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.
It is, however, a remarkable thing that though golf courses are often in lovely places it frequently so happens that the beauties of the landscape are to be seen from anywhere except the course. Who, for instance, ever heard of a self-respecting sea-side course where one could get a view of the sea! One may hear it perhaps roaring or murmuring, according to its mood, beyond an interminable row of sandhills, but save with the artificial aid of a high tee one never dreams of seeing it. So it is at Portrush, in accordance with the best traditions, and only two or three times in the course of the round does a view of the surrounding beauties threaten our mental concentration on the matter in hand. BERNARD DARWIN