ESPN's Most Dominant: Brooks Koepka Still Feeling Snubbed And He Certainly Has A Point

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There have been some odd media-related slights of 2018’s two-time major winner and Floridian Cup champ, Brooks Koepka, including at the U.S. Open, PGA Championship and Tour Championship.

The winner of two majors and three of the last seven has rightfully been a bit peeved. The latest snub came with publication of ESPN The Magazine’s list of Most Dominant Athletes of 2018 not including Koepka, he simply posted the list on Twitter:

With Ariya Jutanagarn winning one major to Koepka’s two, he’s understandably annoyed at the lack of respect given to his year.

Underrated in his season is how late he started due to a wrist injury. While “dominant” isn’t the first word that comes to mind, his play given the inactivity the first four months of the year suggests it could have been even better.

Furyk On Ryder Cup, State Of The USGA

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Michael Bamberger covers a lot in this interview of 2018 Ryder Cup Captain Jim Furyk, from the infamous 2014 press conference to this year’s team

But this diplomatic answer on the USGA is worth noting.

What’s your take on what’s going on with the USGA?

Well, they’ve made it so easy to pick on them. The greens at Chambers Bay [in 2015]. How they handled Dustin Johnson’s situation at Oakmont [in 2016]. Then, with that gal [Anna Nordqvist] that same summer, in the Women’s Open. That was a travesty. Some of the pin placements at Shinnecock, on Saturday, on 13, 15 and 18. Plus, they changed the course so much from the last time we were there. The anchored putting ban. Now the green maps. But it was the USGA that let putting get there, let the maps get there. Then they want to turn it back. So it’s tough. But what I think people don’t realize is that they’re trying. They’re trying to do what’s right for the game. I know [USGA CEO] Mike Davis. I like Mike. But I don’t have a good relationship or a bad relationship with the USGA. I just don’t have much of a relationship. I’m not trying to be critical of the USGA. They have the best interests of the game at heart. They really do.

PGA Overnight: 6.1, Up 56% And Peaks At 8.3! PGA Second Highest Rated Major Of 2018

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Tiger Woods should have another gift basket waiting on his doorstep today, this time from Sean McManus to go with the ones from Mark Lazarus, Mike McCarley and Fred Ridley. Okay, maybe The Masters doesn't do gift baskets. 

Anyway, Tiger helped deliver a 6.1 overnight final round rating for the 2018 PGA Championship. The audience peaked at 8.3 late in the round. 

From Paulsen at Sports Media Watch, who has several other anecdotes about the ratings this year:

Sunday’s final round of the PGA Championship earned a 6.1 overnight rating on CBS, up 69% from last year (3.6), up 56% from 2016 (3.9) and the highest since 2009 (7.5). The previous mark was a 6.0 for the 2014 final round.

The 6.1 is tied as the highest golf overnight outside of the Masters since the final round of the 2012 U.S. Open (6.6).

Some might point out that the 6.1 much better than 2014's 6.0 at Valhalla featuring the unforgettable Rory-Rickie-Phil finish.  However, sports ratings have been on a decline and sizable numbers have moved to streaming, making the rating that much more impressive for CBS.

Also worth noting: the strong final round means the U.S. Open was the lowest rated final round of the four majors this year. The overnights for 2018:

Masters: 7.9
U.S. Open: 3.6
The Open: 5.0
PGA: 6.1

Phil Chimes In On Shinnecock, Carnoustie, Le Golf National And More

Joking that he would only talk about the last month and would not discuss his opening 70 at Gullane, former Scottish Open winner Phil Mickelson chimed in on a number of topics. Including, under fairly steady questioning from the UK's finest, his 2018 U.S. Open.

My roundup from Gullane for Golfweek.

Is Rocco Mediate Angling For A USGA Executive Committee Seat?

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Because I’m not sure how else to make sense of his rant about player suggestions that Shinnecock Hills was out of control when it got…out of control. And included an on-air USGA apology regarding several hole locations, prompted by Paul Azinger's question and a discussion on national television Rocco evidently missed.

Kevin Casey with Rocco’s post-round U.S. Senior Open rant.

Apparently Mediate wanted to throw up and still managed a 2-under par opening round at The Broadmoor that has him in second place. 

