Thursday, June 25, 2009
It was a U.S. Open that seemingly was never going to end, one that was devoid of any sort of rhythm. But when after five days, four suspensions in play, and success in learning how to spell squeegee, it was all over, there were plenty of leftover thoughts to stir about.
• Mulligans aren’t part of the golf scene when the U.S. Golf Association is involved, but had they been, one should have been issued to one of the group’s vice-presidents, Jim Hyler. As he discussed the persistent rain and soft conditions, he actually used the word “swamp” to describe the 18th hole. Bad form there, sir. Surely you could have been more diplomatic, especially given the incredible work so many volunteer superintendents did to keep the course playable.
• Bottom line: The 18th at Bethpage might have been one of the lamest finishing holes in major championship history. Out of necessity officials pushed the tee up and turned it into a 354-yarder – or should we say 354-yawner. It ranked as the third-easiest hole, one that was utterly defenseless. Fewer bogeys (six) were made at the 18th in Round 4 than any other par-4 and even more boring was this: The last five pairings came along and made 10 ho-hum pars.
• At the other end of the spectrum was the 459-yard, dogleg left, uphill 15th. Easily the toughest hole, it cut into Tiger Woods to the tune of 4 over, while only one player went under par on it for four rounds. I’ll give you 37 guesses and still have to give you the man: Francesco Molinari. That’s right, the unheralded Italian made three pars and a birdie.
• A trio of players made it through the 15th with four pars – Sean O’Hair, John Mallinger, and Andrew McLardy. But its difficulty is told in this number, 17. As in total birdies for the entire week, with no player making more than one.
• Trevor Murphy, the former ski racer from Vermont, got beat up the most at the 17th (6 over), but overall it was a great week for the former standout at UNC Charlotte. How good was it? He finished ahead of just one player, but still earned $20,630. He has needed 17 Gateway Tour tournaments out in Arizona to earn $25,410.
• Love the way the U.S.G.A. is setting up these Open courses. But the Singh-Singh and three-Frenchmen pairings? Contrived and silly.
• Although had Anders Hansen qualified, a pairing with Soren Hansen and Peter Hanson would have been demanded.
• Two down, two to go, and we can report that 29 players have made the cut in both majors. No surprise, but Tiger Woods (T-6 Masters, T-6 U.S. Open) and Phil Mickelson (fifth, T-2) have two top 10s, as does Hunter Mahan (T-10, T-6).
• Andres Romero, who remains one of my top five to watch, is one of those 29 players. But a bit disconcerting is this: In rounds three and four of the majors, the young Argentine has shot 77 three times and is a whopping 19 over.
• Speaking of majors, Stuart Appleby has now made 50 consecutive starts, dating back to 1997. Unfortunately, he’s missed the cut 19 times, eight coming in the U.S. Open.
• So far as “pure” streaks, Mickelson is tops with seven consecutive cuts made in the majors. Woods, who skipped both the British Open and PGA Championship a year ago, has made the cut in 10 straight if you consider only those in which he’s played.
• Anthony Kim quietly produced a solid U.S. Open, rounds of 71-71-71-70 providing his best finish (T-16) in a full-field tournament this season. Kim has also shown that he’s comfortable in these big-time championships, because he’s now made the cut in all seven of his major starts.
• Eight eagles were recorded at Bethpage Black, three of them on the par-4s.
• As he did at the Masters, Woods struggled in the U.S. Open with the putter. He’s needed at least 120 putts in each of his majors this year.
• The par-4 10th hole at Bethpage was improved greatly by U.S.G.A. officials, who reacted to player criticism from 2002. If you began your tournament at the 10th hole in 2002, it spelled trouble, but not this year. Players starting at the 10th Thursday morning went a combined 12 over with three birdies, but surprise, surprise, it was tougher at the first hole: 19 over with just one birdie.
• First it was reported that the Ryder Cup could wind up in Dubai. Now, some on this side of the pond are suggesting Bethpage Black. Talk about seeing their stupid and raising it with more stupid.