Who’s kicking himself most after the U.S. Open?

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.

Jon Rahm birdied the final two holes at Torrey Pines to claim the U.S. Open and his first major. Prior to that he was in a logjam that at various points of the final round included as many as ten players within a shot or two of the lead. That group included first round leaders Louis Oosthuizen, Russell Henley and Mackenzie Hughes and tournament favourites Rory McIlroy, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Xander Schauffele, Matthew Wolf, Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa. All of them found ways to self-destruct on the back nine Sunday. Which one of them is kicking himself most at blowing a chance to win the U.S. Open?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Surely the most frustrated and angry at himself would be DeChambeau, who had the lead then completely self-destructed.  Then perhaps Rory who missed so many makeable putts and made so many bad chips.  Oosthuizen would be crestfallen, especially after bad drives on 17 and 18, but shooting even par on the final day of the US Open is hardly shameful.  I think we can all feel sorry for Hughes, who hung in there pretty well until the ball-in-the-tree adventure.  But credit must be given to Jon Rahm, the only guy who stepped up and seized the moment, with two of the great pressure putts ever made.

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): I would have to say Oosty is the most disappointed. The swing on 17 cost him the whole tournament. Up until that point he had played with a lot of poise and patience, virtually no mistakes that cost him big. He almost got away with it too, had a reasonable putt at par, but then again, that would have been a reasonable birdie putt instead without pulling it left into the Penalty Area. Too bad, I was cheering for Oosty. But make no mistake Rahm-bo played great all day, tied for low round of the day is I’m not mistaken at 67 (4 undy). That was impressive.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: Somewhere around the beginning of the back nine on Sunday DeChambeau took the lead with at least 10 others within a shot. It looked a lot as though Bryson and Louis O were headed for a tussle.  I thought I was watching and paying close attention but suddenly I felt like Rip Van Winkle. In a blink of an eye, Harris English posted -3, Rory stood on the edge of the lead, Louis took the lead and Jon Rahm entered the picture. As much as I loved watching, the action seemed like a Daytona pile-up. They all self-destructed but Louis will kick himself forever. Players at that level hit thousands of balls working on a no-left shot or a no-right shot. With nothing on the right but the Mexican border he simply cannot go left. Rory has to wonder about his putting but that’s been going on all season.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours, @GolfAwayTJ): All of them?  I’m not sure there is one that stands out, other than perhaps Louis, who – for some reason – hit the ball left on 17, which cost him the tournament.  That was the best chance for anyone else to win the tournament.  But there will be plenty of guys disappointed with their final round of final 9 (BDC).  I think Hughes will be disappointed not necessarily about not winning, but not putting himself in a position over the closing 4 or 5 holes to win the tourney.  It would have been a better learning experience for him.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Still shocked that Oosty, classic Hogan-esque fader of the driver, snapped it into the canyon on the 71st hole. Have met him, talked at length, and have been impressed at what a genuinely nice guy he is. Watched with five guys who are avid golfers and big golf fans — who stood and cheered with Rahm’s putts on 17 and 18 — and all shouted: NOOOO when Oosty snapped it. The rest of the pretenders fell away, he was there until the end.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): For Louis, disappointment for sure, but he seems like the kind of player that doesn’t get too high or too low. He was there all day, but Rahm was better in the end and there’s no shame in that. For Koepka and DeChambeau, they’ll be definitely kicking themselves. Lots of missed putts and a few wayward shots. Both have super high expectations and didn’t perform as planned. That will leave a bitter taste. I can’t figure Rory out. He sounds like he has lofty expectations but doesn’t seem overly concerned when things don’t work out. It would be nice to see a bit more fire there.

Torrey Pines was a topic of much debate heading into the tournament. Many pundits criticized the work of Rees Jones and others said the course was just plain boring. In the end however, the result was a crowded leaderboard featuring most of the world’s top players and scoring was just about where the USGA likes it for the national championship. In your opinion, was Torrey Pines a good U.S. Open course?