Let me ask you this question, too. Remember the one about the golf course changed from the morning – have you ever played one that didn’t? Of course it’s going to change. That’s what it’s supposed to do.

Sometimes it can get softer in the afternoon. Sometimes it gets firmer.

What I heard that week made me want to throw up, basically. Just shut up, play. 

State Of The Game 79: Ramifications Of The 2018 U.S. Open, Other Stuff Too

Rod Morri, Mike Clayton and yours truly reconvened to consider the residual issues from this year's U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills as well as a little backstopping talk, some Ryder Cup and more on the late Peter Thomson.

As always, check your preferred podcast subscription outlet or the iTunes store.

Phil Admits: It Really Wasn't About Saving Strokes

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In Chicago to help KPMG kick off the Women's PGA Championship, Randall Mell reports that Phil Mickelson had a fun time promoting junior golf and took time to answer a few questions from Golf Central's Todd Lewis.

Regarding this 13th hole meltdown at Shinnecock Hills:

“I certainly wasn’t thinking of that at the time, but I have pretty thick skin,” Mickelson said. “I will probably hear about this for some time.

“Fortunately, I can take it and hopefully at some point we will be able to laugh about it.”

Mickelson intimated his intentionally hitting a moving ball wasn’t really about saving strokes.

“At the time, I didn’t really care about the stroke difference,” he said.

The full interview:

Does USGA's Response To Mickelson Mean We Need A New Rule Of Golf?

That's the case's Dylan Dethier makes quite well. It comes after Lee Westwood posted this Tweet in response to hearing Phil Mickelson say he'd been thinking of stopping his moving ball at Augusta National's 15th over the years.

The Tweet:

Dethier writes of the USGA ultimately citing 14-5 over 1-2, rightfully so based on a strict interpretation of their rules and the "precedent now set". 

The so-called Phil Rule will be simple: anyone who intentionally strikes a moving ball will be disqualified.

Mickelson entered the week hoping to add his name to the USGA's record books — he'll have to settle for its rulebooks. Otherwise the awkward jogging alley-oop will just be left hanging there as a strange loophole option, tempting players in tight spots. "I took the two-shot penalty and moved on," Mickelson said.

I would normally argue that the honesty of the players and fear of being ostracized by their peers would make this unnecessary. But with the USGA coming to Mickelson's rescue week without even a single word of disdain for his behavior, and in a world of backstopping and players snickering at Mickelson's actions, it's time to cook up the new rule before this shameful stuff happens again. 

But this is the place we've reached in golf: to explore such a decision in the next rules of golf, the USGA would first have to come to terms with not condemning the behavior in any way that might deter repeat offenders. Strange times.

McIlroy Retools Swing After U.S. Open Missed Cut, Shoots 64

Jordan Spieth and Zach Johnson leading understandably led Mike McAllister's roundup of day one at the Travelers, but one back is Rory McIlroy.

It seems the lad spent his post-U.S. Open performance further refining his seemingly-great swing to get back to a certain year, enabling him to work the ball both ways.

From an unbylined Reuters report:

“I’m trying to get back to the way I swung in 2010, 2011 and it’s sort of hard because my body’s changed quite a bit since then,” the 29-year-old, whose muscular frame now is a far cry from the scrawny teenager of days gone by, told reporters. 

“The feeling I have now is the feeling I had in the middle of 2009. 

“That’s basically what I did over the weekend. I got a feeling that really resonated and brought me back to a time when I was swinging really well, and sort of went with that feeling."

Okay so it's like 2009-11, but still fascinating that he'd drifted that far from his swing of seven years ago and that he could get it back in a weekend. 

"No one talks about karma. And no one talks about the Curse of Shinnecock Hills"

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Move over Chief Leatherlips. Some believe there is a Curse of Shinnecock Hills and writer Bruce Buschel makes his case in the East Hampton Star.

He shares several anecdotes about the back and forth between the USGA and the Shinnecock, who did receive some last minute concessions including a USGA pledge for a golf facility to be built on their land.

It seems there were also discussions about the 2018 U.S. Open logo which, to people of a certain generation, is already looking like a relic from a different world. 

