"What does 'US' stand for in US Open? Unrelenting Slog?"

The US Open is a sadistic grindfest at best - Chambers Bay could be worse

Paul Mahoney
Fri, 12 Jun 2015
"What does 'US' stand for in US Open? Unrelenting Slog?"

What does the "US" stand for in US Open? Unrelenting Slog? Uninspired Spectators? Unapologetically Sadistic? Universal Sociopaths?

The US Open has issues. It’s the angry mixed up kid at the back of the classroom who isn’t happy until everyone else is miserable. The US Open’s USP - Unique Selling Point, or Undermining Sport’s Promise, is that it’s the toughest test of the year.

There’s nothing wrong with a challenge and making the world’s finest golfers fight for the trophy and the dollars. But some years ago in the bowels of the headquarters of the United States Golf Association, the Blazers left the memo in the boardroom that sport is part of the entertainment business and, as such, it is supposed to be fun.

The USGA Blazers continually bang on that their championship is designed to identify the best golfer and that par is so sacrosanct it is to be protected as if it were the bones of St John the Baptist.

Well, the US Open only identifies the last man standing and par is just a number. 

Spectators don’t come to marvel at par. No crowd ever, besides at the Ryder Cup, whooped and hollered for a par putt.

People come to see their heroes hit hero shots and hole birdies and eagles. Sports fans come to be entertained. Seeing their heroes slogging along par fives longer than some stages of the Tour de France, or hacking out of rough deep enough to host "I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here", has limited appeal.

“Win the crowd and you win your freedom,” Oliver Reed tells Russell Crowe’s Maximus in Gladiator.

The USGA has lost its crowd. They don’t deserve to sell thousands of tickets. It’s a tribute to golf fans’ love of their sport that they swarm through the gates of a US Open each year.

But they must return home wondering why they bother. If the US Open was held at the same venue each year like the Masters at Augusta, no one would turn up for a second helping.

Running is banned at the Masters. Fun is banned at the US Open. Many of the players would rather make an appointment for root canal surgery than play.

No one was ever inspired to take up the game by watching the US Open. It’s always the Masters and the Open Championship.

The sad thing is, rather than re-inventing their show, the USGA Blazers prefer to take all the whinging and gnashing of teeth as a compliment.

US Open 2015: 'No study, no chance at Chambers Bay'

“It would not be a US Open if we didn’t get some chirping,” said Mike Davis, the USGA’s Marquis de Sade in charge of setting up the course and the body's execution, sorry, executive director.

“We accept that. In fact, we joke internally sometimes that if nobody’s complaining, we have done something wrong.”

So that’s terrifically funny, then.

“Chambers Bay will see some long rounds, owing to the walk,” he said. As if golf isn’t slow enough already.

So what of the sandy course on the shores of the Puget Sound in Washington State in the Pacific Northwest?

The public course that looks like a links but with plush green American fairways only opened in 2007. Its humps and hollows and slopes are already infamous. Teeing areas on some holes might be slightly tilted. You read that correctly. Players should be able to find a flat spot but possibly not on the side of the tee they would prefer.

“So that’s interesting,” Davis said. No it isn’t, it’s silly. Might as well go the whole hog and have the players putt through the clown’s mouth and around the windmill.

“There is no way a player would have success at Chambers Bay unless he really studies the course and learns it,” Davis said.

“The idea of coming in and playing two practice rounds and having your caddie just walk it and using your yardage book, that person’s done. Will not win the US Open.”

Tiger Woods: US Open at Chambers Bay could be 'brutal'

So that’s pretty much everyone, then. So, this year, there will be no US Open champion. That’ll inspire a generation – to stay indoors and slay aliens on their computers.

“With the way the tour is, no one is going to go out there and play 10 practice rounds,” said Rory McIlroy.

Ian Poulter tweeted (obviously) that he’d heard reports from players that Chambers Bay is a “complete farce”.

Ryan Palmer said after his visit: “Put a quarter in the machine and go for a ride.”

But the US Open will be like a Wurlitzer ride in reverse: The more the players scream, the slower they’ll go.

The USGA has even warned that the course is hazardous to walk because of the elevation drops on the sand dunes. Great, it can change its name to the USGA&E.

When Chambers Bay hosted the 2010 US Amateur Championship, the scoring average was 79.25 in the two-strokeplay rounds. Masters champion and new poster boy of American golf, Jordan Spieth, shot 83.

“The only thing I’ve ever seen of it is a lot of guys three-putting and four-putting,” Tiger Woods said. “Eventually NBC didn’t show a lot of putts, they just showed a lot of the tap-ins. Guys were putting balls off the greens.”

Tiger Woods: what the experts are saying

Tiger shot 85 at the Memorial Tournament recently - his worse ever score as a professional. The 14-time major champion might struggle to break 100 at Chambers Bay and never be seen again.

That would be something for the USGA to be proud of. They could have a jolly good laugh about it internally. 

Paul Mahoney was voted Specialist Writer of the Year, British Sports Journalism Awards

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