelling championship, the best US Open since 2008 at Torrey Pines. Jeez, I feel for DJ…we’ve all been there. He had a smile on his face when he was met by his family but I can’t help but think that it’s gonna scar him forever.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): I don’t think I moved for twenty minutes following DJ’s three putt on 18. Overall, it was a thrilling competition – one of the most exciting U.S. Opens ever. Spieth may not be the best at any one facet of the game but he sure has figured out how to win. DJ needs a putting lesson from Butch. He missed a boatload on Sunday and could have won by a wide margin if he didn’t have that ineffective swiping motion on his short putts. Tiger needs a long layoff; that was Phil’s last chance; and I’d love to play Chambers Bay.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: The lasting impression is that the USGA and FOX have declared golf to be a TV show, the studio audience an afterthought. If the greens had all been like 7 and 13, it would have been a better show — a drama not a comedy. Gary Player is hyperbolic, but I agree that a 10 handicap, on his or her best day, couldn’t break 100 on that so-called course. Jason Day’s plight was painful to watch, his courage admirable. Too bad Oosthuisen was caught in the Eldrick-Rickie vortex on Thursday. With an average opening round, he could have won in a walk.
Dave Kaplan, Fairways Magazine (@davykap): Other than the anticlimax on that final putt? It has to be Jason Day collapsing on the fairway from vertigo. He got through that tournament solely on will power. What a story! That’s why we watch sports.
Jordan Spieth has now won two majors on two vastly different golf courses at the age of 21. How do you put that into perspective?
Kaplan: It is scary to think that Spieth has not hit his ‘prime’ yet. He is wise beyond his years and his putting game is off the charts. I think even Miss Cleo could accurately predict that this will not be the young man’s final major victory.
MacKay: I still see everything through a Tiger prism so it’ll take a lot more for me to be convinced that he’s the ‘next one’. I think Rory has twice the talent Spieth has but you certainly have to tip your hat to his ability to rise to the occasion. When you putt like that, you can win on any type of golf course.
Deeks: I think professional men’s golf is on the verge of a Great New Era (and ladies’, too, if Brooke Henderson turns out to be the Second Coming for the LPGA). With Spieth, McIlroy, Fowler and DJ leading the way, and a host of worthy competitors half a step behind and/or swimming upstream, this is just what golf needs. And notwithstanding DJ’s hopefully-overcome personal -sniff- issues, it’s a refreshing change to see the game now dominated by such a Company of Honourable Golfers. Spieth in particular seems to embody the talent, sportsmanship, maturity and class of Bobby Jones, Arnold Palmer, and Jack Nicklaus, and reinforces all the great qualities of our wonderful game.
Mumford: You can’t. Comparisons are pointless until we can look back at his full career. For twenty years they wrote about every blond-haired blue-eyed phenom as ‘the next Nicklaus’. Then Tiger came along and set his own records in his own way and in most every other respect was very un-Nicklaus like. Someone wrote that Spieth is ‘the people’s champion’. He certainly has that Arnold Palmer kind of appeal and I hope it continues but way too soon for comparisons.
Quinn: American golf could not conjure a better hero, ambassador, role model. Let’s not forget that Eldrick, before the fall, was given to spitting between F-bombs and had DJ not three-putted the last hole half the questions would be about his ‘absences’ from the Tour. It’s cooler that the next generation of golfers look to this down to earth, supremely talented young guy.
Chambers Bay received a lot of criticism from the players during the tournament. How do you rate the course as a U.S. Open venue after all is said and done and should it get another chance?
Kaplan: I loved every moment that I got to watch. It was such a nice change of pace from the tricked-out rotation of parkland courses that always host the event. Moreover, it was annoying to hear the players whining all weekend about the track — especially Bubba … but even Spieth. Everyone has to play the same course and conditions. Like I had been saying all month leading up to Chambers Bay, the US Open is for the fans. If I am entertained, I could care less how the players feel about the course … and I was entertained! So, why not? Let’s give Chambers Bay another chance in a decade. I’m sure the course will mature nicely by then.
Quinn: When I carried my bag and played Chambers a few months ago — in a heavy morning fog — I marvelled at how long and steep the climbs were from greens to tees. And on almost every hole, it was impossible to imagine where spectators could walk or stand to see the play. What stood out was that this was a blank canvas. Jones Jr. built the mounds and created the bizarro world routing with bulldozers. The terrain did not dictate all the goofy hole separations and climbs and descents. The lack of viewing spots, the fact that spectators can not follow a group, that stands had to be erected so any paying customers could see some action, was all monitored and approved from day one by the USGA. Absolutely ridiculous. And throughout the disconnected layout, fairways are ridiculously canted and the massive greens each have a half dozen mounds too many — this is supposedly a public facility, meaning that most golfers who play it have double digit handicaps — and as such are unsustainable in this climate. When I played it, a couple of greens were closed, and a number of landing areas were covered and listed as GUR. Those weaknesses were designed into the property at a cost of about $20 million! They knew the fescue greens couldn’t stand up and they knew they would be infected with poa annua which just happens to be the native grass out here. They replaced greens on #7 and #13 and knew full well that they had to fix them all — but they are so massive, the price will be steep, as steep as some of the climbs Jones Jr. never has to make. The Open will be back because the USGA invested so much time and money and its reputation on this go round. They have to try to fix it and save face.
