Royal Melbourne retains a beautiful, hearty, natural look which, in the way of competition, plays very glassy. It takes eternal vigilance in greenkeeping to maintain such a gem as Royal Melbourne…I was familiar with the great Claude Crockford , the superintendent of the course in my era, who neatly summed it up for me one day when he said, "You in America try to grow grass. We try to keep it from growing here." He was light years ahead of most people in his field. BEN CRENSHAW
"If the USGA isn't fixated on par, why does it usually take one or two holes that members play as par-5s, and turn them into par-4s for the U.S. Open?"
David Fay, executive director of the USGA, recently spoke at a media day for the 2009 U.S. Women's Open, to be held at Saucon Valley in Bethlehem, Pa. If it seems like they're planning a little too far ahead on that one, it's because they are.
Afterward, I asked Fay a few questions about the U.S. Open. The first: Does the USGA strive to have the winner shoot close to even par?
"We're not fixated on par," Fay demanded. In fact, he seemed a little offended.
OK. How would the USGA react if there was a U.S. Open where the winner shot 20-under par, second place shot 18-under, and someone shooting 10-under finished 17th?
If Fay wasn't offended before, he was now. He paused, searching for words, before saying, "It would be an aberration."
The next question: If the USGA isn't fixated on par, why does it usually take one or two holes that members play as par-5s, and turn them into par-4s for the U.S. Open?
"That's nothing new," Fay said. "We've been doing that for years, since at least the 1950s."
That answered how long it has been done. It didn't answer why. But there would be no more questions, because Fay politely, and conveniently, excused himself.
Winner Angel Cabrera finished second in the field in driving distance and several long hitters were in the top 15.
The USGA contends that these guys attack the course with monster drives because they have U-grooves on their side to help with rough recovery shots.
I've long contended that it's the absurd narrowness of holes that eliminates strategic risk-reward golf.
Geoff Ogilvy contends that shorter, straight hitters like Fred Funk have lost their advantage because some of the fairways are so narrow that no one can reasonably keep a ball on them, so the long hitter gets to use shorter irons for approaches.
So I'm wondering what you think would have a greater impact on rewarding skill in the U.S. Open: V-grooved wedges and irons or fairways at 30 yards wide allowing for players to actually use sides of fairways and to actually demonstrate approach play skill?
(How's that for a leading question!)
All times Pacific because this is where the U.S. Open will be played 3 of the next 6 years, meaning they won't have to tee off at 3 to give Dateline a strong lead in audience...
10:06 - Here we go, skies are clear, the trophy is about to burn up in some steel mill and the over-under on reminders about Tiger never coming from behind to win a major is set at 4.
10:08 - Dan Hicks just called the 18th at Oakmont the 18th at Winged Foot. We knew what he was getting at.
10:09 - Oh, first Tiger has never come from behind to win a major mention. 1 down, 4 to go.
10:17 - Dan Hicks: "Vijay Singh is getting ready..." Vijay kisses unidentified woman not resembling his wife...dead silence.
10:27 - Think we could find some money in the USGA budget to clean up those 1973 U.S. Open films? I know, I know...we have presidential jet fuel to pay for.
10:35 - Fred Funk on No. 8 which is playing 300 yards today. "Hard to believe that this is where we have arrived." -Dan Hicks. Funk hits the green!
10:37 - Steve Elling files a Sportsline piece on the USGA's bold and potentially exciting final day setup.
10:43 - Where's Marty Hackel when you need him? Uh that mock Tiger's wearing looks like it was painted on him! And as usual, he pops out of the Buick in his spikes with the glove in the back pocket ready to go.
10:47 - The Bobby Weed design at Glen Mills that NBC is featuring is supposed to be really cool. Uh, why do I have the feeling this feature is leading to...uh there he is, President Driver faking a smile! He is so ecstatic about Glen Mills. We have a grants program for "local champions." Making the game more affordable and accessible. Walter looks down as he says that! Hmmm... And now we go to the graphic with future venues, Pinehurst, Happy Father's Day...he took his 20-month-old to the putting green. Grandson? Son? Wow, that was, thankfully we never have to do that again.
10:53 - Gary Koch makes it two mentions on Tiger never winning a major from behind! 2 down, 2 to go!
11:00 - Oh jeese Jimmy Roberts in shorts after a fun feature on Forrest Fezler wearing shorts in the Open. And you thought the pink sweater vest was bad.
11:06 - Did you know that Zach Johnson is just a midwestern guy from Cedar Rapids, Iowa?
11:23 - Johnny 63 feature: "I would love to see a great round" today. Uh...but not a 63!
11:38 - Tim Rosaforte works through his entire segment without looking at his security blank...his cards.
11:40 - Where's Marty Hackel when you need him, volume 2: Bubba's Shrek visor. Wow.
11:43 - Tiger's hitting practice bunker shots. Doesn't that contradict the whole being positive thing?
12:00 - Tiger is ripped. Tiger rips driver down the center despite Roger Maltbie's call that it's going to miss the fairway right.
12:04 - Johnny: Tiger's Sunday final round, final group scoring average: 69.5 And never shot over par.
12:07 - Wow, Badds triple bogey on 1, Johnny: "Even Tiger feels sorry for him." Well, let's not go too far there Johnny.
12:23 - Tiger carries it 307 and misses holing it by 5 feet! Ends up in the back bunker and now appears to have no shot. Badds lays up, hits a nice approach. Aren't short par-4's great?
12:33 - Cabrera joins Ames and Tiger at +4, Baddelay one back. Dumps 9 iron into front bunker on 6.
12:41 - Tiger from the center of No. 3 fairway hits it over and down the hill, same with Badds. Cabrera bogies 6, and the flags are starting to blow. Stricker lurking at +5 after birdies on 4 and 5. Wild.
12:49 - Johnny notes the proficiency of the Aussie's on bump and run's after Baddeley's brilliant recovery on 3. Tiger then hits a squirrelly skull, leaving a chip coming back for par that he fluffs. Double bogey. Ames and Stricker are your leaders.
