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Sam Kestin

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There was an earlier thread about course difficulty that made me think to pose this question to the group:


Where and how do we draw the line on U.S. Open championship setup that distinguishes a proper test of golf from a "mickey mouse" disgrace to the game?


Seems that most people agree that Shinnecock (2004) was over that line. I can say from having worked on-site and inside the ropes for NBC that week that what went on (at the seventh and tenth holes in particular) was definitely over the line.


However, to be fair, the winning score that week was (-4) while setups widely consider to be more "fair" (e.g. Winged Foot in 06, Oakmont in 07) produced winning totals (+5) significantly higher than what we saw at Shinnecock.


How can we define what the difference was between them?

JLahrman

  • Karma: +0/-0
I don't think posting -4 vs. +5 or 276 vs. 285 tells us anything about whether the course was fair or not. They were the same par (71) but Oakmont and Winged Foot were, on the card at least, almost 300 yards longer than Shinnecock. That's probably the biggest factor in the scoring discrepancy.

If you're of the mind that what we saw at Shinnecock was problematic, I thought the 10th was more problematic than 7. It seemed that no matter what kind of shot the player hit in there - good, bad, low, high - the ball wound up over the green. We can always argue what 'fair' means, but when there seems to be no way for a well-played shot to get an appreciably better result than a poorly-struck shot, then I think we're pushing the limit. Maybe it's not a fair vs. unfair question, but while golf is full of odd bounces and breaks, it seems that a well-played shot should have a good chance to get a better result than a lesser shot. I don't recall seeing that on the 10th at Shinnecock on Sunday.

Phil McDade

  • Karma: +0/-0
Sam:


I've long been of the view that the U.S. Open -- alone among competitions these players face annually -- ought to be borderline unfair. It ought to peer over the edge of un-fairness, and the careless or thoughtless golfer will plunge over.


Under Davis, recent set-ups (and course selections -- you'll see this a lot at Erin Hills next year as we've seen at Torrey Pines and a few others) have emphasized stretches of tough holes combined with birdie opportunities -- a distinct departure from the Meeks approach of defending par at all costs. I've generally not been a fan of the Davis approach, and he and the USGA -- combined with weather -- really butchered the 2011 championship at Congressional.


Winning scores can be a bit deceptive -- Pebble Beach 2000 was brutal for everyone, save for one guy at the absolute peak of his game (and maybe the best performance the game has ever seen). Same with Kaymer at Pinehurst two years ago -- the course held up well, he just got incredibly hot that week. But the 2006 Open was great theater down the stretch, and a very tough course produced both exceptional (Ogilvy) and poor (Monty) play down the stretch.


Shinnecock 2004 and, before that, Pebble Beach 1992 (Kite's only major) are the test cases for this -- both were extremely dry and windy and perhaps "unfair" in some cases, but in the end guys who managed to get around on the final day at or near par won the tournament. That's a proper U.S. Open in my eyes.

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
I don't think in terms of fair or unfair because golf is as fair as it is going to be.  My approach is more looking at the setup and how it agrees with and enhances the design.  Whenever a midwest or eastern parkland is involved the setup almost invariably does not enhance the design.  It seems as though the only way to break this mould is to keep introducing public courses with some cache into the mix.  For instance, the last US Open had its setup of f&f enhance the wide fairways, huge greens and gravity golf. Some people thought the concept was OTT, but I disagree....the course screams max f&f.

Ciao
« Last Edit: June 07, 2016, 03:09:37 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2023: Cardigan, St David's City, Panmure, Kinghorn, Harrogate, Hinckley, Robin Hood, Sandiway & Ladybank

Mike Bowen

It seems greens that are too firm and fast are more quickly to be deemed unfair than brutal rough.  I don't like watching second shots being played half way to the green because they can't get the club on the ball.  Sign me up for unfair greens if we must defend the golf courses honour.

Peter Pallotta

For me, Mike Davis makes the US Open as much about Mike Davis as Tom Meeks used to make it about Tom Meeks. Davis is a little more subtle about it, but like Meeks before him he seems to believe that HIS "set up" is somehow more important and interesting than the COURSE'S "architecture" -- and it doesn't seem to matter to him how classic or historic (or new and custom built) a course is, he will treat them all the same, ie as mere backdrops for his ideas and canvases for his set-up.

