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BALL FIVE: U.S. Open course was just fine by me

While half of the golf world thought Saturday at the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Course in New York was a fiasco, there was another half thinking the conditions were just what they should be, the most difficult, mentally-challenging surroundings possible.
The best players in the world struggled. They struggled to golf well and they struggled to keep their composure. None other than Hall of Fame golfer Phil Mickelson had the biggest meltdown of his career when he chased down a still-rolling putt and hit it back toward the hold, incurring a two-stroke penalty. Ricky Fowler shot a 14-over-par 84. I’ve shot 84 and I am not good. After leading for two days, Dustin Johnson shot 77 and went from a four-stroke lead at 4-under to a tie with three others at 4-over.
There were two holes that were nearly unplayable. The 13th is where Mickelson had his faux pas. Playing the 15th was the hardest. Not a single player even made par in the afternoon when the winds picked up and dried the course out. Putts were rolling and rolling until they ended up back in the fairway.
Myself, I loved it. The U.S. Open is supposed to be hard. It is supposed to be the most difficult thing the PGA (and the best amateurs) do all year. The course has a job to do and that is to bring golfers to their knees. It is the one left on his feet who becomes champion.
This isn’t like the rest of year on the PGA Tour. Most every weekend, the players have the best conditions anywhere, anytime. They play in immaculate fairways and perfect greens. Large crowds become perfectly quiet when it’s time for one of them to hit a ball.
But then along comes America’s open championship and all hell breaks loose. It is the weekend where the players complain, cry, cuss and fall apart. It is the weekend they look a lot like the rest of the golf world. It’s the weekend where there are days like Saturday, when earning par on a hole is a huge win.
After Saturday was over, a lot of golfers and a bevy of golf announcers, scribes and analysts cried that the USGA had lost control of the course. They half-heartedly admitted that a couple of the greens were too hard and that they had not anticipated the high winds that dried things out so terribly. Those who complained are, I think, too close to the game. They want to see the players shoot low scores, so they can use their oohs and aahs and let complimentary adjectives to flow.
They want Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth and Jason Day to make the cut, so the final two days are filled with big names. They want the winner to sink a putt for birdie not too salvage par. They liked last year when Brooks Koekpa shot 16-under to win, not like this year when Koepka shot 1-over to win his second straight title.
Next year’s U.S. Open is at Pebble Beach. Let’s hope the sun is hot and the winds are strong. U.S. Opens need players to reach their breaking points. They need every U.S. Open to be a place where only the mentally strongest survive. Golf needs that one weekend a year, where golfers can sit at home, drinking a beer, watching the best golfers in the world find out it feels to be them.