1:00 - Dottie notes that the breeze has really started to pick up. The sun's still out at least...what are those colorful blips I see west of town on the radar?
1:15 - Tiger grimaces at fairway lie on 5, but miraculously carries the hazard in front of the green and grinds out a par. Meanwhile Cabrera birdies the 300-yard 8th to take the lead.
1:16 - Casey had to go backwards out of the bunker on 6 and Johnny's wondering why he didn't play it back more toward the tee. Yeah, play right to that knee high fescue maybe!
1:30 - Cabrera's bogey on 9 makes it a 5-way tie for the lead, at least for the moment: Tiger, Cabrera, Ames, Baddeley, Stricker. But not for long. Ames is making a mess of 7.
1:34 - Did you know that Zach Johnson is just a midwestern guy from Cedar Rapids, Iowa?
1:49 - Tiger makes par from the fairway bunker on 7, Badds makes double NOT taking an unplayable from an unplayable. Wow. Stricker is butchering 10. Tiger and Cabrera showdown?
1:57 - Cabrera at +4 after taking forever to hit his birdie putt on 11, Woods at +5, Furyk at +6, Stricker, Rose and Baddeley at +7.
2:00 - I swing like a girl ads are back! I think the old man and the kid are due next. By the way, did you know that Zach Johnson is just a...sorry.
2:07 - For those of you hoping to see Dateline at it's allotted time, try next week. Tiger and Badds are at 2:10 through the tee shot on 9.
2:15 - Cabrera hits it 397 on 12, Johnny says it may be the longest drive hit on the PGA Tour this year. Guess we need to tell Johnny about the PGA Tour's Longest Drive stat.
2:21 - Johnny notes that the last three groups are a combined 25 over par with Badds and Tiger making the turn at a lightning 2:20 pace! Graphic also says that there are 2 rounds under par today, 1 at even and 60 over par.
2:23 - Cabrera pars 12, stays 1 up on Tiger, three up on Furyk, four up on Bubba, Badds and Verplank.
2:26 - Cabrera sticks 8 iron on the 183-yard 13th about 12 feet away. Tiger close on 10. Looking like a two-man race.
2:32 - Dan Hicks reads plug for Lexus sponsored online post round wrapup. Johnny: "All these players were treated to a Lexus for the week. Really tough." No Johnny, tough is listening to you plug product you are paid to plug!
2:37 - Cabrera attempts to lay up with a lofted club on 14, hits it in a leftside fairway bunker. Tiger one ups him by hitting 115 yard approach on 11 into the greenside bunker. Furyk misses par putt on 12 to move to +8. No one wants to win!
2:43 - Tiger bogies 11, Cabrera has a two shot lead. Breaks out a cigarette after a good tee shot on 15.
2:52 - Cabrera stiffs it on 15! Hicks calls it a "kick in birdie." Rolfing notes how much spin he was able to get out of the intermediate rough. Overheard on USGA walkie talkies: can we ban u grooves retroactively?
2:56 - NBC300 cam captures Tiger's epic swing on 12 after his 393 yard drive. Furyk birdies 14 to move within 2...until Cabrera drains the birdie on 15!! He's three under on the day with three to go!
2:58 - Grandstand crowd gives Cabrera a standing ovation on 16 tee. Nice touch.
2:59 - Rosaforte gets Roberto DiVincenzo on the phone for some nice background on his countryman Cabrera.
3:02 - If you want to learn more about Angel Cabrera set to some really cheesy music, check out his web site. Knowledge of Spanish will help.
3:04 - Cabrera finally gets to tee off on 16, 8 minutes after stepping on the tee. Gets to see Furyk stiff it on 15. Rolfing and Johnny say go to the center of the green, but Koch says it's a tough two putt. He misses green short. Rolfing calls it a "monster" putt. Koch says it's a 90 footer, Johnny says he could putt it off the green.
3:09 - Hey, I just learned this. Did you know that Zach Johnson is just a midwestern guy from Cedar Rapids, Iowa?
3:10 - Split screen, Cabrera hits the monster putt about 10 feet, Furyk birdies 15!
3:12 - Tiger misses birdie putt on 13 and Johnny and Hicks say it's just gotten a lot tougher for him to do this. Uh, last I looked, he has more holes to play than Furyk and he's only 2 back after Cabrera's bogey on 16!?
3:14 - Current stroke average on 16: 3.519!
3:15 - Koch notes that Cabrera has made two bogies and a par on 17 as he lays up in the fairway on top.
3:20 - Several Oakmont members just called Tim Rosaforte to ask if Angel can be penalized two shots for throwing a burning cigarette into the rough.
3:21 - Tiger hits uninspired approach into 14. Furyk with the lengthy putt for birdie...almost pulls off a Larry Nelson as the NBC gang noted nicely with video.
3:23 - Cabrera flubs the chip on 17, as Tiger stands over the birdie putt on 14 two back, Furyk on 17 tee 1 back.
3:26 - "That's a nervous 5." Johnny Miller after Cabrera's bogey. Tiger drives it in the intermediate cut on 15. Furyk pulls out driver on 17, and goes left. Dottie notes that a cousin of Furyk's is a former club champion and they had talked about conservative lines of play before the tournament. Wow. Cabrera stripes it down 18! Wow!
3:31 - 18 is averaging 4.647!
3:32 - Bubba birdies 16, moves to +7, two back with two to play...
3:34 - Cabrera drives it 346 on 18, has 138 left and hits it about 20 feet past the hole. Furyk has horrible lie left of 17, advances it closer to the green but still in rough.
3:38 - Johnny says Furyk hands Cabrera a "huge gift" by trying to drive 17. Also notes bad break for Cabrera that Appleby is "making a mess" of 18 and taking forever.
3:39 - Split screen, Furyk misses his par putt to go to +6, Tiger makes his at 15 to stay +6. Both trail Cabrera by 1.