It’s insulting — it’s a cartoon Indian with a big hook nose wearing a war bonnet festooned with an arrow and a putter. Like a kindergarten coloring book circa 1955. So the tribe requested a redesign or a flat-out removal. They got neither. Shinnecocks don’t have much luck when negotiating with the white man, not here, there, or anywhere. 

Buschel's case for a curse in light of another wacky U.S. Open at Shinnecock, proves more interesting given his rationale for the uneventful Opens there. You'll have to hit the link to read them all in context.

He sums up his case this way:

The Shinnecocks take no glee in the public disasters that have befallen Shinnecock Hills since the tribe was excommunicated, since the indigenous people were removed as caretakers of their own land.

No one talks about karma. And no one talks about the Curse of Shinnecock Hills.

Someone should.

Now That We Have Phil's Statement We Can Move Along, But First...

Phil Mickelson, a tad late in summing up his 13th green boondoggle at the 2018 U.S. Open, but better late than never:

“I know this should've come sooner, but it's taken me a few days to calm down. My anger and frustration got the best of me last weekend. I'm embarrassed and disappointed by my actions. It was clearly not my finest moment and I’m sorry.”

So in review: 

(A) he was not forced into his behavior

(B) it was not that funny

(C) it was potentially legacy-tainting

(D) there is no need for detractors to toughen up

(E) this was a disastrous look for someone with an untarnished track record of playing by the Rules of Golf

(F) the USGA will still not condemn his actions for reasons unknown

(G) children, don't try this at home

Jason Day Finds Phil's U.S. Open Antics Disappointing, Spieth Finds It Really Funny

Will Gray's Travelers report on  Jason Day's views of the U.S. Open and Phil Mickelson's 13th green meltdown.

“It’s obviously disappointing to see what Phil did,” he said. “I think a lot of people have mixed reviews about what he did.”

And from Dylan Dethier's item on Jordan Spieth's Travelers Championship press conference where the defending champ commented on Mickelson's antics.

"I laughed, I thought it was really funny," he said. In the aftermath of the incident, much was made about Mickelson's intent, but count Spieth among those who believes Mickelson's explanation that there was a strategic element to the decision. "Phil knows the rules," he said. "There was a chance it was going to go back behind the bunker and he's got to chip back, or he was going to play off the green anyways, so he was potentially saving himself a shot. So if that was the intent, then what's the harm in that? He's playing the best score he can."

Fascinating to admire someone for using a technicality to get out of taking personal responsibility for a really bad putt. But this is where we are in the game. 

"Golfer Phil Mickelson Invests in Robot-Delivered Food"

I'm not sure this was the best-timed news release I've ever seen given the weekend's events, the quotes and the job-killing passion behind the venture. But, it's Phil!

Golfer Phil Mickelson Invests in Robot-Delivered Food

Geration NEXT Franchise Brands, Inc. announced that its flagship subsidiary, Reis & Irvy’s, has inked a deal with five-time major championship golfer and World Golf Hall of Famer, Phil Mickelson, and his career-long business manager and business partner, Steve Loy, for 30 new Reis & Irvy’s locations to be installed throughout San Diego County (where Phil is a native and resides with his family).

Reis & Irvy’s-branded signature robot characters of the same name can dispense servings of frozen yogurt, ice cream, gelatos and sorbet topped with a selection of six delicious toppings in under 60 seconds. With self-checkout touch screen ordering and payment options, video animation, music and delicious frozen dessert provided exclusively by Dannon, robot vendors meet consumer demand for convenience, entertainment and a superior quality product.  

Phil Mickelson and Steve Loy continue to expand upon their business portfolio with the investment in Reis & Irvy’s that is challenging the status quo in food retail by catering to this generation’s expectations of immersive, entertaining and on-demand shopping experiences.  “We have seen the development of Reis and Irvy’s over the last eight months and became intrigued with the advancement and benefits of robotics which enhance the delivery of quality products to the consumer while reducing overhead cost,” says Steve Loy.

People are expensive! Right Phil?

“I’m absolutely thrilled to be part of such transformative industry change,” says Mickelson. “I’ve pushed boundaries my whole career and that mindset carries over into the business world. The energy and passion from the Generation NEXT team to both deliver a quality product and disrupt food retail is exciting.”

