Shinnecock Brought The Pros To Their Knees, And I Loved It

Yesterday Brooks Koepka, an American, won the United States Open golf championship in a hotly contested and exciting competition. But the tournament had many sidebars that gave golf duffers like me some comfort about how tough it is to play the game of golf.

Suffice it to say I’m very unhappy with my game. I played competitive sports in high school and college, so I pride myself on being a pretty good athlete, even at my age.

But golf, which I stared playing over 50 years ago, has been my nemesis. In summary I’ve made little progress over the years. In recent times I began to play more and take lessons with little improvement.

What is my problem, you ask? It has nothing to do with athletic prowess and everything to do with what’s going on between my ears. In a nutshell I need a golf shrink, not a golf coach.

My wife is amazed with the self-loathing that my play evokes every time we are on a golf course. She is shocked when I lose my cool and start to whine over a silly game. But golf is not silly, and I want to play better. Yet I always return for more disappointment.

This year’s US Open was refreshing. I loved the fact that all the studs on the PGA Tour were struggling mightily. I didn’t have to witness final scores of 15 or 20 shots under par, drives over 350 yards in the middle of the fairway and spectacular up and downs from off the greens. Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, the site of the US Open, brought the professionals to their knees, a place where I spend most of my time (on my knees, I mean).

Many of the pros were whining, just like me, about the wind, rain, high rough, fast greens, pin placements and tight lies. Alas, Mother Nature beat up the professionals, and bad. In the end the winning final score was over par.

It was cathartic to see these great players shanking from the two-foot high fescue grass and topping chips across lightning fast greens into more trouble. Double and triple bogies abounded. The players actually seemed human at times. The spread between my average score and theirs for a round actually decreased.

Of course I could never break 100 playing a course like Shinnecock, especially in those condition. But it made me feel better.

Frankly I was a little disappointed by some of the pros that complained about the course. Everyone knows the USGA (United States Golf Association) tries to increase the difficulty of the course for this championship. The usual tactics are to grow the rough, increase the speed of the greens by mowing and not watering and hoping the Mother Nature delivers some bad weather.

The fact is everyone is playing the same course, so the degree of difficulty is moot. The man who shoots the lowest score wins, plain and simple. If a hole is 490 yards long, uphill and against a 30 mile per hour wind, everybody plays it.

One golfer said the course was fine except the pin placements on two holes were unfair. To whom, I ask? For everybody, I respond.

I really enjoyed the US Open telecast. The young fellows are, at last, replacing the old timers like Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods. Phil turned 48 years old over the weekend so he should start thinking about the Senior Tour where he will win every week. His behavior after making a bad putt was weird and unbecoming. I still like Phil.

The golf world is hoping that Tiger returns to his old self, but it’s unlikely. I appreciate that he’s good for the game of golf, but he doesn’t have it anymore. The fans screamed for him, and the TV announcers made excuses for his poor performance. But Shinnecock ate his lunch, and Tiger missed the cut. It’s not easy to get old as an athlete.

I’m trying to draw inspiration from the US Open. It hasn’t happened yet. Nevertheless I will continue to hack away.

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