Golf Australia - - CONTENTS -

IT is the morn­ing af­ter the day be­fore here on Long Is­land and I’m still think­ing about Phil Mick­el­son.

By now – and cer­tainly by the time you read these words – just about any­one on the planet with even the most ten­u­ous in­ter­est in golf will know what the game’s great­est-ever left-han­der got up to on the 13th green at Shin­necock Hills dur­ing the third round of the 118th US Open. Or should that be Shin­necock-up Hills?

While this col­umn is not go­ing to con­done Mick­el­son’s ac­tions – his bla­tant dis­re­gard for both the let­ter and spirit of the law was hugely dis­ap­point­ing, es­pe­cially in one so in­flu­en­tial – there is also a big­ger pic­ture here. Speak­ing as some­one who long ago lost pa­tience with the wide-rang­ing in­com­pe­tence of the United States Golf As­so­ci­a­tion (and their trans-At­lantic part­ners in buf­foon­ery, the R&A), I have some sym­pa­thy for ‘Lefty’s’ point of view.

At least what I think – and hope – is his point of view.

Where Mick­el­son re­ally lost me was not when he scooted nim­bly across that fate­ful green in pur­suit of his ac­cel­er­at­ing ball. It wasn’t when he smacked said ball back to­wards the cup ei­ther. It wasn’t when he sat in the scorer’s hut for al­most 25 min­utes af­ter com­plet­ing what turned out to be a round of 81. It wasn’t even when he al­lowed his play­ing part­ner, the ever-ami­able An­drew ‘Beef’ John­ston, to go ahead and ven­ture out into the large me­dia scrum.

No. I could have lived – just about any­way – with all of that if ‘Phil the Thrill’ had gone on to tell the truth about why he did what he did. It would have been easy to do. Eas­ier than dream­ing up the spu­ri­ous non­sense he did come up with. Claim­ing “no dis­re­spect” to the game or the cham­pi­onship was so ob­vi­ously disin­gen­u­ous it was never go­ing to be taken se­ri­ously by any­one whose brain had not been ad­dled by co­pi­ous amounts of al­co­hol (we’ll get to them in a bit).

What Phil should have said – and what is surely in his heart – was that he had sim­ply had enough.

Enough of the stu­pid­ity that is a sig­nif­i­cant part, way too of­ten, of Amer­ica’s na­tional “sham­pi­onship.”

Enough of the lu­di­crous green speeds. Enough of the ridicu­lous pin po­si­tions. Enough of com­pro­mis­ing the in­tegrity of the com­pe­ti­tion to the ex­tent we saw at Shin­necock. Only a few hours af­ter Daniel Berger and Tony Finau were able to shoot 66, the last seven groups were a col­lec­tive 93-over par.

Enough of strange lit­tle men and women in blue blaz­ers bas­tar­dis­ing the great­est game of all in their warped and per­verted at­tempts to cre­ate ever-more ex­treme play­ing con­di­tions where even-par is the win­ning score. They are the same peo­ple charged with con­trol­ling ad­vances in equip­ment tech­nol­ogy – and so the dis­tances lead­ing pro­fes­sion­als can hit the ball – over the past 20 years or so. It is a task in which they have failed spec­tac­u­larly. And that seem­ingly ter­mi­nal in­ad­e­quacy is the root cause – one leads to the other – of what we saw at Shin­necock in 2018. And at the same venue in 2004, when one green was so silly three-foot putts fin­ished up in bunkers. And at The Olympic Club in 1998, when the slope on the 18th green ren­dered the hole a farce. And at South­ern Hills in 2001, when the 18th green was the only putting sur­face not cut be­fore the fi­nal round. And at Bethpage Black in 2002, when play­ers were un­able to reach the 10th fair­way. The list is lengthy and ig­no­min­ious. And those were the things Phil – six times a run­ner-up in the US Open – should have cited in his post-round mea culpa. And, if he had found time on what was his 48th birth­day, he might also have got stuck into the drunken and abu­sive an­tics of those spec­ta­tors who deem it ac­cept­able to abuse play­ers not born neph­ews of Un­cle Sam – in par­tic­u­lar English­man Ian Poul­ter. Just one more thing the USGA rou­tinely ig­nores as they go about their priv­i­leged, blue-blooded, ro­man nu­meral-in­fested lives. “Out of touch” doesn’t be­gin to de­scribe them and their at­ti­tude. So this was, more than any­thing, an op­por­tu­nity missed. If mak­ing the same mis­take over and over again re­ally is the first symp­tom of mad­ness, the USGA is cer­ti­fi­ably in­sane. And Phil could have been the guy – al­beit by throw­ing him­self un­der the metaphor­i­cal bus – who be­gan the process. By ex­pos­ing the in­ep­ti­tude of the self-ap­pointed bufties, who do such a poor job run­ning one of the game’s four most im­por­tant events he could have done golfers the world over an enor­mous favour. Be­cause the time for revo­lu­tion is now.


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