Koepka…Wins? Shinnecock Unfair?

Brooks Koepka Wins the U.S. Open Again, but What a Course

Well, there we have it. The U.S. open, all those great golfers, and not a single one of them could manage four days under par, not even the winner, Brooke Koepka. The USGA actually apologized for the Shinnecock course after the third round. People started doing goofy things, like striking at their own moving ball…Phil, you know who you are. Considering Ian Poulter’s penchant for harsh, he was at least a little on the mark this time. De Chambeau called it “clown golf.” The newspaper said that it was humiliating. No lead was safe. Any 1 or 2 under could turn into +4 just like that. In Tiger’s case, the soaring score was far worse than that. This may not be the week, course, or weather by which to judge whether he’s back or not. At any rate, as this very severe week of golf unfolded, I found myself having distinctly different reactions.

The first one was not friendly – “Aha! Now you know now we munis feel when we set out for an 84, an come in with a 96. There’s not even any money involved, just pure humiliation. At least you guys are playing for big money. After all, winners aren’t chosen by how satisfied they are with their rounds. They are chosen by beating everybody else, regardless of whether they’re under par or not. Who cares? You’re being snowflakes…humiliated, indeed.” Part of my calmer self is going to stick with that. You don’t need your ego stroked by going minus 16 in four days all the time. Nobody else cares about that. We can see what this course was…it was hard! No one thinks any less of you. The winner gets the same respect from us than he would going minus 16 somewhere else. Koepka absolutely slew the dragon by staying even while everyone else appeared to play like I do.  Springing to my mind are memories of my brother describing what would happen to my game on a real championship course, but oh well, it was just a little metaphor. Bottom line, though…Koepka is cool…be like Koepka.

There is one important distinction between a hard course and an unfair course. On this one, I’m sort of on the players’ side. I’m all for a course that requires great shot-making, but one that punishes good or great shots needs to be tweaked. I’m not talking about pin placement. You’re on your own on that one. However daring you want to be in edging it in there instead of lagging up is up to the player and his thirst for victory. But with the other stuff, I have a little experience. There’s a course in Eugene, Oregon, one of my favorites…so beautiful. But, I have put a ball from a steep gully two feet from the pin, watched it stop dead, then roll 120 yards back to the bottom of the hill. That stinks. The lay of that green should have rewarded my shot by giving me the two-foot putt. Still, Koepka, playing incredibly steady golf with some real winners along the way, made a lot of his own luck, not getting as many of those clown breaks as other people did.
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As for you Phil, I know exactly what that feels like. As a muni playing for nothing but pride, I have chased down a moving ball and either stopped it or kicked it back the other way, but mostly when I was very young and unable to restrain the urge. I did it because I was sick of putting from the center of a stone-hard green into the nearest bunker time after time. It’s something that we deal with as a reflex. We want to bring it back and try again, but actually acting on the urge is a little like when we say “Wait a minute – did I say that out loud?”

Outside of the good shot penalized, I get a perverse pleasure to see you guys experience real life. They put a major on a course so hard that you needed to excel to even look decent. I love it. For me personally, I don’t think I’d mind finishing at +10 and win. People won’t say “look at what the course did to that poor stiff.” They’ll put two and two together and realize that I beat everyone else on the course. I certainly hope that’s how Brooks Koepka feels as a champion of two-years running. See you all next week, and in the meantime, c’mon Phil, get your self together.



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