Monday, June 20, 2011

U.S. Open

A few thoughts on the U.S. Open

1)  A big part of the appeal of the U.S. Open is the chance to see a great golf course.  The best sites make you want desperately to play the course and imbed certain holes or features in your memory.  A course like Pebble Beach has a big advantage, but you don't need to hug an ocean to have memorable holes. 

While Congressional seems to be a decent course and the 18th, with the water on the left and huge clubhouse on the hill in the foreground, is a really nice hole, it is not an especially memorable site for the Open.  It's not to the level of say Oakmont (the church pew bunkers, the 9th green), next year's site Olympic, or Merion which is coming up.

2)  There was a lot of criticism that the course was too easy.  As I posted before I think the USGA, when it tries to protect par, generally ruins the tournament.  They didn't do that this year.  Throw McIlroy out and the winning score is -8 which is just right, especially when the par is 71.

We also got to see one aspect of the criticism rebutted on Sunday.  Andy North and Curtis Strange complained about the tees being moved up on the long par 5 ninth on Saturday, which turned it into a birdie hole as players could reach the green in two.  So on Sunday they had the tees back and the hole was completely non-descript.  Unlike on Saturday, there was no decision to make, no penalty for driving the ball in the rough, the players drove, hit a shortish lay up shot regardless of whether they were in the fairway or not, and then tried to get close with a wedge.

3)  The difference for McIlroy was his putting.  His Master's collapse didn't start on the 10th it started much earlier when he bogied the first, and came about not because he started driving the ball in the direction of the surrounding houses but because he was missing key, par saving putts.  Putting was also his downfall in the PGA last year, when he had numerous opportunities but couldn't get his birdie attempts to fall.

4)  The thing you notice about McIlroy's swing is how square he has the club at the top.  It always seems to be pointing straight down his target line.  I don't believe in playing golf by trying to get into a number of different positions through the swing, but at the top is the exception.  Set it square at that point like McIlroy does and you just have to let it go to hit it straight.

5)  Let's wait and see before we start proclaiming him the next Tiger.  Again I think it will come down to putting, where Tiger didn't miss anything of importance for over a decade.  McIlroy looked much, much better with the blade this week, but it's just one week.  And because of the recency of Tiger's wins, the standard has been distorted.  Take Jack and Tiger out of it and you realize that 4 - 6 majors puts you in the game's elite.

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