BROOKLINE, MA â€“ Ordinarily Your Author despises softball questions lobbed at pro athletes like hanging curves, but once in a while those off-brand inquiries lead somewhere interesting. And today at the U.S. Open World Number 1 Scottie Scheffler was prompted into giving everyone news they could use.
The question posed to Scheffler was a bit dork-a-tronic:
â€œObviously, it’s a little bit you’re hoping to play all four days here, [Authorâ€™s Interjection:Â Geeâ€¦You think?!] but if you were a fan and you were coming here and having a beer with your buddies, just you knowing the course, where would you like to watch it?
Obviously the intent was to get beer in there. We are in Boston, after all. Hooray for beer!
But Scottie gave us a thoughtful, observant answer, one that should allow fans to see wild swings on the scoreboard without getting exhausted moving around all day. Maximum drama with minimal energy expenditure:Â itâ€™s a classic ratio of production value.
First, Scheffler opened with the best strategic advice a golfer could get.
â€œI would probably get here early and walk it,â€ he noted eagerly. â€œIf I hadn’t been here before, I would probably walk the course and maybe watch one of the early groups where there’s not too many people and try to get to see everything.â€
Excellent analysis â€“ you get to see the entire course, soup to nuts. Bonus point if you walk it backwards, to really get a feel for not only where, but why the defenses are arrayed as they are. All the great Golden Age architects employed this theory, especially Mackenzie, who fought in the Boer War. Competitive golfers at every level have adopted this theory in practice as well. Itâ€™s almost pro forma at the highest levels.
Better still, Scheffler then delved into specifics.
â€œThere are so many good holes out here,â€ he observed with the look of a starving man perusing a menu. â€œI could post up on 8. I could post up on 10 and 11 kind of out there by the green and watch shots going into 11, watch shots coming into 10 and see some carnage on No. 10 and then maybe a few lower scores on No. 11.â€
Eight through 11, that stretch is indeed a chakra of the golf course. The short, reachable par-5 eighth is followed by the quirky short part-4 ninth.
Now â€œquirkyâ€ can mean a lot of things, from â€œquirky interestingâ€ to â€œquirky weird.â€ In the case of the Country Clubâ€™s ninth, Iâ€™m afraid itâ€™s both. To avoid a mound mid-fairway that caroms balls toward one of the only water hazards on the golf course, players are teeing off with a 5-iron. Perhaps the USGA might consider moving the tee markers back and forth on this hole to try to tempt the golfers into an unwise shot.
10 is downright iconic â€“ the Himalayas, traversing a whopping 498 yards uphill and curving like a scimitar. â€œSee some carnageâ€ indeed! Hopefully to be offset at the tiny par-3 11th, in play for the first time at a U.S. Open since Francis Ouimetâ€™s fabled victory in 1913.
As a bonus, the mighty 641-yard, par-5 14th could be a nightmare. While the rough on the entire course is among the most ferocious Your Author has seen in the 18 U.S. Opens heâ€™s covered, the rough at the closing five holes needs clearing with a machete. Are we in Boston or Dublin?
â€œIt’s really good. I think it’s a nice stretch,â€ observed Scheffler. â€œ14 is now a par-5, which you can get at, but it’s a pretty hard par-5â€¦. You play 15, which is a really difficult holeâ€¦Then 16 is a really good par-3. 17 being a short hole where it’s a kind of a birdie-bogey. Then 18 if you get it in play or in the fairway off the tee, it’s a good birdie opportunity.â€
The reigning Masters champion and likely Player of the Year candidate opens the tournament tomorrow on the tenth hole at 1:25 with back-to-back U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka and Players champion Cameron Smith.