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The Golf Blog: Cut the USGA a little slack

Joe Zenzola
June 12, 2017 - 9:07 pm

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I’m not going to sit here and defend the USGA until the cows come home…

They’ve made some mistakes over the last couple of years…

Two years ago at Chambers Bay, they were blasted for the burned out, lightning fast greens.

Last year, Dustin Johnson was assessed a one stroke penalty in the Final Round at Oakmont for causing his ball to move on the green without making actual contact with his putter. As his putter was ready to tap the ball, Johnson saw the ball move and immediately called himself out on it. He was told by the rules official to play on without penalty, but the USGA wanted to look at the replays. Several holes later, as a potential penalty lingered in the mind of Johnson, officials decided to give him the penalty because they believed he did cause the ball to move after all…

Luckily, Johnson overcame that B.S. ruling and won his first Major tournament, avoiding an even bigger firestorm of controversy for the USGA.

Since then, the USGA is getting its act together, and it needs to be recognized.

Beginning this year, accidental contact to the ball will not incur a penalty. They got it right. In addition, they’ve eliminated several rules to simplify things for all golfers.

As for the greens at Erin Hills this week, they will play very fast, but not burned out like we saw at Chambers Bay.

And yet, the complaints continue heading into this year’s U.S. Open at Erin Hills.

On Sunday, Pro Golfer Kevin Na released this video on his Instagram complaining that the fescue rough was too thick. Wesley Bryan, another pro, addressed the same thing.

I get it. It’s pretty thick, and there’s talk they’ll trim it up a little before the first round…but I think we need to remind players like Na and Bryan that they’re playing in golf’s ultimate test…It’s the freaking U.S. Open. Get over yourselves. Hit the ball straight and you might have a chance at winning this thing.

(Maybe Kevin Na is worried this will happen to him this week…Remember he carded a 16 a few years ago???!)

No U.S. Open is too rewarding. It’s supposed to be painful. Their philosophy has always been to put the best players’ skills and nerves to the test. I’ve always appreciated that, and it’s why this Major stands alone compared to the other three. Personally, I want the game’s best to be put through a mental and physical grind. We don’t see this in any other tournament on the PGA Tour. Why make it easy? These pros make it look to easy on the Tour as it is! While it’s entertaining, average golfers like you and me are jealous of those abilities. Give them a steep challenge…at least once a year!

Even though this is a brand new venue for the U.S. Open and completely foreign to the world’s best, Erin Hills will still provide significant scoring opportunities for the golfers, more so than what I've seen in past championships. Many of which will be risk-reward. Think about it, there are four par 5s (haven’t seen a Par 72 at any U.S. Open in 25 years) and two par 4s, depending on the tee placement, that could provide opportunities to drive the green. Pros will also have more room to work with off the tees. These are not narrow fairways, unlike at other U.S. Open venues. They're wide, sloping, and cut very short for a little extra roll (which can be a good and also a bad thing). 

Mike Davis, the Executive Director and CEO of the USGA, said at Media Day last month that they weren’t looking for a specific score after 72 holes on Sunday. Davis seemed open and comfortable to the idea that it would be good to have the winner well under par at Erin Hills. After all, Tiger Woods destroyed the field at Pebble Beach with a -12 under winning score in 2001.

Depending on conditions (including rain and light wind projected in the forecast), it could allow golfers to take advantage of softer conditions, especially on the greens. After playing this golf course myself, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a winning score at -3,-4, or even -5…maybe lower. Every golfer cannot wait to see what that final number will be…

But the U.S. Open is trying to better itself, I believe…

However, the last thing they need is another controversy after this Sunday.

Follow me on Twitter and Instagram: @RadioJoeSports

Don’t forget! Bill Michaels, Chuck Freimund, and myself will have full coverage of all four rounds of the U.S. Open this week from Erin Hills! Keep it here on The FAN!

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