Like disrupting the spirit of the rules because you hit a (really) bad putt.

Describing “the new arms race in retail,” John Bird of Forbes wrote that “unattended retail storefronts”—with their speed, flexibility and improved customer experience — are the future of retail. Brands like McDonald’s are successfully innovating their customer experience and “it will change forever the landscape” of casual dining, with “Gen-Xers, millennials, and successive generations already used to a computer interface for making most of their daily choices.”

With over $130 million in franchise and licensing contracts, Generation NEXT Franchise Brands, Inc. is leading the way with frozen desserts, fully autonomous robotic delivery, visual and audio entertainment, and a unique retail experience.

"For the season, the U.S. Open...ranks behind the final rounds at Tampa Bay and the Players"

Paulsen follows up with a few more numbers putting the U.S. Open's ratings decline into perspective. From Sports Media Watch:

The past five years have produced the five lowest final round ratings on record. Until 2014, the record-low was a 4.5 rating. Since, ratings have not exceeded a 4.2.

The reasons for that will range from declining ratings in all sports, to additional telecast time to a general reduced interest in the U.S. Open. (The championship's sellout streak is also over despite a limit of 30,000 tickets a day.) 

Then there is this:

For the season, the U.S. Open not only trails the third and final rounds of the Masters, but also ranks behind the final rounds at Tampa Bay (4.4, 6.9M) and the Players Championship (3.6, 5.8M).

Finishing behind Tampa Bay, even with Tiger, is astounding especially given the packed leaderboard heading into Sunday. 

Paulsen also reports an additional 36,000 viewers streamed the final round on Fox Sports GO.

Yep, streaming has arrived!

Ratings: Fox Up All Four Days Of 2018 U.S. Open Coverage, Still At Historic Lows

Good news! U.S. Open ratings were up all four days. 

Bad news: once the second-highest rated tournament of the year continued an eye-opening downward trend since Martin Kaymer's runaway at Pinehurst, reports Paulsen at Sports Media Watch.  A 3.6 overnight for the final round--an hour longer telecast window than in the NBC days--was up from last year's 3.5 rating for Brooks Koepka's 2017 win.

This year was the fourth of the past five in which final round coverage had less than a 4.0 overnight. From 1989-2013, the final round had at least a 5.0 each year. That 25-year run included a 6.1 five years ago and an 8.5 ten years ago (when Tiger Woods won in a playoff).

Certainly the extra length of the Fox telecasts softens the number, but with only World Cup as sports-viewing competition in the United States, the USGA has not seen audience growth with their move to Fox and faces the possibility of being the least-watched of the four majors again in 2018.

From FoxPR: 

For the opening round featuring Tiger Woods, Fox registered a 3-year high for its network coverage Thursday:

Fox U.S. Open Golf – Thursday First Round (S) (Fox, 4:30 PM, 191 min.)

• 2.149 million viewers
• 1.5/4 HH
• 0.4/3 A18-49 (0.2/2 F18-49, 0.5/5 M18-49)
• 0.3/3 A18-34 (0.1/1 F18-34, 0.4/4 M18-34)
• 0.5/3 A25-54 (0.3/2 F25-54, 0.7/5 M25-54)

Meanwhile Saturday's Live From The U.S. Open drew it's largest audience in seven years on the back of Phil Mickelson's dust-up at 13 and the greens getting away from the USGA, registering a .23 for Golf Channel.

The Growing Schism Between Players And The USGA

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There has long been an entertaining tug of war between the USGA and players over course setup, rules interpretation and other first world matters, but as Will Gray writes (and documents with Tweets) the post-Shinnecock fallout suggests a deep schism. One that may undermine anything the USGA does involving professional golfers. (Eh em...distance, new rules, etc...)

This from Pat Perez is hardly shocking, but as Gray's story notes, fairly consistent with what many players think.

“They’re not going to listen, for one. Mike Davis thinks he’s got all the answers, that’s No. 2,” said Pat Perez after a T-36 finish. “And when he is wrong, there’s no apologies. It’s just, ‘Yeah, you know, we kind of let it get out of hand.’ Well, no kidding. Look at the scores. That’s the problem. It’s so preventable. You don’t have to let it get to that point.”