3:41 - Cabrera two putts! HD users get to see it in really jittery definition signal, just slightly jittery and lousy for us digital folks.
3:45 - The dreaded hole in one USGA ad makes its appearance, the horns as schmatzy as ever!
3:46 - Bubba gets in trouble in rough left of 17 green. A shame they didn't have more short grass around that green.
3:53 - Furyk eliminated, Tiger pars 16, stays 1 back. Should he drive 17???
3:57 - Jimmy Roberts essay. Uh, what's Tiger doing??? Standing on 17 tee. What club has he pulled. Ugh.
4:00 - Tiger pulls three wood on 17 tee. Puts it in the front right bunker.
4:03 - Dan Hicks mentions Tiger's never won a major coming from behind. Shoot, I lost count but that's at least the 5th mention by now!
4:04 - Cabrera declines NBC's interview request. Can you blame him?
4:10 - Tiger's bunker shot ends up in the intermediate cut, settles down. Now has a few feet for par. Meanwhile, Angel sticks his Ping cap in the camera. They make u-grooved irons don't they?
4:11 - Maltbie says its 5-6 feet for par for Tiger. He nails it.
4:14 - Is it just my cable or is your picture pretty lousy too?
4:17 - Somehow I don't picture the "millionaire's lifestyle" that The Villages is promoting includes rollerskating down a hill with other oldies, or watching a really bad version of Cabaret.
4:20 - Uh for those of you tuning in to watch Dateline, it's going to be another 20 minutes at least.
4:21 - Stevie says he doesn't have to worry about it flying. The lie looks awful. Sure wish we could see him his this shot without such a goofy lie. He hits a great shot. No spin. Damn v-grooves...oh wait, that's 2009!
4:25 - Did you catch Roger Maltbie sandwiched in between the photographers shaking his head? Ugly scrum out there right now!
4:28: Tiger's putt never had a chance. Angel wins! He's been on the cusp of so many...well this major!
4:30 - But hey, Tiger and Badds nailed, 4:30 on the button for a twosome. Good times!
4:31 - NBC notes Angel Cabrera joins the list making the U.S. Open his first PGA Tour win as well. And just think of the FedEx Cup points Angel!
4:35 - Tiger: "Angel played a beautiful round of golf." "Never really got a bunch of putts under the whole where I could take a wrap at them." "I only had one three putt."
4:38 - My NBC signal continues to be awful, fine on the other channels. Two more readers confirm the same thing.
4:40 - Could the club officials behind Cabrera and Driver look any more pissed?
4:44 - NBC signs off. Just 44 minutes long!
The USGA setup notes for the final round, where the early scoring seems to indicate that the players might be able to attack a few holes...
As we’ve done each afternoon after play, roughs have been mowed.
Firmness reading of the putting greens (drive zones and approaches too) were taken 3 times in the last 12 hours – last night, early this morning pre-watering and water this morning post-watering.
“Corrective” watering was done last night on all 18 greens. Water was applied approx 2 hours before play this morning on all greens, in order – 1-18. Certain greens were given a bit more water than other based on firmness readings. We believe (and desire) firmness will be similar to round 3. Hole 2: 307 yards (30 paces forward of tee sign to entice player to drive green; hole location front right). Hole 6: 188 yards. Hole 8: 300 yards. Hole 10: up teeing ground. Hole 12: back teeing ground. Hole 13: 180 yards. Hole 14: 313 yards (29 paces up from tee sign with front hole location; only round where realistically drivable). Hole 16: 244 yards (Larry Nelson hole location). Hole 17: 306 yards (very front of back teeing ground; hole location is accessible to drive green).
Doug Ferguson's AP game story captures Saturday's round and sets up Sunday's possibilities
Mark Lamport Stokes notes the green watering Saturday. According to Tim Rosaforte on Golf Channel's post game show, Sunday will not get the same treatment unless they determine in the morning that there is a need for some water. Sunday's forecast of humid weather and a chance of thunderstorms is also playing a part in that call.
Jeff Rude at Golfweek says, "Tiger Woods hit the ball better Saturday than he has at any time during his three-plus years working with Hank Haney." Note the interesting top position (left) captured by one of Golf Digest's photographers.
John Huggan likes Europe's chances of continuing to wonder when one of their players will win a major.
"If it is somebody who has been around a while, like Padraig Harrington or Lee or Monty, then I would say he'd stand to make an awful lot. Paul Casey would earn a lot, too, as would Luke Donald. But if it is someone less well known, one who had been slightly off the radar, then he wouldn't make as much in endorsements.
"The strange thing is that it doesn't make that much difference in America. It's everywhere else that would generate the increase in earning power. If you only play the PGA Tour, winning a major isn't going to boost your income a whole helluva lot. Let's say Justin Rose won the US Open this week. If he did, he'd play a lot less in America during his year as holder. He'd be daft not to."
Chris Lewis captures some of the scariest Golf Channel images of the day on his blog where he also notes the similarities between Tiger today and Hoylake Tiger. Oh and can we get John Feinstein a Sharpee for autographing those books instead of some cheapy from the hotel nightstand?
Rex Hoggard talks to Lee Janzen about the state of his game, and the budding architecture junkie and two-time U.S. Open champion says: “I’d love to play this kind of golf course with no rough. I think it’d be a ball.”
Steve Elling looks at Aaron Baddelay and his faith.
Josh Sanburn talks to Matthew Goggin who teed off first as a single and played in 2:50, leaving a seven hole gap between him and the next group.
Mike Wereschagin talks to volunteers about some of the disallowed items they've confisgated and some of the stuff really does make you wonder about the human race.
Overheard in the Port-A-John (where some of our best material comes from):
“We’re running out of green,” a volunteer, who must have been assigned to one of the on-course scoreboards, said to another guy who was performing the same job.
He was referring, of course, to the green numbers that signify bogeys or worse.