I heard Trevino say that he would never have beaten Nicklaus at Merion if it hadn't rained hard the night before their play-off. The greens had been set up so hard and dried out that he could not have held them with his low ball flight. The rain softened them enough so he could compete with Nicklaus' high ball flight, and the absurdly thick and high rough evened the score even more, since Lee stayed out of it more than Jack did. Trevino was a deserving champion, but the course he describes is not so much "Merion" as "Anywhere USA" --the same set-up driven anywhere that Meeks and now Davis specialize in and seem to wear as badges of honour.
« Last Edit: June 06, 2016, 07:35:49 PM by Peter Pallotta »

Sean_A

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Pietro

How the heck did Trevino tie Jack after 72 holes if he couldn't compete on firm greens with thick rough?  Maybe some hyperbole on Trevino's part...wouldn't be the first time  ;)   These two guys blew the field away so poor old, pu-upon Lee Buck had to be doing something right. The guy was in the zone as the next three weeks indicated...one of the best stretches of golfing supremecy on history. 


I am not sure why you think stretching the yardage of some holes to the forward extreme is such a bad plan for US Opens, but then I value variety above all else in architecture. 


Ciao
New plays planned for 2023: Cardigan, St David's City, Panmure, Kinghorn, Harrogate, Hinckley, Robin Hood, Sandiway & Ladybank

cary lichtenstein

  • Karma: +0/-0
I remember about 30 years ago, I was playing a Husband and Wife event at a course I had never played before. I putted for about 10 minutes before teeing off and on the first green, I had a 20 foot putt for birdie and a 40 footer coming back. It totally unnerved me.


I remember playing Pinehurst #2 with my wife, a 9 handicapper. She has a downhill putt from the back of the green on the very first hole and a 50 yard pitch and run coming back. She did the same thing again on the very same hole.


I believe her brain left her body that day and has been missing ever since.
Live Jupiter, Fl, was  4 handicap, played top 100 US, top 75 World. Great memories, no longer play, 4 back surgeries. I don't miss a lot of things about golf, life is simpler with out it. I miss my 60 degree wedge shots, don't miss nasty weather, icing, back spasms. Last course I played was Augusta

Michael Felton

  • Karma: +0/-0
I think a course holding a major championship (especially the US Open) can and should be very difficult. I have no problem with narrow fairways or heavy rough. The players who can hit those narrow fairways and/or advance the ball out of the heavy rough should have a significant advantage over those players who cannot. I have no problem with greens that are firm and fast, so long as there is a way of getting the ball to stop on them. Even if you have to hit the ball onto a 50 square foot patch to get the ball close to the hole, I'm fine with that. When they put the pin front right on 16 at Augusta, you basically have to hit it 5 feet from the hole or you have a devil of a putt from down the bottom, and god help you if you miss it right.


I don't really remember what happened on 10 at Shinnecock, but I do remember what happened on 7. That was unplayable and there was no shot that could get it close (even on the green before they started watering it). It sounds like 10 didn't differentiate between good shots and bad shots either. That's mickey mouse to my mind.

Terry Lavin

  • Karma: +0/-0
If protecting par is a central tenet in the course setup calculus, you're likely to make some decisions (hole locations, green watering, green rolling) that can push the play into the unfair and punitive realms. The host club members surely like seeing pros suffer on the ground that has long plagued them, but it gets tiresome as a viewer to watch such goofy results as we have seen at some US Opens. The USGA has indicated that they have decreased the emphasis on defending par, but that's not always easy to discern.
Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.  H.L. Mencken

Phil McDade

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I don't really remember what happened on 10 at Shinnecock, but I do remember what happened on 7. That was unplayable and there was no shot that could get it close (even on the green before they started watering it). It sounds like 10 didn't differentiate between good shots and bad shots either. That's mickey mouse to my mind.


Shinnecock 2004 is always the straw man that gets held up as an example of poor set-up decisions by the USGA, and I've always thought it's a bit of an unfair rap. Andy North the night before said the course was right on the edge of being unplayable, with any kind of substantial wind, and for some in the final round, it probably was -- very good players blew up on the final day with some big numbers (Els with an 80, notably). But Goosen had something like 10 one-putts in the final round, and went par-birdie-par-par down the stretch to win it -- hardly a course that's been described as over-the-top difficult and one where the USGA let the greens get away from them.


(A lot of people focus on the Mickelson three-putt on 17, but as he is wont to do, he hit a poor shot under pressure from the tee on 17, leaving himself a bunker shot where it was next to impossible to keep the second shot below the hole. He had a really dicey, downhill putt for par, and jacked it 5 feet past -- not an unreasonable outcome on those greens with that tee shot. He simply rushed the bogey putt and mis-read it, which Mickelson has done a lot in his career.)