The Live From guys also spoke out and scored points the USGA will need to rebut post-Shinnecock:

Phil Mickelson Roundup And Poll: Etiquette Breach DQ Or No DQ?

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We are a couple of days removed from Phil Mickelson's U.S. Open outburst and its not aging well, nor is the USGA's timid response earning raves either.  I hate belaboring this as a Phil fan but the reaction to this incident mirrors a disturbing justification for rules bending we've seen with the backstopping nonsense. 

In Mickelson's case, the media and former player reactions have been harsh. 

Having had a chance to do some reading, here's a presentation of just some reactions to Mickelson striking a moving ball in what he claimed was his intent to take advantage of the rules after hitting an awful putt. I present this with a poll awaiting at the end asking a very simple question.

The USGA "clarified" confusion over the Phil Mickelson situation Sunday, as Jeff Williams notes for Newsday. The statement ignored the serious breach of etiquette talk you hear from former players appalled by Mickelson's actions, starting with Paul Azinger to start Sunday's Fox broadcast. 

And to be clear: The USGA took a rain check at every opportunity to slap Phil with a line about not finding his antics to be living up to the spirit of the game. According to Amy Mickelson, her husband offered to WD and the USGA either declined or discouraged the action. Beth Ann Nichols also notes a curious quote from Phil before ducking more questions.

Mickelson's post-round explanation appears to have backfired based on media reaction. My Golfweek column received much pushback for suggesting Mickelson's legacy might be tainted by the incident. I'm sticking by my stance. A surprising number suggested Mickelson's legacy gave him the right to mis-behave. 

Kyle Porter asks if this is what we want golf to be and makes this amongst many vital points:

So Mickelson wriggles through a preposterous loophole (not his first or last loophole wriggle!) because he pulled his club back and made a stroke. Maybe I'm wrong, but Rule 14-5 does not appear to have been created for this type of situation. That's why Rule 1-2 exists.

John Feinstein wonders for Golf World why the USGA did not go after Mickelson for an etiquette breach.

One last piece of rules mumbo-jumbo: Rule 33-7 is the catch-all here. It gives the committee the wherewithal to disqualify a player it if believes a serious breach has been committed but also to not disqualify a player if it believes there are mitigating circumstances.

It was 33-7 that Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley, then the chairman of the championship committee for the Masters, fell back on in 2013 in deciding not to disqualify Tiger Woods for signing an incorrect scorecard after the second round that year.

Ian O'Connor of called for Phil to WD and summed up the debacle like this:

The cover-up is always worse than the crime. Mickelson turned the one major championship he has failed to win into a mini-golf misadventure, minus the windmill and clown's mouth. Now it's time for him to pick up his ball and go home.

Brian Wacker at

In the end, though, Mickelson’s actions—and words—made him look lamer than those button downs, rather than the smartest guy in the room.

“I don’t believe he really knows that rule,” the USGA’s former chief executive David Fay said on Fox of Mickelson. “I think his explanation made things complicated. I would’ve thought long and hard about it and after hearing everything I’ve heard I would’ve lobbied for disqualification.”

Eamon Lynch at Golfweek with a superb read on Mickelson's career Grand Slam effectively ending with his Shinnecock performance.

In that single stroke, Mickelson’s carefully constructed veneer fell away, the years of pained diplomacy and outward optimism with which he greeted every failed, painful tilt at the national Open. It was a quiet scream, seen but not heard.

So it's a simple question that probably is easier in hindsight given Mickelson's tone and admission of a calculated effort to bend, if not break the rules. And probably even easier given the USGA's coddling of a player not living up to basic standards for play. But here goes...

Should the USGA have disqualified Phil Mickelson for a serious breach of etiquette? free polls

What Has To Change For Shinnecock Hills To Work in 2026?

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The reviews are in and they are not strong for the USGA's handling of Shinnecock Hills

My take for Golfweek comes with doses of empathy, as Mike Davis, Jeff Hall and friends are trying to maintain the difficult U.S. Open challenge in a game out of balance due to equipment advances. To do so, the edge-pushing in a modern green speed world via tough hole locations will continue to make classic courses too prone to disasters like Saturday.