“Yeah, I’ve got tons of reds and plenty of blacks,” replied his buddy. “They need to get us a whole bunch more greens."
Peter Higgs catches up with Monty's temporary Oakmont caddy, Billy Goddard, who reminds us why there is only one Monty!
The veteran caddie, hired to carry Montgomerie’s clubs after the 43-year-old Ryder Cup star sacked long-term bagman Alistair McLean last week, tried to find a kind word to say about his temporary employer.Poor lad, having to hear those awful "lay up" words! No one should have to hear such vile language on a golf course, especially from their caddie.
"He’s a good guy but he just gets mad at himself," said Goddard. "And he got mad at me, absolutely."
On the course where he came close to winning the US Open 13 years ago — and 12 months after he blew his best chance of claiming America’s oldest major — Montgomerie’s second-round score of 12-overpar 82 left him languishing in 127th place and facing an early flight home.
After his round Montgomerie declined to offer an explanation to reporters. But Goddard, the genial local man who had been assigned to carry his bag and guide him around the brutal course, had plenty to say about spending two rounds in the presence of a player renowned as much for his grumpiness as for his undoubted golfing talents.
Even though Goddard is so valued that he has caddied for Jack Nicklaus, he was to learn that Montgomerie can be easily upset by what seem innocuous comments.
After a first-round 76 left him with plenty of ground to make up, Montgomerie was unable to cope with the increasingly difficult demands of Oakmont’s penal rough and slick greens as he tossed shots away like a high handicapper having a bad day.
Montgomerie was so distressed by an incident during the front nine of his second round that he walked over to speak to his girlfriend, Gaynor Knowles, on the 10th fairway and was overheard to say: "It’s such a shame. It’s really upset me. It really, really has."
When Goddard was asked whether he knew what had caused Montgomerie to become so agitated, he admitted being responsible, saying: "On the fourth hole he asked me what the yardage was and I said: 'Lay up or go for it?'. He said: 'I’m going for it'. After he made a bogey on the hole, he said to me: 'You should never have said the words lay up'. After that we hardly talked. That was the first taste I had of his reputation."
Although Montgomerie rallied to play the next four holes in one under par, including an extraordinary 30-foot birdie putt on the 14th which brought no reaction from the dejected figure, his chances of breaking 80 disappeared with three further dropped shots on the final two holes.
On the 18th his drive landed in such thick rough that he could not see the ball and hacked it only 10 yards forward.
When he launched his third towards the green, a youth yelled ‘Get in the hole’ to be greeted by the coldest stare Montgomerie could muster. As the object of his anger was identified, the spectator turned to the rest of crowd and appealed: ‘I was only trying to encourage him.’
Oh but why?
The third round leader talked about Stack, Tilt and the Lord:
Q. Can you take us through the maturation you referred to of when your swing and confidence kicked in, when you got better, why you're better and so forth?For you Stack and Tilt groupees, don't miss Chris Lewis's new book that includes this chapter on the teaching duo.
AARON BADDELEY: I would say in October, November, 2005, I was out working with Andy Plummer and Mike Bennett, and ever since I started working with them, there's really been an upward curve of improvement of driving the ball in the fairway, hitting better iron shots. Yeah, I mean, that's just been a constant improvement, and I feel like every time I go to practice with them or even by myself, I know exactly what I need to work on. And I just feel like I'm going to keep improving because of what I'm working on.
On his two wins at the Australian Open and how far he's come...
AARON BADDELEY: That does seem like a long time ago to be honest. What was it, eight years ago? I just look back at that time as like after the Australian Open, I look more at that time of when I struggled and was missing cuts, wasn't playing good. I look at that time as probably the most important time of my life, those two or three years -- probably three or four years when I struggled.Good question here...
Because if I don't go through that, if I didn't struggle as much as I did -- if I had just struggled a little bit, it would be different. But to struggle as much as I did, that was the most important part of my life. No. 1, my relationship with the Lord grew like beyond anything what I could imagine, which is the most important thing in my life; who I am as a person, my character, everything has developed and become stronger. I feel a lot wiser now because of all that and things I did wrong.
And then I look back at that time, as well, and just say, if I didn't go through that, I wouldn't be sitting here today. I definitely wouldn't be sitting here right here right now leading a U.S. Open, if I don't go through that time of my life.
Q. Sunday is a long day for leaders. It takes a while for the leaders to get out; how do you make the day go by? Do you go to services or do you have a Bible study?
AARON BADDELEY: This morning actually went by really quick. I slept in a little bit until like 8:30, 9:00, got up. Every morning I always like study my Bible and wrote down some stuff and pray and stuff. So I'm just going to do that tomorrow like normal and have breakfast with Richelle, hang out. Probably be 11:00, 12:00 by then and get ready to come out here, come out here two hours before and do my regular routine.
Q. What prompted you to wait behind the 18th green at Augusta for Zach? Is that from Wednesday nights and those type of things, and would this not be a good time to remind people out there because you're playing with you-know-who that you were actually born in the U.S.?
AARON BADDELEY: Yes, I was actually born in the U.S. I've got dual citizenship.
With Zach, Zach is a fellow brother in Christ, and I know it's very special to -- it's a special time in his life. I mean, he just won the Masters. We were at home watching the coverage, and when he birdied -- I think when he birdied 16, we were like five or ten minutes from the course. We drove straight back to make sure we were there on the 18th.
Hey aren't we all brothers in Christ?!
Q. Your Web site has daily scriptural readings and the ones for tomorrow don't seem to be particularly pertinent to golf or to competition. Is there one that you key on when you're in a situation like that, anything, favorite verse?
AARON BADDELEY: I always use one verse, I used it at Hilton Head, it's the 2 Timothy 1:7, it says, "For God has give us a spirit of fear but power of love and a sound mind." I constantly quote that verse to myself. But I just enjoy reading the Bible. This morning I was just reading and writing and praying, and that's what is most important to me, every morning.
Did Jesus say anything about dealing with Tiger Woods?
