Lorne Rubenstein writes:
If a championship is going to have a short par-four near the end, the green should be reachable from the tee to set up a possible birdie or eagle. There should also be enough trouble so that a player could make a bogey or worse if he tries to reach the green but doesn’t. Neither was the case with the compromised 18th hole yesterday.
There was no drama, then, as the golfers in contention came to the last tee. They couldn’t drive the elevated green, or get into trouble from the tee. Players whaled away at their drivers, which got them to the bottom of the hill within 50 yards or so of the green. Then it was a pop fly with a lob wedge to the green.
I've also heard the grumbling about a U.S. Open won by hitting 6-iron off the tee and about the lack of short grass in front of the green allowing for a run-up. Also heard that Glover didn't have to do anything significant to do on the last hole to secure the win. (I'm not even going to dignify that other than to say you could put someone on a polo field needing to make four to win the U.S. Open and it would be difficult.)
First off, Tiger Woods hit 4 iron off the 18th tee at Pebble Beach in 2000 en route to winning and I don't believe that tainted his victory.
Next, the 18th at Olympic Club and 18th at Inverness both play about the same as Bethpage's final round yardage of 354 yards. Actually, Bethpage's finisher was more interesting because at least the tee shot involved a decision, as Lucas Glover explained in his post round press conference. The last holes at Olympic and Inverness are all about keeping the ball in play, not about fairway positioning. As Glover pointed out, he contemplated the benefits of each position and ultimately went with the lay-up.
I would love to ask Mike Davis, Jeff Hall, Jim Hyler and Steve Smyers--the four who ultimately decided on this--if they had it to do over again, would they use a different hole location. There's a wonderful hole cut close to the right bunker and used in round 1 that would reward someone for driving it past the bunkers. That would reward a shorter, more controlled shot from the area past the bunkers.
I was standing on the tee when Davis placed the markers and when he consulted with Hall one last time. He anticipated players putting more spin on their second shots than it appeared they were able to Monday. I also noticed that players were not pulling their wedge shots back more on No. 14's front hole, so perhaps the wind firmed the greens up enough to eliminate those shots.
Either way, the 18th hole just stinks and this debate will hopefully not take place next time Bethpage hosts the U.S. Open because a solution will have been figured out.