Larry Canning: Don’t sacrifice the US Open to the distance gods

By Larry Canning

THIS week the USGA will be offering up the world’s best players as human sacrifices at yet another entertaining yet brutal US Open golf course … Or will they?

In past Opens I’ve seen players being bundled up on stretchers with an IV line hanging off their arms injecting “Liquid self-confidence” and caddies being trundled off in wheel chairs frothing at the mouth while jibbering “I told him it was fast, I told him, I did!”   

But last year Brooks Keopka flat out man-handled the 7,800 yard monster that is Erin Hills proving the new US Open venues can be overpowered by brute force and equipment created by people wearing white coats, large glasses and comb overs who were poached from NASA for their ability to send a round object hurtling through space at roughly the speed of light.

So do we like watching the longest players in the world playing the longest courses in the world with the longest golf equipment in the world? “NO! … I SAY”

When the biggest issue in professional golf is how far these brutes can smash their spheres and how it’s turning great layouts into mini golf courses, why does the USGA seem to think the best way to combat this is by lengthening holes and widening fairways?

Erin Hills fairways were 50 yards wide in places and when you combine that with five par fours over 500 yards it creates the perfect formula for one of the biggest hitters in the world to shoot to 16 under!

2018 US Open venue Shinnecock Hills

This 2018 venue is one of the oldest and most admired golf courses in America which in the recent past has kept the best at bay with even par and 4 under taking the title in 1995 and 2001. This year however, it appears the USGA bosses have again addressed the “ball going too far” issue with a big dose of the same.

“This will be the widest US Open we’ve played here at Shinnecock Hills, we’ve lengthened the course by nearly 500 yards and made the greens bigger too,” I heard one official say.

The players are saying if the wind doesn’t blow there will be some very low scores this year.

I took a gander at the past 10 years of US Opens and low and be-bloody-hold the three shortest courses played from 2008 until now, have seen the three highest winning scores. Yes readers, I kid you not, – In 2010 Pebble Beach measured 7,040 yards and Graeme McDowell won with even par. 2012 saw Webb Simpson take the chocies on the 7,170 yard Olympic Club in San Francisco with 1 over and in 2013 Englishman Justin Rose made a simply smashing victory speech after he shot 1 over on the 6996 yard Merion Course.

The urethane golf ball crushers can still win on these courses if they keep the head cover on the “Chief” and their feet on the ground as they swing but these layouts also give the normal humans a sniff as well. To quote former USGA icon Sandy Tatum when defending the way a former US Open course was set up –  

“We’re not trying to humiliate the best players in the world. We’re simply trying to identify them.”

Are the best players in the world always the longest drivers as well? … No I don’t think so. But keep creating golf courses that suit one specific type of player and they will dominate the world rankings. I remember watching in awe how beautifully Curtis Strange manoeuvred and plotted his way around The Country Club and Oak Hill for consecutive wins in the late eighties. In one of those victories he held off perhaps the biggest hitter on the planet at the time in Jumbo Ozaki. I was lucky enough to play with Strange in the Palm Meadows Classic once and it was flat-out brilliant watching him striking the ball with control I had never seen the likes of.    

Curtis must have walked at least 1000 yards less than me that round given how he could hit his ball at the perfect flight, height and distance needed to take it from point A to B without adding a an inch to its journey…. although he did add some extra steps by helping me find my ball for a lot of that day.

Bottom line readers … Either the USGA is completely missing the point or … god forbid … I’m missing something!

Let’s get back to identifying the best players in the world, not the longest. And in the process, have some fun watching a few of the famous names being stretchered off for the weekend.

I do like the odd human sacrifice.



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