Succinct session with the slingers...
Q. What architectural features did you take from that course that you might want to use?
TIGER WOODS: None. Golf course is hard. I don't think anyone -- I wouldn't have any members.
Not exactly one they'll be adding to the club yardage book.
Ah the important stuff...
Q. Gloves on 18 -- you switched golf clubs in the bunker on 18, how long had you been using them?
TIGER WOODS: Gloves?
TIGER WOODS: I do that all day. I was sweating.
Q. How long did you use the one previous?
TIGER WOODS: One hole, we switch three, four gloves, and let them dry out and rotate them. Sweat leaks into them.
Glad we got to the bottom of that.
Q. How long has it been since you hit it this good? That was a lot of fairways, 17 straight greens under these circumstances, and in punitive conditions it had to have been a long, long while.
TIGER WOODS: Good question. I really don't know.
Q. When you tapped in at 18, that was a tribute to Arnold Palmer?
TIGER WOODS: No. I said I was pissed. Happy with a 5? (Laughter.)
Q. Could you tell right away when you got to the first green that the golf course was receptive?
TIGER WOODS: The greens were holding. It was more receptive, yeah. They weren't anywhere near as hard as they were yesterday afternoon.
But the downhill putts were just as fast, but I think the nice thing was if you hit shots with a 6-iron or 7-iron. The ball was going to hold. It wasn't going to be repelled.
As much as I hate seeing the course artificially softened on day three of a major, it's great to see Mike Davis err on the side of common sense by watering the greens prior to play today. Despite David Fay's declarations that the course was right where they wanted it yesterday and today, Davis clearly realized Friday was on the edge of goofy and made the call to throttle things back.
A few years ago such measures would not have been taken to such an extent and that's how we got fiascos like Shinnecock.
Now if Davis could just widen out those landing areas so they don't need to be slowed down, we'd really be making progress.
All times Pacific Standard Time...because I feel like it.
10:55: I return from a workout and visit to the farmer's market to turn on the television and find...the house organ blaring! Nice Jimmy Roberts narrated puff piece on the USGA's square groove rule change that will put a premium back on accuracy! Ya, you go girl!
11:02: I've rewound the Tivo ad Johnny drops his first 63 mention at 10:12. And at 10:14 Pablo Martin power rams a 4-footer for birdie and has 35 feet coming back. Nice putt Pablo! Oh and then he goes back and forth on No. 3! Fun times!
11:11 - Still catching up, reaching the "what the USGA does" contractually obligated package, complete with plenty of schmaltzy horns and strings. Dick Rugge on the USGA groove study: "exhaustive research to determine if the challenge of the game has changed and we determined that yes indeed it had changed. And the culprit may indeed be the grooves." And this is beautiful. The implication being, the players wanted this: "These are the best players in the world and they like the challenge to be able to show their skills because they are the best and the like that opportunity to show themselves."
11:23 - David Fay on the golf course: "Right where we want it to be." And on Phil's comment on the hazardous nature of the rough: "that was a new one to me."
11:31 - Just about caught up, Tiger tries to drive No. 2, NBC tries to find the ball but the glaring white sand makes that impossible.
11:44 - Ah our first Tim Rosaforte visits breaks up the coverage of apparently the only twosome on the course, Tiger and Nick Dougherty. Bob asks about the ditches. Tim tells us about Fazio's restoration work with a rivetting anecdote about the members. I wonder if Tim can submit his little game show host cards to Golf House for future generations to study?
11:52 - We interrupt our coverage of Tiger Woods to show Angel Cabrera walking. Oh, back to Tiger. He makes birdie, he's "nailed" it here, we're really, really begging he stays in this at NBC because we know the rating depends on him!
11:57 - Tiger hits it 334 on No. 4, has 275 left. Hits iron, lands on the green and finishes pin high. It's the grooves! Dan Hicks: "he looks really good today" ... doesn't he Dick Ebersol?
12:02 - Johnny notes there is a "clinical" feel to Tiger's play after his near eagle on 4 and flawless play from the tee so far.
12:08 - Casey flies it over on No. 2 that Tiger drove it in, setting up a birdie. Uh, I don't know about you, but the course looks A LOT softer today.
12:14 - A reader notes this from today's USGA course setup notes: "Greens were watered last night. Firmness readings were taken last night after the watering and first thing this morning. The firmest greens (2, 3, 5, 6 and 13) were watered early this morning. Later this morning, all 18 greens have been watered in order (1-18) approximate 2 hours before play. Greens should not get firmer at point today that what we saw very late in the day yesterday. Translated: We should be firmer than Thursday, but not any firmer than yesterday."
12:18 - Dottie Pepper says the first green was also one of the greens given extra water, according to Mike Davis. Interesting that square grooves are such a problem, yet we're watering greens to make them more receptive. Hmmm...
12:43 - Casey two putts No. 4 for birdie and is looking like a likely winner. More importantly, the NBC gang hasn't asked Johnny to address the Paul Goydos remarks about Casey's 66 being better than Johnny's 63. Boo!
12:47 - Did you know Zack Johnson is just a midwestern guy from Cedar Rapids, Iowa?
12:51 - Bubba hits driver 370 yards down the pipe on No. 3, so naturally with that great contouring it rolled into the rough. 58 yards left and he missed the gree. But remember, he played the hole that way not because he could hit it 370, but because of the grooves!
12:53 - Johnny gets choked up talking about his 63 outfit...wait, false alarm, it was that cherry danish he just snacked on making its way back up. Get this man some tea.
12:55 - Niclas Fasth makes his first appearance of the day on NBC despite starting only 2 shots back. He makes eagle on 4 to move to within 1 after a poor start.
1:00 - Reader Hawkeye reports that the interational feed isn't working. So an update: Cabrera and Watson at +1, Casey, Fasth and Ames at +2, Tiger at +2.
1:03 - Johnny says the greens appear softer today than they were Thursday, which followed Wednesday's rain.
