Tuesday, June 19, 2007

I like it rough


Last weekend, SOJPs Matt Larkin hit Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, home of steel, delightfully mediocre chicks, the amazing PNC Park and the “Pittsburgh salad” steak, cheese and fries atop a lettuce leaf. Healthy. Oh yeah, he also got tickets to a golf tourney in the area.

I hate Excuse Kid. You know, the one whos suddenly injured if things arent going his way at soccer baseball. He rolls an ankle, tweaks a knee or jams a finger and turns on the waterworks.

At 23, I thought Id escaped Excuse Kid forever. I thought Id never see him again until I fertilized an egg with my sperm.

At the 107th U.S. Open, however, I ran into Excuse Kid. Hed hit puberty, sprouted a sloppy rack and legally changed his name to Phil Mickelson.

It was almost as if the voluptuous Mickelson took one look at Oakmont the bone-dry, rugged, merciless track hosting this years Open and known to many as Oakmonster and packed it in. He showed up for the tourney wearing a fruity wrist brace and complained non-stop about the dangerous conditions en route to missing the cut.

Phil, Im sorry you still have a chicken bone from last years championship lodged in your throat. But “The U.S. Opens rough is too tough doesnt fly as an excuse. Thats like whining to McDonalds because your McFlurry is too cold.

The U.S. Open, perhaps more than any other golf tournament, is famous for its rough and generally vicious conditions.

I had the pleasure of walking Oakmont Saturday and Sunday and it didn’t disappoint. The greens were like marble. Balls wouldn’t stay on the fairway even if you placed them there by hand. The rough looked like regular rough, but when you put a hand, foot or club in it you realized it was thicker and more stubborn than your girlfriends dad the day he met you.

Most amazing was Oakmonts ability to turn the worlds best golfers into mortals. It was astounding seeing the likes of Jim Furyk hit shots I’ve hit thousands of times, like that chunker from the greenside rough that only reaches the fringe and results in a restrained Fuck!

I was in heaven; I love that the majors punish mistakes, force competitors to think and make par a desirable score.

Tits Mickelson obviously disagrees. He thinks the majors have taken course difficulty too far and hes definitely not alone. Other golfers and plenty of spectators are fed up.

I didnt come here to see guys hit shots I can hit at home every day, my uncle told me.

Looking at the trainwreck that was the Sunday leader board, I wondered if the detractors were right. Ten over par, a top-10 score? But then I remembered I was at the friggin U.S. Open, one of only four tournaments offering a completely unique experience.

I sat at the eighth hole Sunday for five hours and saw one birdie, courtesy of champion Angel Cabrera. One. You know what I thought to myself? Awesome.

Many people feel differently. They want birdies, eagles, aces, approaches hitting the stick, hole-outs from the bunker, and all the other razzle dazzle that lends well to the PGA’s These Guys are Good ad campaign. I understand their sentiment to an extent. These are the best golfers in the world and we pay top dollar to see them (well, to listen to them while staring at the back of people’s heads. Lets face it, golf is a bad spectator sport), so they should give us a show, right?

But you can see that show weekly at any regular PGA event. You can also see plenty of long putts and low scores on the Nationwide tour or at seniors' events, which are glorified dart-throwing contests. There are thousands of amazing ball strikers in the world who can make you cream yourself with ridiculously low scores. Hell, just play a round with the pro at your local course.

United States Open participants put on a show too. Its not as sexy, but its just as impressive. Its a treat to watch a world-class golfer looking genuinely dumbfounded while eyeballing an approach shot that simply wont let him attack the pin; to watch him blast a shot from an evil rough that prevents him from spinning the ball; and to watch him read a double-breaking putt knowing an inch too far one way could send his ball 40 feet off the green.

The aforementioned conditions are what make a major a major. The big four tourneys aren’t prestigious because theyre played on pretty courses; theyre prestigious because you have to play so damn well to win them.

Angel Cabrera truly earned his victory. He braved brutal course conditions, stayed super aggressive and hit clutch approach shots, all while chain smoking and shamelessly plugging Ping.

Here was a true U.S. Open champ, grinding out one of two red figures on Sunday. Much more exciting, if you ask me, than seeing Hale Irwin putt his way to -29 at the Depends Invitational.

It doesnt matter if Oakmont was overkill this year. Every golfer played the same course and had the same opportunity to win.

Complain about the Open if you must. But be sure to call the Tour de France too and demand flatter terrain for the poor bikers.

-- M.L.


malcolm said...

Couldn't agree more -- it cheapens the sport watching birdy after birdy. The supposedly impressive shots are no longer anything special since they look so easy with everybody pulling them off.

The best part about the US Open is how sheerly amazing it is seeing somebody come up with a great shot (like Cabrera's stick next to the pin out of the secondary cut for that tap-in birdy) when the rest of the field's made it clear it's near impossible.

It's like watching somebody score a beautiful goal against Martin Brodeur, whereas many other tournaments are like watching that same goal against David Aebischer -- it's way cooler watching it when you realize how hard it is.

With that said, it seems like they're making things difficult for all the wrong reasons, getting into a "let's see how tough we can make the course" mentality just for the novelty of it. That worries me.

Anonymous said...

Excellent article.....great to see a writer write what he truly wants to say versus write what he thinks will get his point across but keep him out of trouble!!

I agree...it was awesome to see such great golfers shit there pants. As for the average golfer it was entertaining to see these pros go thru what most amatures go thru every time they take a shot!!

Anonymous said...

you were TOTALLY Excuse Kid Larkin, haha. so THAT's where the soccer baseball hatred has fostered from...


Denomme said...

Holy shit.

You guys are really digging into Phil 'Tits' Mickelson this week.

What's next? Mayb you coudl say something about his wife being a whore or maybe you'd like to "eat his children" ?

malcolm said...

hahah Hayes I love it

"No, really guys, I can't play Marco Polo anymore... I have chlorine in my eyes."