Open Observations From Saugerties

Former USGA Executive Director Frank Hannigan shares a few observations after two rounds of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.

  • The amount of attention paid to the preparation of the Open course is  astonishing   It’s as if the USGA’s Mike Davis, a most capable young man, can control the very essence of the game. He can’t. Setting up a golf course is not onerous work.  Essentially, all the USGA can do is attempt to put a premium on accuracy as opposed to power.  The only way to do that is to penalize the inaccurate by growing heavy rough and establishing very firm greens - which do not accept shots played from rough.
  • So the Open favors a Curtis Strange, who won twice, and three-time winner Hale Irwin. It was brutal for Seve Ballesteros,  a bad driver.  You could make an argument that since Seve was a flat out genius the Open courses should have been prepared to accommodate him.
  • Tiger Woods overcomes the USGA set-ups. I conclude that he has been so good at every other aspect of the game he can overcome wild driving. Most of all, like Nicklaus, he thinks he is supposed to win.
  • I am sick of hearing  analyses of hole locations on the Golf Channel.  There is no data to tell us how hole locations affect outcomes.  Obviously, they influence overall scoring. But just suppose all holes were cut in the centers of greens. Scores would be lower. But would this mean the identities of the winners would vary dramatically. I think not. Jack Nicklaus was going to win four US Opens no matter where the holes were located.  And he was destined to win six Masters in an era where the principles of course set up were opposite to those of the US Open - when Augusta had no rough at all and anybody could put the ball in vast fairways.
  • Perhaps I carry on like this as a means of praising my late colleague, PJ Boatwright, who set up most Open courses of my time. He didn’t get a lot of attention, but he knew what he was doing.
  • The best Open I ever saw? Easy. 1971 at precious Merion. The two best players in the world, Nicklaus and Trevino, tied for first at level par with Trevino winning the play-off.
  • The spreading notion that today’s Opens are more brilliantly conceived and therefore of greater validity is nonsense.
  • The Tiger Woods harsh comments about the greens at Pebble Beach were petulant and without  meaning. His disparagement  is  cruel on the workers at Pebble Beach who have gone though hoops in a futile attempt to draw an understanding, if not kind, word from Woods & company. Excuse me, but Tiger Woods has never done a hard day’s work.