1:04 - Stephen Ames is one shot back and I don't think we've seen him hit a shot yet! But we've seen every shot Tiger has hit.
1:08 - Cool crain shot of no. 9 from NBC showing off the contours, bet it looks really cool in HD. I wonder how Johnny's makeup look on HD?
1:10 - 2 hours and 5 minutes for Tiger's twosome to finish the front nine. Imagine how slow it would be if they hadn't drenched the place.
1:14 - We have our first Villages ad! Just as I was about to doze off too.
1:19 - Johnny says No. 10 fairway "too narrow" in his view. Oh I don't know, two golf carts could pass each other, looks wide enough to me.
1:33 - Did you see Ben Hogan and Bobby Jones in that Lexus ad? I knew the brand dynamics were strong, but sheesh. I want to run out and buy one now.
1:35 - Cabrera hits an awesome flip shot off the bank at 5. Think he's here to stay. Oops, he missed the par putt. Oh well, at least NBC's showing him, which is more than we can say for poor Stephen Ames who reportedly was just two back! Wait, he just moved to +5...they're saved!
1:42 - That man of the people, Vijay Singh, bogies 18 for a 70. There's always hope.
1:51 - Tiger drives is 389 - because he knows he has square grooves - with 243 left and hits a squirrelly short right shot.
1:53 - Bubba birdies 7 and is takes the lead by himself. Angel is one back, Tiger, Casey and Fasth 2 back. But finds Sahara on 8. Meanwhile Tiger hits it 7 feet on 12. Will be tied for the lead by 2:00 PST? Scratch that, Tiger missed the birdie putt.
2:02 - Fasth flinches after putt because of a bug bite, Johnny wonders if he's emulating who else, but Johnny's stroke. It's all about Johnny! At least he was self depricating this time! Meanwhile Tiger hasn't missed a green in regulation and Bubba just got up and down on 8. And I'm getting woozy.
2:15 - Oh boy Bubba's flipping out. Flubbed wedge in the crop left of 9, then hits the next one right away and then hits a home run with his fourth shot. And now he's hitting the next one. It's okay Bubba, you aren't on the clock! Wow, just like that, triple bogey. And all of that with U-grooves!
2:18 - Fasth birdies the impossible 10th gives it a fist pump. He moves to +3. The excitement is overwhelming me here.
2:24 - Anyone know what course that is in the Lexus ad where the dude plays the par-3 over the bay inlet?
2:35 - Tiger, Cabrera, Fasth and Baddelay tied for the lead. Casey, Watson one back, Pettersen and Ames two back. Gee I wonder who is going to win!
2:48 - Whoa just nodded off, I'm back. This is SO rivetting. Oh good commercials coming, something to liven things up. And at least we get to see how Tiger plays 17.
2:50 - Did you know that Zach Johnson is a just a midwestern guy from Cedar Rapids, Iowa?
2:54 - We finally get to see Stephen Ames! He's one back. Okay back to golfers we care about. Tiger...driving 17...
2:58 - How beautiful is that scene on 14 with the 18th hole and grandstands as a backdrop?
3:05 - Johnny informs us that he kind of picked new leader Badds on that first hole. Uh huh!
3:09 - Yes, I'm bored and stumbled on this explanation behind those cool tee markers at Oakmont. This from Steve Elling at CBS Sportsline:
The club was formed 104 years ago by a Pittsburgh steel magnate named H.C. Fownes, who originally used a device called a "piercer point" as the first markers at his beloved course. They were heavy, bullet-shaped pieces of metal used in the manufacture of seamless pipes, club historian John Fitzgerald said. The piercer points were shoved through pieces of metal to make the tubes.
Eventually, the markers needed replacing. So, during World War II, the club began using similarly shaped artillery shells from a Pittsburgh ordnance factory instead. Since 1940s-era artillery shells no longer are readily available, obviously, a specialty foundry makes cast-iron replacements for the club as needed, said Fitzgerald, a club member since 1962.
3:13 - Hey the promo says the USGA hosts the largest golf archive in the world. But can you make a photocopy?
3:15 - Badds takes a two shot lead and Tiger is going to have to get up and down on 18 after plunking it in the fairway bunker. The NBC guys act like it was a horrific shot, looks like a pretty deep bunker to me!
3:17 - Johnny on Tiger at 18: "He likes bogey free rounds." What a revelation! I know I don't!
3:24 - Badds takes a three shot lead over Woods, Ames, Watson, Cabrera, and Casey. Praise the...sorry.
3:42 - Tiger joins Bob Costas for the post round interview. We learn nothing. He has work to do on the range after hitting 17 greens.
3:48 - The hole-in-one-the-drinks-are-on-me-kid ad!! This just in, the kid has announced plans to enter Champions Tour Q-school this fall.
3:52 - Johnny loves Badds and Stack and Tilt...well he likes the swing, says "forget all that" when Dan Hicks mentions the name.
4:00 - Badds lays up on 17 into sideslope of bunker. Nice 5 inch lie awaits. Love this risk reward golf! What an amazing recovery though to the left fringe! How great does that rear camera view look with the skyline green, the lone flagstick with nothing around it! What an improvement over the 1994 look with trees.
4:12 - Stephen Ames eeks out a bogey at 18 to stay at +5 and retain some momentum as he prepares to defend his Skins Game win this fall.
4:15 - What was that symbol Badds just flashed us walking off 18 tee? Bloods or Crips? Or Church of Nazarene?
4:25 - Badds birdies 18 and gets Tiger in the final pairing.
4:35 - The final group finishes, 4:30 later! The weary fans are filing out in droves. And you get to do it all over again tomorrow, with a forecast high of 87! Don't forget to stop by the Lexus trophy to pose with that replica trophy.
Ah just when you think the sportswriters simply don't care enough about the game to ask a few questions of the folks governing it, along comes Selena Roberts of the New York Times to shake things up.
