I'm both disappointed and elated at the reaction to Dustin Johnson's heroic tee shot in the Northern Trust playoff win over Jordan Spieth.
Elated, because something about it has people thinking about the role of distance in the game and not feeling satisfied even when a player uses his skill to take such a risk and reap a reward.
Disappointed, because the reaction has been to blame the hole or the organizers or so even people who rail against the distance jump in golf.
Michael Bamberger filed a nice account of the day and excitement of having two top players going at it. Their contrasting styles added to the magic. Until, we saw the reaction!
Kyle Porter at CBSSports.com considered all of the issues and posted many of the outraged Tweets for those who want to catch up on the "controversy" here.
Spieth hit a six-iron into 18. Johnson had a 60-degree wedge. It was not a fair fight. Spieth made a 4. Johnson hit the most beautiful spinning, all-grace lob wedge you could imagine and it was nearly a kick-in 3. Set-up by that extra gear. Covering 300 hundred, no problem. The tee shot went 341. Ho-hum.
Spieth was more animated in defeat than Johnson was in victory. Just two totally different people. A reporter asked Johnson if he knew how wild it sounded to the ordinary golfer, that 300 yards was no problem to carry.
The winner kind of tilted his head, did a mini-shrug and said, "No. I mean, I'm used to it."
How nice, for him.
Alan Shipnuck answered reader emails and Tweets that were pretty consumed with the tee shot, though most were more receptive than some of the PGA Tour players who took to Twitter.
The key to understanding the beauty of the play, in my view, is to separate the tee shot number of 341 yards from the line taken, the shocking tracer lines and the huge advantage gained over Spieth. If you just see this as a long hitter taking a risk under pressure and reaping a reward, it's a beautiful thing. Even better is that the hole was part of the playoff and in a mini-match play situation allowed for this risk-taking.
I'm concerned how many players were suggesting a playoff hole should be chosen based on some sort of arbitrary design characteristics. No matter how you feel about the impact of distance gains, I would hope that when the day comes, we all agree that long drivers like Johnson get to continue to enjoy an advantage as long as their drives are accurately placed.
But obviously the 341 number is alarming and has been for some time. If you cut 10% off the drives of Johnson and Spieth, the options would have been different. In the case of many holes, things would be more interesting. It just so happens that in this case, the advantage gained was more significant than we're used to seeing in an era when there are few short hitters. That's an issue to take up with your governing bodies.