The U.S. Open at Brookline – as good as it gets!

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.

Matt Fitzpatrick joins a short list of players making their first PGA Tour victory a major and he did it in thrilling fashion, outduelling Will Zalatoris, who seems to be a fixture on final round major leaderboards these days, and World #1 Scottie Scheffler. Fitzpatrick’s approach shot on the 72nd hole from a fairway bunker will be long remembered for its degree of difficulty and the fact that he pulled it off under the circumstances to win. What was your take on Fitzpatrick’s victory?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Just outstanding!  One of the best majors in living memory, thrilling right down to the final putt, with a shot for the ages making it happen.  Who says golf is boring to watch??!  Fitzpatrick’s whole round was inspiring, with one three-putt the only hiccup.  I kept switching over to see how Brooke was doing in her LPGA event, and every time I switched back to the US Open, the lead had changed.  What a great day for televised golf!

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): Really pleased Fitzpatrick broke through, and with those other players all in the neighborhood. He’s been knocking on the door for some time now. Although not the flashiest player, he has pretty serious game. The fairway bunker shot on 18 was an example. I noticed how much he choked up on the club (almost on the steel) and hitting 17-18 greens in regulation in the final round of a Major kind of tells us who this player is.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: What a great finish! Matt F, Will. Z, Scottie Scheffler, John Rahm and at least 5 or 6 others lurking around. Watching Rory was surreal as his ball seemed to find places he couldn’t possibly get a score from and then on the very next hole he’d hit it close and miss. He got exactly nothing out of his game. However, he is becoming the only person in the world with any common sense regarding all the external commotion so maybe that is taking a toll on him. When you watch a good US Open it is a game of attrition. Drives that miss the fairway and hop up onto the primary cut or bounce 3 more feet into a nest of rough. Or a putt that looks perfect only to run 6 feet past instead of 3 feet followed by a lipped-out putt. Or a good shot that climbs up the green to within stopping distance of the crest of a slope only to roll back 50 yards from the green and then does it lodge in a divot or miss them all? Will Z missed his birdie on the 72nd green by about .25 degree of face angle. I loved the fact that neither Will nor Matt had won before. Remember the last guy who won the US Open as his first had a decent career.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): Well I picked him to win, so I wasn’t surprised!  But what a display of ball striking on Championship Sunday.  Hitting 17 greens in a round at a US Open is impressive no matter when, but when you do it while leading in the final round, that’s impressive.  If not for a couple of 3 putts, he could have put it away much sooner, but he thoroughly deserved that victory and I felt it had been coming for some time.  The fact that he had won on that golf course before had to give him confidence.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: In the pool with 1,500 of my closest friends, Fitz was on the team for the past three seasons. Not this one, of course, but after carrying him for so long, glad that he’s on his own two feet. Delighted that he’s hooked up with the Nova Scotian to use STACK to radically increase his swing speed and distance, and on Sundays putt like Spieth (used to) with that 50-footer on 13, and the 19-footer on 15. Of course, that 155-yard bunker shot on the 72nd hole (thanks again to STACK, it was a 9-iron) was otherworldly. His family story is so heartwarming it took the chill off the appearance of the LIV boys. Thanks to golf its own self, they were never a factor in the narrative that mattered.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Wow! Two of the best weeks on the PGA Tour ever. If the PGA Tour could bottle what happened at St. George’s and The Country Club, they’ have an awesome template for the future of professional golf. Flawless play from Fitzpatrick, who has the coolest demeanour, and a great battle to the finish with Will Zalatoris. Too bad they didn’t have Scottie Scheffler in that final group with them. With all the other stuff going on in golf right now, the intensity of a national championship (really two national championships in consecutive weeks,) shows that money isn’t the most important thing after all.

There were so many complaints about too many commercials during the U.S. Open telecast that USGA CEO Mike Whan felt compelled to make a statement that the final hour of Sunday’s telecast would be commercial free. Many solutions were put forward as a model for future U.S. Opens, including a paid service with no commercials. Would you be open to something like that?

Deeks: No, I wouldn’t… at least, unless it was optional to commercial television.  Yes, I thought there were too many breaks in yesterday’s broadcast, and it’s really annoying when you keep seeing the same Canadian commercials over and over again, but those commercials pay for the free broadcast, and all the innovations that have been made in golf coverage over the decades.  So, I really don’t feel the need to complain.

Loughry: Coverage was ABYSMAL. I would 100% pay a reasonable subscription to watch uninterrupted or limited interrupted coverage. But that coverage better be better than the product NBC puts on, which shouldn’t be too hard.