Her issue? Uh your basic hypocrisy deal with the USGA, which I'm sure will include images this weekend of Walter Driver teaching young, poor, non-white children the joys of
leveraging brand equity the game of golf. Some highlights for those of you who can't get behind the pay wall:
The private politics of the U.S.G.A.’s leaders say so. On the cover of this week’s Golf World magazine, the headline reads, “Can the U.S.G.A. Survive Walter Driver?” He is the corporate cowboy with luxury tastes who is forcing a Wall Street approach on a nonprofit organization.Fast forward...
The U.S.G.A.’s grassroots slogan is “For the Good of the Game.” Yet Driver projects what’s good for him as a member of at least three private clubs with reputations for discriminatory practices: Pine Valley in New Jersey, Augusta National and Peachtree Golf Club in Atlanta. Why join one cabal of bias when you can learn secret handshakes at all three?
Driver did not respond to a message about his contradiction of conscience. Fay, however, did concede the conflict. To his credit, Fay dropped his membership at Pine Valley, although he pleads guilty to playing the course on occasion.
There is a game of spin the bottle for U.S.G.A. officials when deciding whether they will A) choose memberships at open clubs or B) give in to the siren song of the great American course, which, as it happens, is often run by prejudiced elites in crested blazers.
“How do you square it?” Fay said. “Everyone has to deal with it on a personal basis. Everyone has to sort it out his own way. I’ve had to sort it out.
“It’s a struggle. That may sound like a cop-out. I can’t argue with that.”
Fay is honest. But the arbitrary scruples of executives poke holes in the U.S.G.A.’s credibility as a builder of culture clubs for all.
So nice to see there's an issue that even David can't and won't spin his way out of! There's hope yet for the man!
Oh and this is fun. I'm sure several of our leading scribes would like to have known this before Wednesday's press conference so they could not ask about it.
“Its leadership has never looked like America, with hardly any blacks or Latinos in its top positions, no matter for all the ‘Kumbaya’ multicultural ads it has run promoting itself with smiling kids of all backgrounds out on the course,” said the Duke professor Orin Starn, author of “Caddying for the Dalai Lama: Golf, Heritage Tourism and the Pinehurst Resort,” who is researching a book on golf and American society. “The U.S.G.A. has wanted to style itself as upholding a democratic, open-to-all version of golf, including picking public courses like Bethpage and Torrey Pines for the Open and those promos featuring golfers at folksy little starter shacks. The reality is that the U.S.G.A. is just as much about money, big-time profits and corporate connections.”
We need to get through this together, so just like last year, I'll be live blogging for those of you watching the weekend U.S. Open coverage. Well, I'm not sure about that first hour, but probably around 2 EST.
So don't hesitate to comment or email me questions or comments and we'll survive this thing they call the national championship together!
Oakmont is separating the men from the boys...in the press room.
Nice to see some lively reporting filed Friday night, starting with John Huggan's game story:
Some, of course, will love that the pampered millionaires have been humbled yet again by the gray-haired and blue-blooded blazer brigade, but for every one of those deriving vicarious pleasure from such a spectacle there will surely be ten real golfers squirming at just what the game at the highest level has become in the 21st century.Fast forward...
Still, for all that, the championship continues to breathe beneath the blanket of long grass that all but covers the magnificent Oakmont course. And, as such, there is a competition to talk about, one that is led by perhaps the two longest hitters in the field, a man called Angel (Cabrera) on level par, with another named Bubba (Watson) one shot back. Ames, Justin Rose, Niclas Fasth and Aaron Baddeley are two over par and two shots off the pace.
Angel and Bubba? Justin and Aaron? Niclas? Whatever happened to good old golf names like Arnie and Jack? Gone the way of persimmon apparently.
Indeed, almost every hole was a bit of a struggle for Woods, his two birdies more than swallowed up by the six bogeys that littered his card. But, for all that, he claimed to be enjoying himself.Derek Lawrenson on Paul Casey's brilliant 66:
"The U.S. Open is a fun challenge," he claimed, convincing no one in the process. "It's always going to be tough and you have to grind away. That's the fun part of it; it's just so different from any other tournament we ever play in."
And for that at least, we must all be grateful.
So call off any planned debate right now about the round of the year. We have just witnessed it, complete with a dazzling array of statistics.Golfweek's Jeff Rude talks to Paul Goydos about the 66:
On the narrowest fairways possible without risking the accusation of unfairness, Casey missed only one; on the hardest greens by miles anywhere in the world, he had 10 single putts, and only 26 in all.
We should have no fear, therefore, in placing it alongside Monty’s fabled 65 in the 1997 U.S. Open at Congressional as the best round played by a British player in this event since Tony Jacklin became the last one to win it in 1970.
"Without a doubt, it is the best round I have ever played," said Casey. "This is the toughest course I have seen and I feel very lucky to walk off with a 66."
“Johnny, are you listening, I think that’s better than your score -- by a lot,” said opinionated journeyman professional Paul Goydos, the former inner-city schoolteacher who wins once every decade or so on the PGA Tour. “That’s stunning. I don’t get it. There’s just no way. I want to know what hole he skipped.”
Lawrence Donegan reporting for The Guardian on the setup:
Or to put it another way, it quickly became clear yesterday that the USGA had once again turned its annual golf tournament into a festival of indignity, or a fearsome fiesta of double-bogeys, or indeed a farce. To the wrist-cracking rough and bowling-alley greens that marked day one, the organisers added murderous pin positions, and Mother Nature's mischievous nephew threw in a nasty little breeze. The result was as predictable as it was relentless. Leaderboards quickly became engulfed in the blue of bogeys, leaving the occasional red birdie looking like a distress beacon flickering against the perfect golfing storm.
The Pittsburgh Tribune Review breaks down stats from round 2.
