Sunday, June 21, 2009

USGA mucks up their own event

One of the millions of followers of Eye On Golf has “tweeted” us (Gee, I hope that's the correct term. Actually we're getting to be a little afraid of “tweets.) wondering if we have more thoughts on the U.S. Open. You know the one conducted by the USGA who keeps hoping that by squeegeeizing the golf course they can finish before the British Open - the original Open Championship. Yes, we do have some thoughts.

The U.S. Open is all wet and as a result the USGA has screwed up the competition. By trying to squeeze in as much golf as possible between floods regardless of playing conditions, the organization has had a direct effect on who will win the golf tournament. If you were unfortunate enough to have the AM/PM starting times, you were doomed to play a few hole every now and then in mostly adverse conditions, pouring rain, water on the greens, etc. If you drew the PM/AM starting times, you still have to slog it out a bit, but hardly felt a raindrop and never had to wait for five guys to squeegee off a green before you could putt. There is no doubt the the USGA's decisions to play or not play will have an immediate influence on the outcome of the 2009 U.S. Open.

Anyone who plays golf or follows golf realizes that the game itself is not fair. A bit of luck always factors into the determination of a winner and loser. We all know some whiskey-laden European created the game as a form of self masochism. There is no logical reason why he would have built fairness into it. There's a lot a skill and a bit of luck involved in shooting a good score, sometimes vice-versa. But that's in the playing of the game, not in the time you're assigned to play the game. There's a big difference. We want our national championship to be decided on a level playing field – if that's not too cliché. It should be different than the weekly PGA Tour event. That's why the USGA refuses to play lift, clean and place. Just like the USGA, we want every participant to play the course under the same conditions. If that means stopping play when the greens become flooded, so be it.

I now have two squeegee images forever in my mind. One comes from the front page of the sport section of the Arizona Republic dated June 19, 2009. It's a picture of Tiger Woods watching two course workers squeegee the green on the second hole. If you're to the point where it's raining so hard that workers must squeegee, it's time to call a halt.

The second image comes from NBC's television broadcast on Saturday. As the USGA tried to wedge all the golf possible into Saturday, they began the third round at 5:30 PM EST. Inside of ninety minutes the skies opened up and within five minutes the greens were flooded and out came the army of squeegeeizers. But did the USGA tell the players to go home an come back tomorrow? No, or course not! They told them to hold in place because they expected the rain to subside or stop and they might be able to get another hole or two in before darkness. Brilliant. Just brilliant!

So now we're into Sunday. Tee times have been pushed back to 12:00 PM EST in hopes of getting the third round completed. Who knows when the fourth round will be started or completed.

If the USGA had canceled all of Thursday, they could have played round one on Friday, round 2 on Saturday and then round three on Sunday. They would have been right in the same situation they are now. The big difference would be that the playing field would have been level for all participants.

You may condemn this as easy criticism with perfect 20-20 hindsight, but think about it. It involves foresight and common sense.

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