Schurman: NO!!!!!!! Currently, I record most high-profile events, so I don’t have to watch commercials. I admit I didn’t tape this one and I did notice how many commercials there were. But I do tape all the Stanley Cup games and NBA games mostly because I hate the ‘playing through’ stuff. I fast forward and only rewind if I think I’ve missed something good. The USGA and the PGA TOUR will be faced with some very awkward decisions in the coming months and years. Wait until the LIV Tour broadcasts interesting events commercial-free. Stop laughing! The day will come when something gives, and it won’t be the Saudis running out of money. In fact, Biden is going there to see if he can buy more oil, not less.

Rule: Not only are there too many commercials, but then when they return to live golf, they show so few shots, it’s embarrassing and frustrating.  I’m not sure a paid service is the answer, but front loading the commercials and then showing more golf when they can, both of those would help the broadcast.

Quinn: For years have recorded every sporting event to fast-forward past commercials — even the Stanley Cup Final — so didn’t even notice that ROLEX had paid for the last hour. A few years back, monitored a Saturday broadcast and it was an average of two swings and three putts between braces of four-to-five 15 and 30-second ads, so assume this was even worse. I’d pay for commercial-free Majors and The Players Championship, but nothing else. Still, it was so clever of RBC to have one (1) ad to repeat incessantly during the Canadian Open, ensuring no viewer from sea-to-sea-to sea was switching banks to RBC. But at least we weren’t subjected to that nonsensical DJ sees “an aggressive pin” ad that made no sense on any level. For that small mercy, thanks for going LIV DJ.

Mumford: Way too many commercials but if given the choice between them and those awful “playing through” segments, I’ll take the ads all day long. As for a paid commercial free service, not really interested. I’m pretty handy with the PVR.

The U.S. Open featured a number of intriguing sub-plots. We had journeymen pros bursting into the limelight, Phil Mickelson’s painful press conference, LIV Golf hovering around the edges of a major, the wonderful look and feel of The Country Club, which only yielded nine sub-par scores and seemed like a traditional U.S. Open venue and the history of Francis Ouimet winning on the same course in 1913. What was your favourite?

Deeks: All of the above.  I thought it was a great four days all-round.  And the ‘goff course’ looked spectacular.  But the best story, for me, was the complete lack of mention of the LIV Tour, mainly because none of their marquee players were a factor at any time, which would’ve generated discussion of their decision to bolt from the PGA Tour, which I’m not interested in hearing.  Let ‘em go, in my view, and don’t let ‘em back again.

Loughry: Although all of that was part of the week (multiple storylines) for me it was the venue that stood out most, and I think it did with the players as well. Top notch, and I really like the connection to Ouimet. It showed well on TV, and the leaderboard and finish. I think this guarantees the USGA takes it back to the Country Club.

Schurman: My take was what a wonderful event!!!!! A classic old course that stood her ground against the modern-day weaponry, storyline after storyline generated from the entire field and of course the inevitable thought-provoking presence of the LIV Tour. Everything about the tournament was fun! I did notice the increase in prize money to +$3m. I doubt the competition on the horizon had anything to do with that.

Rule: I loved the golf course, it showed so well.  The look of the bunkers and green settings was impressive and not what I remembered from the 1999 Ryder Cup.  It was a great venue for that tournament, keeping the winning score relatively close to par and challenging the best golfers in the world without embarrassing them.  That’s what stood out to me, it was the star of the week.

Quinn: Love the Country Club story with the racetrack and steeplechase course — a true club in the country, unlike all the faux CCs around now — and of course, Ouimet. My fave was the Fitzpatrick family staying at a local home when they’d checked out of their hotel thinking Matt was going to miss the cut at the Amateur. Keeping in touch with the Fulton family over the years, and then staying with them again this year is a wonderful golf story, like so many at THE CC, outside the ropes.

Mumford: The golf course gets my vote. Brilliant design, magnificent grooming and a thoughtful, well-planned strategy to test the best players in the world. Six under par is quite unusual on the PGA Tour these days where birdie-fests dominate, and bomb and gouge is the best option for rendering a course defenseless. At Brookline, par actually meant something and wasn’t easy to achieve. The course could not be overpowered either. Another learning experience for those setting limits on distance; and for tournament directors looking to make their events more challenging and entertaining. More like this one please.

The Round Table
The Round Table is a panel of golf writers, PGA members and industry experts.

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