Mumford: Congratulations to the USGA for stepping outside the box. The purpose of the U.S. Open is to identify the champion golfer of the year and when you saw the names on that leaderboard on Sunday, with the exception of Brendan Grace, every one was a major champion or a Top 20 ranked player. The course was perfectly set up to test every facet of their game and it did so exceedingly well. It rewarded power and precision from the tee and on approach; it required great chipping and lag putting; and most of all steady nerves. In other words, a complete test. Cry-babies like Sergio Garcia and Billy Horschel can sit the next one out if they so choose but Chambers Bay should get another U.S. Open. Soon.
Deeks: At first glance, I thought Chambers was a great new venue and a great new departure for the US Open. But then it turned into 1.68-inch roller derby, with gravel roads for greens… and the USGA should have recognized this well in advance. Ian Poulter was right, over a month ago, when he warned that it was “a complete joke”. If the USGA tries to hold the Open at Chambers ever again, no matter how they may “fix” it, there will be howls of protest, and that’s surely not worth the aggravation.
MacKay: I loved it and hope we see it again sometime. Each hole had personality and I was excited to see the day’s hole locations and to see how each player approached the challenges at hand. More than anything, it made me want to jump on a plane and go play it!!!
This was the first U.S. Open telecast for the Fox Sports team. How would you rate their performance and what do they need to do differently?
Deeks: With countless months of prep time, Fox had a real opportunity to bring golf coverage into the 21st century with new ideas, technology, commentating, and reporting. Instead, we basically got same-old-same-old… stooges at an anchor desk going blah-blah-blah… no real innovation except for the contour overlays (not used very often)… no background colour items… and some of the worst camera work I’ve seen since I videotaped my sons’ birthday parties. Far worse than CBS or NBC. Greg Norman was biased and largely incoherent… Tom Weiskopf was as stupid as ever… Faxon and Pavin added nothing… and other than a nice rack, Holly Sonders showed little insight and asked “duh” questions. What do they need to do differently? Give the rights back to NBC.
Kaplan: Fox did some things very well and some things horribly. Some of the tech features that Fox employed were incredible. I especially enjoyed the pro tracer/target combo feature and when they put up landing spot data on the screen. It was like watching a video game. However, Holly Sonders was simply THE WORST at interviewing players after their rounds. Also, it seemed like no one did any background research on the field. At one point, I heard an announcer say that Louis Oosthuizen was Australian!?
Quinn: Having cashed the USGA cheque, FOX bent over backwards to the point that even casual observers were offended. USGA logos on the Shark shirts? While most of the broadcasts were spent defending the indefensible USGA bungling, the in studio yakking — using football guys and reminding us why Weiskopf was canned by CBS — went on and on while golf was being played, somewhere. The graphics were solid, the shot tracker absolutely necessary on that burned out track, but the 5-man leaderboard on the screen at all times was mind-numbingly stupid. With all the techies and camera guys with every name group, how was it that no one was assigned to ask the caddie what club his player was hitting? Incredible. Lot of rookie mistakes by everyone on the FOX team, on and off camera, but that was expected. Holly’s stand ups with players using the big screen scorecard and hi-lites was well done. The on course guys were timid and unsure. Hope Juli Inkster wasn’t paid by the word. Faxon was good, Buck was ok, and Norman was informative when not being a USGA apologist.
MacKay: I’d give it a passing mark, barely. Too many commentators…I couldn’t tell who was speaking half the time. My biggest complaint would be the glaring lack of golf knowledge from a few of the crew. Golf is just one of those sports where it is SO obvious when you don’t have an intimate knowledge of the game and it really detracts from the credibility of the broadcast.
Mumford: Fox had a long time to prepare for golf but this isn’t the minor leagues where you can learn on the job. The U.S. Open demands the best and unfortunately Fox didn’t deliver. Before the next one, they should ditch half their announcing crew. Joe Buck was solid and Brad Faxon and Steve Flesch were informative. Greg Norman was OK but he should stay away from medical issues and stop being such an Aussie cheerleader. Ian Baker-Finch already has that role on another network. Corey Pavin added nothing. I’m not sure why Juli Inkster and Jay Delsing were even included as neither was used. And really, Jay Delsing? Great guy. He showed up faithfully every year in Toronto for the Altamira Charity Challenge and was always accommodating but he’s never been more than a minor leaguer. A photo of Tom Weiskopf would be cheaper and just as informative as the almost live version. Curt Menefee should stick to football. Fox should apologise to Holly Sonders. She proved on Morning Drive that she’s knowledgeable and on the ball but Fox treated her like a bimbo. The shot-tracker was terrific as were the graphics and animation on the greens. The hole mic was pure genius. I still miss Johnny Miller but give Fox a passing grade and hope they learn from it.