Mr. Negative Peter Kostis, who Thursday predicted the 36-hole lead would be even par and the cut at +10, was his usual curmudgeonly self over at golf.com:
Oakmont is ... "brutally hard, but I'm not sure if Oakmont is truly a great test of golf. I'm sorry, but I don't think hard automatically means great. Do you have any idea what the following players have in common: Tim Clark, Adam Scott, Padraig Harrington, Nick O'Hern, Phil Mickelson, Paul Casey, Zach Johnson, K.J. Choi, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson and 18 other guys? They are the 28 players who did not score a birdie on Thursday. If competitors are forced to play defensively all the time, that's not a great setup. I think there must be a blend of holes where you can make birdie with good shots and bogeys with bad shots."
TIGER WOODS: It's close. It's right on the edge, I think. The first green, that was -- thank God I have spikes on, because I think it would have slipped right off the back.
Lorne Rubenstein notes Stephen Ames and Mike Weir's excellent play and offers this from Weir:
After he heard that Phil Mickelson, for one, had described the rough as "dangerous," Weir said he had the sort of shot there where he could have done some physical damage to himself.
"You could see somebody injuring himself trying to hit some kind of creative shot," Weir said, adding he was trying a shot in practice from the rough and had to ice his wrist down after his session.
Many players believe the USGA has gone overboard with the rough this year. "Some guys, with the [club] speed they get, they could hurt themselves," Ben Curtis said.
But it's not easy for anybody to know how to challenge the best players these days, because they hit the ball so far. The USGA along with the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews long ago dropped the ball in not, well, controlling how far the ball can go. Now, they're left with pushing courses to the edge, and, sometimes, over the edge.
Even that's okay, and understandable. But dangerous?
Ames said a player usually can tell when trying a shot will cause an injury. But what if he had to pull off a shot that could potentially win the championship for him? What if trying the shot could cause a serious injury?
"I'll just hack it out," Ames said. "Taking that opportunity to end my career? I won't do that."
More disheartening was news that 16-year-old Richard Lee also was injured, making him the second player to withdraw because of a wrist injury.
The youngest player in the field didn't make the cut at the U.S. Open. He didn't even make it to the end of his second round. Richard Lee withdrew after 13 holes Friday with a wrist injury. The 16-year-old was 11 over for the day, 20 over for the tournament when he stopped.
``I am disappointed,'' he said. ``But I'm still happy that I came here this week to this wonderful golf course, Oakmont. A lot of history to this course. It's an honor that I played here.''
Lee was trying to chip out of the rough beside the green on the par-4 11th when he tweaked his right wrist.
``I took a full swing at it because it was all the way down there,'' he said. ``After that shot, I was like, `Whoa, what happened to my wrist?' I was just trying to concentrate, but I couldn't. There was a lot of pain.''
Lee played the 12th and 13th holes and then withdrew.
Tim Dahlberg says the guys are whining too much considering it's the US Open and that they have to grin and bear it. Of course if it goes over the top, Dahlberg will return to his usual eloquent self and join the chorus.
Dan Gigler on the Post-Gazette blog deals with a ridiculous question asked of Jim Furyk.
One reporter asked Jim Furyk if the extreme difficulty of the course at Oakmont somehow mirrored the gritty "blue collar" image of Pittsburgh. Uhhh ??? sure. That's a bit of a reach, don't you think? Oakmont is a Pittsburgh treasure and we should be proud that our city is for this week, the epicenter of the sports world, but let's be honest here: it's a golf course on a country club, that probably has close to a six-figure initiation fee, and an annual membership fee in the range of most "blue collar" workers salaries. I don't think Joe Magarac played Oakmont very much.
Mark Soltau talks to Jeff Brehaut, all around good guy who makes the cut in his first major in 21 years as a professional.
The third round pairings are here, with the leaders going off at 3:15 EST. Considering it took everyone around 5:15 today, hard to imagine the boys finishing tomorrow's round before NBC's planned sign-off time.
And finally, a Simon Bruty image for golf.com of Geoff Ogilvy that the opponent of bathing a course in high rough surely won't be using for his autobiography cover...
"I think once a year the golf world, and maybe even the players, to a degree, they want to feel like they've been in a fistfight."
Rich Lerner interviewed David Fay and Golf Channel aired it during their Friday night post game show. A few highlights from the spinmaster:
I think once a year the golf world, and maybe even the players, to a degree, they want to feel like they've been in a fistfight.
Uh, except in this one you take away their driver with silly fairway widths and rough, which is like fighting with your hands tied behind you back.
Is there an athletic competition that's conducted nowadays at the collegiate level or above, that does not have some sort of commercial involvement? There are a lot of things that I sometimes scratch my head about, but this passion about advertising and about what the USGA has done in this area and how it reflects a fundamental sea change, I just don't see it.
See, everyone else is sold out, so we're just keeping up!
And this, commenting on player study results of the USGA's groove study:
All of them had the belief, that when we changed to square grooves, the skill required to play this game at the highest level, that the grooves were acting too much like radial tires. That it was too easy to control the ball from rough. And that's really what's driving it.
But the ability to hit the ball 350 yards? Sure that had nothing to do with it!
That's what Mark Rolfing just called Oakmont through two rounds. Thankfully, Frank Nobilo was there to restore some sanity.
Is this a wonderful test of golf?
To put it another way, Ernie Els just told Golf Channel's Rich Lerner that Oakmont is still fair because the "fairways are still holding." Mike Davis said leading into the tournament that he had concerns about the fairways getting too fast.
Is it a sign of a reasonable setup when the fairways must hold a shot for the game to be played?
Q. Some players have said this week that this course does not put a premium on length. How has your length been an advantage these two days for you?
BUBBA WATSON: You know, I'm hitting 5- and 6-irons on some of the par-4s off the tee. That's a little bit easier to hit than somebody hitting a 3-iron or 2-iron or 3-wood or 5-wood.
The hole that everybody has been talking about, No. 8, I'm hitting 3-iron both days and not having a problem with it. So, I mean, you could say it's helping me a little bit. Just I can hit shorter clubs into some of these holes and maybe hit it a little bit higher to stop it. Just happy to hit 'em straight right now.