by Jeff Skinner
The saying goes that the U.S. Open doesn’t want to embarrass the greatest golfers in the world but rather identify them. And to do that the USGA usually sets up an extremely difficult course and they are proud of that. It’s right there on the top of their website, “Golf’s Toughest Test.”
This week we are already hearing grumblings from many of the players about the difficulty of a few of the holes at the Olympic Club. Bubba Watson has said he’ll play a bomb and gouge game, like that’s new for him. He complains that even with a shaped shot into the narrow fairways the ball will eventually take the slope and end up in the rough.
Phil Mickelson stopped short of calling the 670 yard par 5 sixteenth hole “unfair” but he said that hole will cause all kinds of problems. “”It’s definitely the hardest — arguably the worst,” he said. Playing it from the back tee eliminates any strategy he said. “I would never say it’s an unfair hole, I just don’t think it’s a good hole.” “It’s a case where longer is not better.”
Steve Stricker called the 16th a “par 6” and that’s about as damning a comment as Stricker would ever utter.
And then there is also plenty of whining about the areas surrounding the 13th and 17th greens. A shot to the left of the par three 13th could see the ball roll off the green, down the closely mown bank and into the hazard. At the par 5 17th a short approach can roll down that closely mown area again and put a player in the way of the 18th tee box and create a bit of a traffic jam.
With all that said, the USGA, or more specifically, Mike Davis has had a great track record recently. Davis is the Golden Boy of the USGA. He went from the setup man for the Open to the Executive Director but wouldn’t take that promotion if it meant giving up the Open setup responsibility. To the USGA’s credit they kept the right man in the right spot. Davis has made very positive changes at the Open with graduated rough and drivable par fours being just a few. There may be some griping about the Olympic setup but Davis and his team won’t be afraid to make some changes if some things get too treacherous.
One thing is for sure the Open is a better, more interesting tournament with Davis at the helm. It is no longer a setup with every tee all the way back and knee high rough everywhere. It is as advertised, “Golf’s Toughest Test” and with Davis running the show each day will be better than the last.