By: Pro From Dover
A week ago, with our white sport coat and a pink carnation, we were all dressed up for the prom. And our date pulled a no show.
After twelve months of eager anticipation this is what we got? A disjointed, stop and start and stop and start, very unsatisfying swampfest. Even the players didn’t know the day and what round they were playing. The president of the USGA couldn’t even come up with the winner’s name at the trophy presentation. It was Lucas Glover. Wasn’t he the guy in “The Rifleman?”
Peculiar, the whole thing was.
We endure an endless winter because, we say with not a little arrogance, June in the Northeast is the best possible time of the year. Not this time around, Slick.
The normal sequence of tee times for tournaments is the groups with the early times on Thursday have the later times on Friday. This is usually a good thing for the early groups on Thursday because summer weather tends to be placid in the mornings and if it deteriorates with high winds or showers those generally come later in the day.
So the morning guys have a good chance of playing a calm course for their first round and getting off to a good start. They also don’t have to deal with divots, pitch marks and other bits of wear and tear. If things get nasty the next afternoon, well, they now know the course, have a score posted already and can adjust.
Not last week! The difference between the players who had the AM/PM times and those with the PM/AM times on the first two days was 100 strokes! So, Tiger and the bunch who went off Thursday AM were victimized by the luck of the draw and had very little chance to recover.
The pre-tournament chatter was the USGA had eased the course set up this time around so perhaps scores might be lower than seven years ago. Tiger won it in 2002 with three under par. Four under won it this year. However, that was with these guys playing a soft, malleable track. Distance doesn’t mean anything to the top players. Set the course at 7500 yards? No problem for most of them.
But if the fairways are cut short and are dried out. If the greens are as hard as your boss’ heart and roll at 12+ on the stimpmeter, then things get interesting. Such was not the case.
With the gully washer rains last week, sweeping hook drives landed and stayed in the fairways. The players were able to hit long irons and fairway metals into the greens and stop them. They had downhill putts they could actually stroke without fear of the ball rolling off the greens. Heck, were it not for the deep fescue grass, Bethpage (or was it Wetpage?) would have been humiliated.
Stranger still: David Duval.
Duval, once number one in the world in both golf and surliness, played very well and was gracious. After years with his game appearing on the sides of milk cartons, Duval is back and saying that although disappointed at not winning, he was very happy to have played well and to have finished second. He uttered the “F word” as in he was having FUN. Next he’ll be bursting into “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” on the first tee.
Temporarily confounding was the decision by the USGA to start the fourth round late on Sunday knowing full well the last players off would complete perhaps one or two holes. But an astute observer noted that with the leader board topped by championship challenged tour players, the probability of a playoff was high. So, the USGA wanted to make certain they had time on Monday to finish the final round AND an 18 hole playoff.
One thing did run true to form: Phil Mickelson.
Golf fans tend to be either Phil or Tiger fans. However, once it seemed likely Tiger was cooked many of his fans began rooting for Phil in part because of the difficult situation his wife faces with cancer. Ah, but once again, he couldn’t close the deal.
He got it to four under with an eagle on 13 and then bogied 15 and 17. If Lucas Glover stood on the tee at 17 needing two pars to win the United States Golf Association Open Championship, what are the odds? Watching that drama might have salvaged the experience. But we’ll never know.
Twelve months to go to Pebble Beach. We hope our date shows up.