A MA­JOR ANTI-CLI­MAX

The US Open has never been one of my favourite events, and the treat­ment of Dustin John­son at Oak­mont did lit­tle to change my mind

Golf Monthly - - Your View -

ike most golfers, I watched this year’s US Open at Oak­mont with a mix­ture of hor­ror and fas­ci­na­tion. The treat­ment Dustin John­son re­ceived from the United States Golf As­so­ci­a­tion re­ally was quite ex­tra­or­di­nary. If I had been in Dustin’s po­si­tion when the rules of­fi­cials ap­proached him on the 12th tee in the fi­nal round, I would have been reluctant to play on with­out know­ing ex­actly where I stood. Not only that, had I been one of the other con­tenders I would have felt ex­actly the same way. I would have wanted to know ex­actly what I was chasing and I would have made that point to the of­fi­cials.

With­out that knowl­edge, I don’t re­ally see how any­one can play prop­erly. Every­thing is af­fected: course man­age­ment, choice of shot, when to go for some­thing and when not. So for ev­ery­one in con­tention to lit­er­ally not know the score was, to put it mildly, more than a lit­tle bizarre. I know I’m not the only one who feels that way. Both Jor­dan Spi­eth and Rory McIl­roy have said they would not have played on.

What was just as strange about the whole thing was how the rul­ing was ac­tu­ally han­dled. If Dustin did cause the ball to move on the 5th green – a big if – then he should have been pe­nalised a shot for that in­frac­tion. Then he should have re­placed his ball in the orig­i­nal spot. But be­cause the ref­eree ad­judged – after con­sult­ing with Dustin – that he did not have to re­place the ball, he was ab­solved of any wrong­do­ing, even when the USGA of­fi­cials later de­cided that he had in­deed caused it to move.

Odd and some­times er­ro­neous rul­ings are noth­ing new though. Back in 2007 I was drawn with Tiger Woods and Justin Rose in the Open Cham­pi­onship at Carnoustie. On the 10th hole, Tiger was given a wrong rul­ing in­volv­ing tele­vi­sion ca­bles. So these sorts of things can hap­pen.

The sad­dest as­pect of all that went on at Oak­mont was that we were all talk­ing about a ref­er­ee­ing de­ci­sion rather than the bril­liant golf Dustin played. Since then, he has also won the WGC-Bridge­stone In­vi­ta­tional at Fire­stone. He re­ally is a great ath­lete. I hear he can dunk a bas­ket­ball from a stand­ing start (which is not some­thing I’ve ever tried, but it sounds im­pres­sive!). I’ve played with him a few times and have al­ways been im­pressed by how well and how far he hits the ball. He is one big unit.

Hav­ing said all that, I have to ad­mit Amer­ica’s na­tional cham­pi­onship has never been one of my favourite events.

LA few weeks ago some­one asked my cad­die, Davie Kenny, if I was go­ing to play in the US Open qual­i­fy­ing. Davie just laughed. “You’re jok­ing,” he replied. “He wouldn’t play in it when he was ex­empt. Why would he go to the qual­i­fy­ing?” I have to hold my hands up at this point. My at­ti­tude to the US Open has al­ways been a bit dis­re­spect­ful. It is a Ma­jor Cham­pi­onship. It is the US Open. And I should have played ev­ery time I was ex­empt. But it was never a week that I en­joyed. I ac­tu­ally hate the way the USGA sets up cour­ses. Not be­cause I drive the ball all over the place – I don’t – but I have a real prob­lem with the amount of long grass it typ­i­cally al­lows to grow around the greens.

I just don’t un­der­stand the think­ing be­hind that sort of thing. Long grass close to putting sur­faces does noth­ing but elim­i­nate skill. Guys who strug­gle with chip­ping are helped by that. It lev­els the play­ing field be­cause ev­ery­one – no mat­ter how good or bad they are at chip­ping – is re­duced to ‘hit­ting and hop­ing’. It’s only when the grass is shaved close that you al­low those with real abil­ity to shine. From a ‘tight’ lie you have to use the bounce of the club to make proper con­tact. And that’s when you see who can chip and who can’t. But out of thick grass any­one can open up the club­face, hold on tight and give the ball a whack. Don’t get me wrong, I have no prob­lem with graded rough next to the fair­ways. The USGA can make the pun­ish­ment from the tee as pe­nal as it likes, even if some­times it goes too far. My mind goes back to Beth­page Black in 2002. Many play­ers couldn’t reach some of the fair­ways. The only safe place to hit was on the walk­way through the rough.

Still, if you are more than ten yards off the fair­way you should be pun­ished. That’s fine as far as I am con­cerned. But only a few yards from the short grass, there should be op­por­tu­ni­ties for the best play­ers to show off their tal­ents. Judg­ing the dis­tance from a less-than-per­fect lie is a great skill not given to many. I love to see guys shap­ing shots and cre­at­ing shots. The risky and ex­cit­ing re­cov­ery is one of the best and most in­ter­est­ing things in the game. It’s so much fun to watch. But not at the US Open. Which is a shame.

“The sad­dest as­pect of all that went on at Oak­mont was that we were all talk­ing about a ref­er­ee­ing de­ci­sion rather than the bril­liant golf Dustin played”

The Car­di­nal range is a new golf ap­parel and ac­ces­sories brand worn and en­dorsed by Paul Lawrie. Look out for more in­for­ma­tion about the col­lec­tion at www. car­di­nal­golf.co.uk

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.