Steve Deane spent four days watching the world’s best golfers hack the ball all over the place. And absolutely loved it.
If horse racing is the sport of kings, golf is the pastime of their illegitimate children.
The game is largely populated by spoiled brats. That much was evident after the blood bath that ensued on the third day of the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills – and the pitiful whining that accompanied it.
For the uninitiated, the U.S. Open is the golfing equivalent of Hell Week – the period of intense training that makes or breaks U.S. Navy Seals. Golfers are made to stay awake for five days, starved and made to run 200 miles carrying their own bags.
Sorry, that’s the Seals. The golfers don’t carry their own bags, but are made to navigate long rough and slick greens, risking grass rash and high blood pressure in the process. So it’s kinda similar. At least you’d think so, given the level of pissing and moaning dribbling off Shinnecock’s fairways over the past week.
After signing off his third round with a triple bogey seven on the last, Spaniard Rafa Cabrera-Bello succinctly summed up the feelings of the players when he took to twitter to lambast the USGA for making the players “look like fools”.
Painful finish with a 7 at the last that ruins a pretty decent day. Regardless, it was not a fair test of golf. Greens were unplayable, with unnecessary pin positions. @USGA found a way to make us look like fools on the course.A pity they manage to destroy a beautiful golf course
— Rafa Cabrera Bello (@RCabreraBello) June 16, 2018
Golfing purists – and most of Rafa’s fellow professionals – seemed to agree.
Apparently the Blue Bloods of the @USGA do. I refuse to watch it because I know what the outcome will be. Mike Davis and his crew could ruin Christmas. #amateurhacks #giveusourgameback https://t.co/n3GgOJl02C
— William McGirt (@WilliamMcGirt) June 16, 2018
Is that an apology ?
Just grow a set of balls and say we £€¥#ed it up again…
You don’t get mulligan’s in business at this level. how can this team keep doing this without consequences. https://t.co/INvUmT6M6P
— Ian Poulter (@IanJamesPoulter) June 17, 2018
Typically, of course, making themselves look stupid is the exclusive domain of the players, so it’s no wonder the likes of Poulter (picture below) were incensed.
This column would generally agree with the sentiment about setting up great athletes to fail. No one wants to watch bad sport. Unless, of course, it’s golf.
Its ability to generate pleasure equally through watching it played brilliantly or appallingly is what makes golf unique.
There’s not a hacker on the planet who wouldn’t have derived a dark pleasure watching Phil Mickelson stalk up to his ball while it was still moving after a missed putt and swat it back towards the hole in a fit of barely contained rage.
Mickelson’s antics shocked the purists, many of whom called for his immediate disqualification (he instead copped a more severe punishment – being forced to play on and trundle home in a tie for 48th at 16 over par). But it was a tremendous delight for those of us for whom golf is something endured twice a decade during a can-a-hole championship at a stag do.
What makes all this whingeing just a little ironic is that, having been dragged kicking and screaming to the door of athletic legitimacy by Tiger Woods, golf has fully entered the era of the ‘athlete golfer’. This breed of golfer is easily identifiable as he doesn’t look like John Daly or Craig ‘The Walrus’ Stadler or Colin ‘Mrs Doubtfire’ Montgomery – or possess a personality.
He looks like Golds Gym poster boy and now two-time U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka (and generally has a name like Brooks, Brandel, Dustin or Buddy).
Koepka, as viewers were helpfully reminded by Fox USA’s commentary team, is a jock (that’s yank speak for ‘an athletic male’, as opposed to Scottish).
Being a jock, as Curtis Strange, the man who was soon to be replaced as the last back-to-back champ at the U.S. Open observed, meant Koepka could hit the ball a mile while never, ever being afflicted by nerves or self-doubt.
Koepka, Strange opined, was a “linebacker” -a defensive position in American football that prizes physical aggressiveness above deep thought. It’s hard, then, to know quite where Strange was going with an observation that came just as Koepka eyed up a simple approach into 18 with a two-stroke lead and almost certain victory in his grasp.
Somewhat brilliantly, Strange’s missive also came just moments before Koepka produced a glorious flat pull-hook into the grandstand that any Sunday slasher would have been ashamed of. Oddly enough, it was also exactly the sort of shot one would expect a linebacker to play if they somehow found themselves with a two-shot lead going down the final fairway of the U.S. Open.
A favourable ricochet off the grandstand helped Koepka survive to win by a stroke, and he immediately had the good grace to thank the USGA for their efforts in running an event whose higher purpose seemed to be to provide a platform for drunk Americans to shout unintelligibly at a global television audience.
Bring back “get in the hole” and “you the man” already.
Unlike the collective ravings that greeted every shot, Koepka was a lone voice when it came to expressing appreciation for the USGA.
You know things are bad when the silk-tonsilled Kiwi comments man Frank Nobillo is almost laying into you.
“It’s been a bit of a tough week for USGA,” Nobillo noted in the post-match wrap up that enhanced his reputation as the man you’d want leading negotiations should you ever be taken hostage.
But was it a tough week? The U.S. Open is supposed to be the most difficult golf tournament on the planet. As we golfing nuts know, in a perfect world it will be won by a four-round score of even par.
Last year, Koepka claimed his first U.S. Open at Erin Hills in Wisconsin with a four-round total of 16-under-par – the equal lowest score in the history of an event that was first held in 1895.
This year the same player won the tournament with a score of +1.
Yes, Phil Mickelson lost his shit and had to write an imperfect ‘10’ on his scorecard and Rickie Fowler shot an 85 and some spoiled kid called Rafa felt humiliated. But Englishman Tommy Fleetwood shot a final round seven-under, suggesting good play was far from impossible. And the best player won. Again.
Sadly for golf, the chain-smoking, port-bellied people’s champions are long gone, replaced by a cadre of supremely talented athlete golfers and a supporting cast of arch-whingers.
Long may they be set up to fail at least once a year. It’s the only week this column will be watching them. It always has been.