US Open

JUNE 18 2015


They are putting on the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay in Washington and the British Open has broken out.

Courtesy of Fox Sports (which is entering the world of golf broadcasting; but that's a whole other story), we are going to see windswept images of fifty shades of beige at the heaving links course, the setting for the second major of 2015.



Links golf is true golf. Having played it in Scotland and in Ireland, I'm a huge fan. It demands imagination, execution, humility, vision and patience.

It just shouldn't be the stage for the U.S. Open.

This is not a criticism of Chambers Bay. It seems to embody the values of links golf.

Rideau View member Brad Fritsch, who is playing in his second U.S. Open, has walked the stark course over the last couple of days.

"The word I use is fascinating because it fascinates me to play this golf course," he told TSN 1200 after a practice round on Wednesday. "Seriously. You can hit a good shot and be 100 feet from the hole trying to hit up a four-foot slope and then down to the pin. Or you can kind of a hit a thin, bad shot and it can ride the slope all the way to hole and you can have a tap in birdie.

"It's wild and it's nothing like I've ever played before in competition so it should be fun."

It just shouldn't be the course hosting the U.S. Open.

Also: "Fun" and "U.S. Open" should not be in the same sentence.

Ever.

I am of a certain age and the thing I always appreciated about the majors was they each had their own clearly defined character, place in the world and space on the calendar.

The Masters is always played at Augusta National, spectacularly green in the spring and proof to those of us in the Northern hemisphere that there is life after four months of minus-30 temperatures. The golf season around here starts with the back nine on Sunday at The Masters.

The U.S. Open was the sternest test in golf, played on ridiculously hard golf courses in a sauna in June where the players had grass stains on their knuckles and the fairways were so narrow they had to, as Lee Trevino used to say, walk single file.

As former USGA director Sandy Tatum said, they weren't trying to embarrass the best golfers in the world with the tough setups, they were trying to identify them.

The British Open was golf unlike we see here in North America, guys putting from 50 yards down the fairway and the wind so strong the rain was going up. While we got up on July mornings in our shorts, we turned on the TV to see guys wearing toques.

The PGA Championship was always the poor cousin at the backend of the season in August, but made a comeback when it started to go to different, interesting courses like Whistling Straits in Wisconsin on the shores of Lake Michigan, a course a lot like Chambers Bay.

That was okay for the PGA; it was seeking to differentiate itself from the other majors.

But now, for the second year in a row, the U.S. Open has no rough to speak of and fairways so wide even Tiger Woods can hit them.

I used to love to see the best players in the world grinding to hit fairways and greens and walk away feeling good about a par.

That's what made the U.S. Open the U.S. Open. They didn't call the 1974 Open "The Massacre at Winged Foot" for nothing.

The U.S. Open was played on a Murder's Row of courses like Winged Foot, Oakmont, Oakland Hills and Baltusrol, brutish tests that crushed the meek in tree-lined vices.

Chambers Bay has one tree. One. And it's not even in play.

About the only thing this U.S. Open might have in common with most of those that have gone before it is par might be a respectable number.

"A lot of people on Twitter are asking what score is going to win, what's the cut going to be? I see a lot of guys responding to that by saying, "I have no idea," said Fritsch.

"You can go out there and get off to a quick start and be a couple under through four of five holes, but there are so many tough holes out here. I think the standard even par is a pretty good round out here. It's not like the par-5s are easy or gettable. You have to hit two good shots to get close to the green. I think even par is a really good score. We'll see how that holds up, but that's my guess."

That's something, I guess.

I'll still watch this U.S. Open, of course.

It just won't be the same.

ARCHIVE

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