The 113th U.S. Open concluded Sunday with a thud, as the final two groups which included names like Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker, and Charl Schwartzel all chocked away their opportunity, leaving Justin Rose, the most unlikely of suspects, victor of this year’s championship. This is not to say the historically underachieving Rose didn’t earn the right to be a U.S. Open Champion, because he was certainly clutch enough down the stretch to overcome some of the murderous conditions the USGA had set up for the final round at Merion.
Still Rose simply wasn’t an anticipated or as captivating of a storyline when compared to others in the field. His place atop the leaderboard at the conclusion of play on Sunday felt more like an awkward surprise than a moment of celebration for fans of the game. I congratulate Rose for enduring, but I’m sure most of us will remember the 2013 Open for the individuals, specifically Phil Mickelson, who fell short accomplishing one of the greatest feats in golf.
Of course U.S. Open week is full of other storylines of interest and here are a few lingering impressions:
Kudos to the USGA and Merion
The entire build up to the U.S. Open had golfer writers and analysts prognosticating about how easy Merion Golf Club would play. That the tournament would be a low scoring affair and records would be broken. Amazing how these so called experts failed to do even the slightest bit of homework or use their brains to realize the likelihood of the players getting over on the USGA and Merion was about as likely as Rush Limbaugh supporting President Obama (click here to read our preview).
The USGA set up the course to be a challenge worthy of a U.S. Open, which meant four days of torturous pin placements, visually challenging tee positions, thick rough, along with a few ridiculous holes like the Par 3, 266 yard 3rd Hole on Sunday where more than a few golfers were forced to hit driver off the tee. The pin placements themselves were so devilishly conceived that it often seemed as if a deflector shield was protecting the cups consistently skirting away wishful thinking putts of even the best professionals. As Mark Twain would have said…the tournament was another “good walk spoiled” and that’s how, at least this American, prefers the U.S. Open to be.
Hypocrisy of the USGA
After lauding the United State’s Golf Association for bringing out Merion’s most demanding aspects, I must turn to the hypocrisy of their “While We’re Young” advertising campaign showcased during the tournament. The campaign, which focuses on speeding up the pace of the game, features players like Tiger Woods being heckled by kids for taking his sweet time reading a mini-golf putt and the great Arnold Palmer calling out Clint Eastwood for slow play as seen here:
Since every golfer has experienced the torture of a 5-6 hour round of golf, the campaign is a commendable attempt to address the issue of slow play on public and private courses.
My contention with the campaign lies with the USGA allowing 5+ hours of play in their own tournament. Professionals are routinely allowed extra time in shot selection, especially around the greens and when putting. Although groups are from time to time placed on the “on the clock” or penalized for slow play, it’s usually done because they’ve fallen behind what is already a slowly paced round.
Yes, the U.S. Open is the most difficult test in golf and it could be argued that players need more time to “think through” their shots. However, professionals have the luxuries of a caddy’s services, playing in groups of no more than three golfers, volunteers who find their errant shots, and rules officials who provide guidance. These luxuries should speed up the pace of play, making anything near a 5 hour round of golf impossible.
The bottomline is no matter what the USGA says via their “While We’re Young” campaign, the average golfer continually receives visual confirmation via the U.S. Open and regular PGA Tour events that taking extra time off the tee, in the fairway/rough, and on the green are an essential components of being and/or becoming a better golfer. After all if the greatest professional golfers labor ad nauseum over a demanding shot or putt shouldn’t the common folk have the right to do the same…even it’s for a double bogey??
One would think that America’s championship of golf would demand excellence in television coverage. Sadly the USGA’s chooses to remain silent every time ESPN peddles out Chris Berman to murder coverage of the first and second rounds. As the every eloquent Joseph Nardone recently discussed in his recent article about Berman ineptness via the NFL Draft, the Swami’s presence in the booth to cover golf only reaffirms the fact that some unbelievably ignorant people at ESPN feel Berman’s presence and his shtick translates to good or at least entertaining television.
Nothing could be farther from the truth, as Berman’s performance this past week only confirmed what we already knew: that he is just as big of a hack in the booth as he is on the course.
The aging ESPN veteran’s comical analysis, preschool level questions about the game of golf and strategy, stuttering babbling descriptions of what the viewer is witnessing with their own eyes, and out of place Three Stooges like sounds he is prone to making, created an cacophony of sounds that are about as appealing as Dennis Rodman in a wedding dress.
Seriously, after countless hours of torture on Thursday and Friday, how many of you were relieved to hear Johnny Miller’s egotistical voice when NBC’s coverage began?
Because he can neither inform nor entertain Berman’s presence in the booth takes away from the drama unfolding on the course. It’s an embarrassment to the USGA and an insult those viewers who enjoy the game of golf.
Unfortunately since ESPN is more about entertaining than providing enlightened sporting coverage, Berman’s place is most likely secure because there are some who believe his shtick hasn’t grown old. It’s the reason they plop him into coverage of the NFL Draft, even though there are plenty of more qualified and engaging analysts/commentaries available. But just in case there’s an Four Letter executive trolling the Internet for a viable alternative to Berman allow me to make the following recommendation:
Hire two moderately informed overweight sports enthusiasts from the greater Chicago area. Place them in the booth along with all the beer and wings they can eat, and allow them to opine on the action. Because at least a “Super Fan” would be entertaining.
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