PEBBLE BEACH, CA – For the first time in five years, USGA avoided a rules controversy, a set-up imbroglio, a weather issue, or a turfgrass meltdown. Thank goodness, because the squabbling about the last four years by plarers and press has been more then just strident. It almost appears they are on a mission, with the players demanding a kindler gentler U.S. Open, and the golf press rushing to promote their position. It caused the USGA to schedule extra player-USGA conferences to discuss issues.
“We’ve continued to evolve our preparation and have welcomed some new and varied voices to our process and to inform our course setup process. We’ve been working in collaboration with a number of individuals and I would say even some experts that have some special local knowledge of the course and even quite a bit of experience playing it,” explained the USGA’s John Bodenhamer.
“And while we’ve sought external input from others wherever we go for years and years and years, it really is a bit of an evolution to our procedures. And we value these new voices greatly. They’ve been tremendously helpful, and they’ve shared their experiences and really provided a greater sense of how this course plays on a day-to-day basis, especially under the very varied weather conditions that can happen on the Monterey Peninsula. And it’s been helpful.”
The result was a lot of red figures – too many for the national championship in many people’s opinions. This generation of golf fans have trouble recalling a time when the champion would pose with the trophy beneath a scoreboard of entirely red numbers. This looked more, at times, like the AT&T than the U.S. Open.
The weather looked more like the British Open, which may have contributed to that. Pebble Beach never got firm and fast enough, but was, in fact, forgiving. Still, at least the USGA didn’t have to employ the emergency squeegees they had ready in casse of emergency.
We decided to ask the fans n attendance about their experience and their views of how el the USGA did this year. A sampling of four gives a broad spectrum of opinions.
WILL, AGE 45, SANTA CRUZ, CA
ON THE FAN EXPERIENCE: “I’ve been to numerous major championships in northern and Southern California, as well as a lot of PGA Tour events. I only live an hour away, and I had tickets for both Saturday and Sunday, but I gave my Sunday away, because it was too tough a walk for me. I’m a bit heavy with bad knees, and a really long walk just to get the course was bad enough, but it kept bottlenecking, and the crowds were unbearable. I had a better seat in my living room Sunday. Of course I’ll come back. I hope they do a great job at Harding Park next year for the PGA.”
ON THE SET-UP: “There were lot of red numbers, but these guys played great. Plus the weather didn’t help. I think this was more an aberration of that than bad set-up by the USGA. But that’s also not a U.S> Open. Sharpen the knives at Winged Foot! We want a massacre!”
GREG AND TINA, HUSBAND AND WIFE, 40S, SCOTTSDALE, AZ
EXPERIENCE: “We came in for two days, the weekend. I went all the time to PGA Tournaments out here before we were married just recently. Now this is her first tournament, a sort of second honeymoon. It’s a lot to ask of people to walk around a lot just to get to the golf course. We didn’t buy tickets to watch it on screens in a fan plaza. Plus, I wish the sun had come out. We were huddled in a blanket at times..”
SET-UP: “We really didn’t get to see many birdies because lines were so long to get into stands. We walked around a lot and saw lots of random golf shots. But occasionally Tina would stumble across a player she liked and cheer him on.
TIM, AGE 50, ROCHESTER, NY
EXPERIENCE: “It wasn’t so bad for the practice round and Thursday. The walk out to the golf course was ridiculous, but we found seats easily and there were concessions and bathrooms everywhere. Too bad it was cold, but that’s not the USGA’s fault.”
SET-UP: “It’s the U.S. Open and you want to see these guys grind hard, but it’s also Pebble and you want some electricity. I’m of two minds about it.”
THE MORGANS, FAMILY OF FOUR, FAIRFAX, CA
EXPERIENCE: “It’s really expensive. Between tickets, food, parking, and a hotel for two nights/three days, and tchochkes, it adds up fast. There’s a lot of walking because as the week rolls on you can’t get all four of us seats together in the stands. You had to walk all the way to the golf course, then fight your way through bottlenecks and traffic jams, then have to come all the way back. We had to split up. The food was good, but overpriced. The Masters is a better deal. Parking was horrible. Some people were selling lot space for $100.
SET:UP: “The kids like birdies and eagles, but I’m an old guy. I want to see the players squirm at the U.S. Open.”