OMAHA, Neb. – Golf fans at the U.S. Senior Open experienced a flash flood of birdies. Kenny Perry, the winner, had nine birdies all by himself in a final-round 63.
It was a celebration of superlative golf and it was fun to watch.
So I ask for your opinion: birdies or bogeys?
During the past month, I traveled to both the U.S. Open and U.S. Senior Open. These two U.S. Golf Association national championships might as well be held on separate planets, because one is nothing like the other.
Justin Rose’s winning score at the U.S. Open was 1-over par for 72 holes. Perry’s winning score at the U.S. Senior Open was 13-under par. I believe this difference of 14 strokes is meaningful and should be discussed.
Birdies or bogeys? I am betting most golfers would rather see birdies rather than train wrecks. However, I have received several emails supporting the severe course setups of the U.S. Open.
Let’s take a closer look at this year’s championships. The U.S. Open was staged at Merion Golf Club outside Philadelphia. The U.S. Senior Open was held at Omaha (Neb.) Country Club. Both played to a par of 70. Furthermore, 13 golfers at each event finished among the top 10 and ties. This provides a reasonably fair and accurate yardstick.
At the U.S. Open, the top 13 players posted just 13 rounds in the 60s. Rose, the winner, had just one. In fact, the only golfer in the championship with two scores in the 60s was Hunter Mahan, who shot consecutive 69s in the second and third rounds. Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano tied for 10th without shooting a single round in the 60s.
At the U.S. Senior Open, the top 13 players recorded 28 rounds in the 60s. Six different golfers had three rounds in the 60s. Overall there were two 63s, two 64s and four 65s. Perry, the champion, finished 64-63 on the weekend.
After the final round of the U.S. Open, I was emotionally worn out. It was difficult watching dozens of players execute a Sunday stumble. It was excruciating to see Phil Mickelson come unraveled down the stretch.
On the other hand, it was invigorating to witness Kenny Perry come from 10 strokes back after 36 holes to eventually win by five. For the week, Perry had 22 birdies and one eagle. On the front nine of the final round, he totaled just 10 putts and made six birdies.
This assault on par at the U.S. Senior Open was fun to watch. The more majors I attend, the more I favor birdies over bogeys. Yes, I want to see every player employ a golf-course strategy. But I also want to see aggressive golf. I want to see someone win with spectacular shotmaking, not lose because the unruly rough ate his golf ball for lunch.
Demons at any U.S. Open often include heavy rough and questionable hole locations. Progressive rough at the U.S. Open is perhaps the biggest contribution made by USGA executive director Mike Davis, but there was no progressive rough at Merion. The message was frightening: Hit the fairway or die.
I would like to see the USGA become more consistent with these two majors. Ease up on the U.S. Open ordeal. Bring back the birdie from the edge of extinction.
At the 1974 U.S. Open (often called “The Massacre at Winged Foot”) it was attorney Sandy Tatum, later to become USGA president, who laid down the law.
“We’re not trying to embarrass the best players in the game — we’re trying to identify them,” Tatum famously said as Hale Irwin was winning the championship with a score of 287, 7-over par.
I feel it’s time to change the law. I vote for more birdies.
Let me know what you think. I will gather your opinions and summarize the results.