By Mike Stevens USGTF Teaching Professional, Tampa, Florida
Of the four majors, the U.S. Open was my second favorite, right behind the Open Championship. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. For most of its history, it was a tough but fair test, especially when played on an historically classic old course. However, the USGA’s obsession that under par is bad has led to ridiculous setups that don’t challenge the best players in the world; they just tend to make them look foolish. Instead of leaving the course as it was designed, the blue jackets swoop in and change the character of the course as it is played daily and as it has played for most of its history. All to preserve sacred par.
A lot of it has to do with how far the pros are hitting the ball these days. If they feel a course is too short, they then add new tee boxes to lengthen it. Barring that, they grow the rough to unplayable lengths. Take Merion, for example. They could only add 500 yards to get it up to 7,000; nothing for today’s fellows. Answer: Grow the rough to knee-high in many places and have the greens rolling around 13. Afterwards, they bragged how the old steed held up because the winning score was +1. This was far from the Merion that David Graham won on at -7 with much inferior equipment.
This year they return to Pebble Beach, where Phil Mickelson won in February with a score of 19 under par. If the winning U.S. Open score is high due to iffy weather that can roll in on the Monterey Peninsula, fine. But if it is due to tricked up pin placements and 12-inch rough, then on my scale of importance, you can move this major behind the Players, Ryder Cup and even the Tour Championship as far as I’m concerned.