A brutally tough course -- sure. But it wasn't Winged Foot 1974, or TCC in 1963.

Sam Kestin

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I generally agree with the sentiment from some that Shinnecock was a case of a couple of holes painting the entire course with a broad brush.


Seven and ten in particular were a joke--at seven, players were hitting tee shots with sufficient height/shape (high and fading) that were landing within 2-3 feet of where you'd want to land the ball on that redan green and either bounding over the back (from where 5 was almost a lock) or rolling back off the front of the green. Very few excellent shots were rewarded and a number of pretty quality shots were somewhat arbitrarily and severely punished. Additionally, you had guys putting the ball off the green and all kinds of other silly things that undermined the ethos of what a championship test (in my view) ought to be.


Ten was crazy too, maybe even more so because of the fact that most of these guys were flipping wedges in there. To a front-left hole location I must have watched maybe 6-8 guys land well-struck wedges a pace or two onto the green and watch in horror as the ball bounded over the back. The poor souls who came up any shorter than that had the unpleasant experience of watching the ball come back some 30-50 yards and (in many cases) nearly back to their feet. Anyone who landed the ball deeper than that was assured of missing the green. I am actually somewhat amazed anyone hit the green the day. I'm not sure I saw a single guy do it.


When you see things like that--I think it's hard to fairly judge the other sixteen holes. I didn't see any of the same hanky-panky from the seventh and tenth at any of the other holes.

Phil McDade

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Sam -- I tend to agree, although it should be noted Goosen parred the 7th; perhaps he was one of those who was the beneficiary of one of those arbitrary bounces that went the right way for him, as opposed to the wrong way for much of the field.


But -- arbitrary and severely punished outcomes have always been part of the game, dating back to The Old Course and its particularly deep and penal bunkers that are often found in the middle of ideal landing zones (see -- much of the back nine there, notably 12, 14, and 16). I'd rather take 10 U.S. Opens at a 2004 Shinnecock than a single U.S. Open at a 2011 Congressional.
« Last Edit: June 07, 2016, 09:30:30 AM by Phil McDade »

Jim Hoak

  • Karma: +1/-0
I'm not exactly sure how this thought relates here, but there are certain players who have performed exceptionally well or exceptionally poorly in US Opens--out of character with the rest of their records.  Andy North, winner of two US Opens being a prime example.  I know this is a generalization, but the winners of Masters seem to be in line with their other performance more than US Opens.  Is that related to the fairness/joke of the courses?  It seems at times that the winner has a randomness about it.  I do think that Mike Davis has improved the situation.

Tom Birkert

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Wasn't the prudent play on the 7th in the final round to hit it into the left hand side bunker, leaving a relatively simple splash shot straight up the hill, and a par putt?

I can't remember, but I think one player did that deliberately (and made par).

Sort of similar to Billy Caspar at Winged Foot on the 3rd when he laid up - and made par - in every round.

Sometimes the best shot is not at the green.

Phil McDade

  • Karma: +0/-0
I'm not exactly sure how this thought relates here, but there are certain players who have performed exceptionally well or exceptionally poorly in US Opens--out of character with the rest of their records.  Andy North, winner of two US Opens being a prime example.  I know this is a generalization, but the winners of Masters seem to be in line with their other performance more than US Opens.  Is that related to the fairness/joke of the courses?  It seems at times that the winner has a randomness about it.  I do think that Mike Davis has improved the situation.


Jim -- I think the U.S. Open has had a bit more history of random-ness to winners than Augusta, but I don't think it has much to do with course design (although Augusta National is tailor-made for Nicklaus' game -- no wonder he won 6 times there). Rather, the qualification process for each championship differs considerably, with Augusta's tightly focused on big names and returning champions, and the U.S. Open having true "open-ness" to its qualifying (PGA Tour winners in the months leading up to the championship have not qualified).


Each championship has had its share of fluke-ish winners: Lucas Glover and Steve Jones (and also going back to Orville Moody and Jack Fleck) aren't all that much more "random" as winners than Danny Willett, Trevor Immelman, Larry Mize and Charles Coody.


I would also add this: I once had a theory that particularly strong players -- big guys, or guys with a ton of power in their arms and legs -- did well at the U.S. Open because they could "muscle" their way around the course. Nicklaus, Palmer, Trevino (not tall, but really powerful legs and big forearms), Els --all have had very good U.S. Open records. So did North -- who is not a small guy. Hale Irwin was a college football player. Even a big strong guy like Jim Thorpe had several very good U.S. Opens where he contended.

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