Deeks: In my opinion, no, it was and has always been a boring course.  I read an article about the course last week that started “Let’s face it.  Torrey Pines sucks.”  And then proceeded to eviscerate it for having no sense of charm or greatness.  Surely there are better venues for the US Open.

Loughry: I thought Torrey held up well and was an excellent US Open fashioned test of golf. I’d say setup had as much to do with it than design, but in concert, it made for a good venue. I hope future US Open sites are held here and other publicly accessible golf courses (only one I see on the road map rotation is Pinehurst #2). It’s just good for the game to do so.

Schurman: The problem with Torrey Pines is on TV it looks bland. Arial views from the drone cameras helped to show just how hilly the course really is. The huge gulches are 300 feet deep, but viewers rarely saw them. The most demanding part of the entire course is long shots into greens perched on top of the cliffs with nothing in the background to help with depth perception. The set-up was terrific! Miss in the wrong place and par is difficult to come by. The finish is weak if par is required but exciting if a 3 or 4 is needed. However, given the distance players now drive the ball, #17 needs to be toughened up.

Rule: I agree that it’s boring and doesn’t excite me to watch the event.  The fact that it created a packed leaderboard is more down to the USGA setup, making even par a good score, rather than the venue itself.  I prefer watching the events at more traditional venues like Winged Foot and Oakmont.

Quinn: Still, the TV drama story aside, was not really comfortable with par 3s playing 125-yards one day and 200-yards the next. Nor did a 600-yard par 5 and a 500-yard par 4 sit well. The tricks — and ridiculously thick rough in spots, not all spots — rendered Torrey a muni masquerading as a site worthy of a national championship (you know, like Glen Abbey, Chambers Bay, etc.) Now, with new stewards the USGA will (hopefully) take the counsel of players like Rory and establish a US rota of genuine championship courses. The US has enough, and we’ve had enough of the wannabes.

Mumford: A lot of times when I watch the Tour, especially the majors, I think how much I’d like to play the course. Not so with Torrey Pines. Other than the 3rd and 4th holes along the ocean, the rest looks bland, boring and one-dimensional. Obviously, it played tough for the U.S. Open and generated a great leaderboard. However, they already play an annual event there. Surely, there are other courses to fit into the schedule that would be more inspiring.

In his pre-tournament press conference, Rory McIlroy, who is head of the Players Advisory Committee, acknowledged that the Committee had overwhelmingly voted to ban green reading books from play next year. This still needs to be ratified by the full membership. Is this a positive move?

Deeks: I’m admittedly not familiar with this issue.  But as a bit of a purist, I’d like to return tournament competition to a level where performance is based on personal ability to determine factors such as wind, turf conditions, and contour reading… not giving players a crib sheet to take into the hall and consult during the exam.   Having a caddie there to help read the contours is surely advantage enough.

Loughry: It will stop players from using them on course, but I’m not sure to what degree they were actually being used anyhow? Majority? I don’t think so. And there would be nothing stopping players/caddies from using them outside the ropes in preparation. I’m sure this will drive Bryson nuts, but if it helps speed up play, great, but I don’t see it being completely excluded from the game.

Schurman: Yes! In fact, they should ban all pre-recorded notes and material, remove the yardages from sprinkler heads and do away with range finders. If we continue to use these three aids the game will eventually feature robots who hit shots to exact distances and putt the same way.

Rule: Yes, anything to speed up play!  Bring back the artistry of green reading.

Quinn: Love it that one of the best players, with a bit of added clout from the Advisory spot, has made a statement. This is a good move, restoring the expertise of the caddie and the demands on the player to decipher the subtleties of the challenge at hand. If it passes, could be like the world’s best facing the daily puzzles of the world’s worst.

Mumford: They can ban the greens books, but players already have that info. What’s to stop them from transferring it to their yardage books or drawing it on their arm? I say ban all notes, books and cheat sheets except for scorecards and pin sheets. Let them figure it out on the fly. It’s a skill and should be part of the game.

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

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