I also have great admiration for the effort of the grounds crew who had the place in superb condition and positioned perfectly heading into the week. As with 2004, the fatal decisions for this setup were not theirs to make. 

The Live From guys weren't as empathetic but it's hard to argue against their points in light of what happened.

Still, the problem remains the pre-tournament guarantees juxtaposed against what ended up happening. Reconciling the inability to have learned from mistakes will likely haunt the USGA for the next eight years. 

Just a reminder of what was said and promoted pre-2018...

The USGA actually touted the lessons learned in this video piece.

Matt Ginella's piece on the maintenance team and tools at the USGA's disposal.

And here is what was said at May's media day by Mike Davis:

"And so I would just say that it was 14 years ago, it was a different time, it was different people, and we as an organization, we learned from it. When you set up a U.S. Open it is golf's ultimate test, it's probably set up closer to the edge than any other event in golf and I think that the difference then versus now is there was a lot more, we have a lot more technology, a lot more data in our hands.

"And frankly, ladies and gentlemen, what really happened then was just a lack of water. There just wasn't enough water put in and the plant, essentially the grass itself kind of went dormant, there wasn't enough friction on the greens.

"And now days we have got everything from firmness meters, we have got moisture meters in the greens, we have got -- obviously we can tell how fast a green is running. The meteorology is better, so we not only know where the wind are coming from but the velocities. And, frankly, there's better communication between the USGA and the grounds staff.”

In hindsight, the tools and those manning them worked. The weather forecast was not taken seriously enough by the USGA, just as was the case in 2004. There was a decision this time around not to add water as the day progressed that will haunt this regime just as it has with past setup teams. (It should be noted PJ Boatwright and David Eger's setups in 1986 and 1995 did not experience any issues. Greens were also slower and the equipment was not overwhelming the game.) 

It seems the USGA needs to understand most want a satisfying championship, even if it means a compromise of the principle to not interfere with conditions as play progresses. (Thank you all for voting on the topic of adding water. With nearly 900 votes in now, 59% say add water mid-round if need be, 41% said no.) 

Who would argue with a midday misting in this case had it been done in the name of protecting the health of the greens post-tournament? And we are talking about a very small amount to have kept those hole locations functional.

With two straight Opens tainted by a lack of water and a golf course that so easily spills over the edge as a dry, warm day progresses, what is there to be done?

Without any distance regulation or willingness to accept lower scores as a result of turning away from suggestions distances advances were de-skilling the game, the USGA must not let classic seaside courses have green speeds over 10.5. They must let the courses be scored upon, though a case could be made slower greens would not lead to lower scores. Having given the Heisman to distance regulation for years while pushing green speeds and hole locations to maintain the ultimate test, the organization has positioned itself into a corner.

One thing we do know: no classic course should every be forced to add length or soften greens going forward. Especially a masterpiece like Shinnecock Hills. 

Poll: To Water During The Round Or Not To Water During The Round?

As we watch the 2018 U.S. Open final round play out, I keep coming back to one issue from Saturday's play: when it became apparently some holes that were working in the morning were not longer function in the afternoon, why not hit the the greens with water? The lesson of 2004 was: more water fixed the problems, rolling in the middle of the night or not. 

Philosophically, people do not like to see the course tampered once play has begun. But in a baseball game, infield crews freshen up the field as the day goes and repair the mound to ensure the best and safest conditions. 

So I'm curious what you think would be better: yesterday's outcome or a little water?

Should the USGA have brought out the hoses and hit the greens with water mid-round? free polls

Deja Vu All Over Again Files: Shinnecock 2018, Where To Begin?

Well in case you hadn't heard, the 2004 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills didn't go so well

The 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock had been going well, until Saturday when things spilled over the top. 

I've already shared my thoughts on Phil Mickelson's behavior today at Golfweek

A Golfweek column is now up related to the course setup. And many more have weighed in, including this fine one from Joel Beall. Honestly, beyond that I'm not even sure where to begin other than the incredible parallels with the Open 14 years ago.

Of course, I'd love to hear any and all thoughts as I head back to home sweet home, Jake's 58 before we do it all over again Sunday at Shinnecock.