Writers looking for a closing story on this 115th US Open have plenty of material. Where to begin?
The obvious place is at the top of the leaderboard. The kid amazed all of us again by putting himself into a familiar position for such a young age. He is a finisher. He is a winner. Most of all he is the anti – Tiger when it comes to dealing with the media. How do you spell refreshing? This kid has got it.
Behind the scenes, which is where I like to delve, you would have to say the most talented director in the Northwest this week was the train dispatcher coordinating some 60 trains a day along the double tracks skirting Chambers Bay, not the USGA’s Mike Davis. Davis had an infinite amount of flexibility. The train guy only had two iron fairways to choose from.
I said early in the week this might be an obscure Open. Yet the number two player in the world took the trophy over the names of Dustin Johnson, Brandon Grace, Louis Oosthuizen, Adam Scott, and gutty Jason Day. Pretty strong contenders on the moonscape that is Chambers Bay. Now that the tournament is over get those sprinklers on ASAP.
Notable performances from the amateur ranks came via Champaign, IL, and two Illini players, Brian Campbell and Nick Hardy. Campbell actually seized the lead on Friday for a few holes. Both shot final round 68’s. I thought the Am’s would perform well this week. Youth is serving notice that once they’re ready they can compete with the big boys. How long before “The Hammer” (15 year-old Cole Hammer) makes his way onto the big stage?
On the other end of the age spectrum how about Monty, the puffy senior Scot plodding his way across severe terrain to make the cut and play four rounds? Sergio threw a few barbs at the USGA but finished a respectable T-18. On Friday it looked as if he three-putted his final hole on purpose to avoid the weekend melee but Nick Hardy let him and several others in when he raised the cut to +5. There was also a Jason Dufner and Geoff Ogilvy sighting at T-18. Arnie’s grandson played four rounds while Rory nabbed a top ten. Pick a story, any story. There are plenty out there.
If you want to look further behind the scenes you might dabble with prominent players who fell below the cutline but those stories were already written on Friday. This year’s second major was worthy of viewing despite a plethora of Fox sportscasters talking over the play. It was similar to a cocktail party — 10 conversations going on at the same time across the airwaves. Geez, we get to look forward to that for nine more years. All of a sudden Johnny Miller doesn’t seem so bad.
Do we really need to talk about the four footer? Blame the greens, blame the fescue or poa, blame the lack of moisture during a dry spring, but the fact is the best players in the world miss putts. When it happens on the seventy-second hole of a major championship it gets magnified beyond rational proportions. Hey Dustin, helluva week, bro. Don’t let it ruin your year.
I’m sure some nitwit will write the story about how Jordan “backed into” his victory. Nothing could be further from the truth. In professional sport there is a winner and a loser. Let the sordid details get hashed out by amateur scribes. This kid is what golf needs right now. Get rid of the four and five letter references (Phil & Tiger) of the past. Add another letter to spell J-O-R-D-A-N. It is the future and the future is in good hands.
The clan that bashed the USGA for the site selection and the set up are winging their way home running excuses through their heads. What Sunday showed is that some of the best players in the world adapted to what was placed in front of them. In Round Four Scott fires a 64. Two amateurs (Campbell and Hardy) card 68. Louis O blitzes the back nine for 29 bringing back memories of Neal Lancaster who did it in back-to-back US Opens. It’s amazing how some players can raise their games over the noise. Billy Horschel take note.
My main inquiry for Chambers Bay focused on the luck/talent equation. Trent Jones’ greens were a stern examination yet the winning score was still -5. The USGA folks are probably slapping each other on the back, popping corks on extravagant wines compliments of the big, fat FOX contract. They made it work. They got their number and a gripping finish. Call it what you want but Johnson’s miscue on 18 wasn’t due to bad luck, instead you can chalk it up to operator error. Several other players made similar putts over the course of seventy-two holes. Spieth didn’t luck out and back in. He birdied 18 when he needed it and now sets his sights on pursuing his next major at St. Andrews. Can he fit three major trophies on his mantel?
With two down and two to go, this 2015 golf season will continue to see youth rise to the top. While the viewing pleasure isn’t as spectacular as the early season sites featuring Torrey Pines, Pebble Beach, Riviera, Doral, Bay Hill, TPC, Harbour Town and Quail Hollow, I suppose I’ll catch a few rounds this summer before I’m forced to get up early and take in the Open Championship. The main storyline is apparent. It does seem very possible doesn’t it?
While it may take some time you can bet the USGA will be hosting a future Open at Chambers Bay. They’ve seen their mistakes, dealt with adverse conditions and seem willing to make it better. In the Northwest you’ll never get a weak cup of coffee, an entree of frozen fish or four straight days without rain showers. You’re likely to see a much different tournament in the future. Don’t be surprised the next time the USGA flags fly over the train tracks and the Sound if you see Jordan Spieth mentoring Cole Hammer during a practice round. Ahh, youth be served.