“The rough’s gotten so healthy in just the last few years,” he says. “You see footage of 1973 and Johnny Miller is hitting 6-irons out of the rough and onto the green from 170 yards. Not to put down Johnny Miller’s 63, because I’ve gotten to hear about it from Miller Barber, who played with him that day and it’s without a doubt the best round of all time, but it’s a lot tougher to recover from the rough on a lot of today’s major venues.”
Sometimes the conditions are too tough, and the prime examples are the 2004 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills and the 1999 British Open at Carnoustie. At Shinnecock the USGA set up the course too firm and fast for the final round; putts on the 7th hole were rolling off the green, which the grounds crew eventually had to water between groups.
Carnoustie’s fairways were so narrow that even Ben Hogan, who had won at the same course with a masterful display of driving accuracy, might have had trouble hitting them.
“It’s unfortunate that they set up courses to try and keep you from shooting a low score,” says Love. “The U.S. Open to me is getting over the top. Augusta is getting over the top. The Open Championship, other than Carnoustie in ’99, is by far the most fair and the one you look forward to playing the most.”
I am sure there is no body of professional games players who so cheerfully know so little of the rules of their game as do professional golfers.