Phil Mickelson on his 48th birthday did something toddlers do at golf courses across the world. Mickelson, a veteran of 26 years, was faced with a putt on the 13th hole Day 3 of the US Open Tournament at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club. Mickelson hit the downhill putt a little firm but watched as it missed the cup and began rolling past the hole. Mickelson quickly jogged to the other side of the hole and hit the ball again before it could catch a ridge most likely making the putt roll off the green. In an interview after his round Mickelson was asked about the incident, he responded; “At the time I didn’t feel like going back-and-forth and hitting the same shot over. I took the two-shot penalty and moved on… I don’t mean any disrespect.” The well-beloved lefty knew the rule and wasn’t attempting to hurt the game, he was just frustrated, and he’s not the only one.
Former Masters and British Open champ Zach Johnson during an interview with ESPN’s Bob Harig said: “[The USGA] lost the course.” He went on to explain “We’re not on the edge. I thought we could be on the edge, but we’ve surpassed it. It’s pretty much gone.” Johnson describes the difficulty of the course. When selecting a course for the US Open, the USGA does due diligence in every aspect from a room for both players and patrons to facilities to entertain and house all these people as well. A particular goal of the USGA is to select a course that will provide a fair and challenging test to participants. This year winner Brooks Koepka shot one over par for the tournament. Koepka won last year’s US Open that was hosted at Erin Hills with a score of -16. This year’s competition had the winner shoot the highest score since 2012 and 2013 where the winning number was also one over.
Was the tournament unfair to the contestants? How could it be unfair, every contestant that stepped foot on the property played the same holes and course that everybody else played on. Each player could play and study the course as long as they felt necessary to prepare for the tournament. Many of the participants complained about the putting surfaces as being poor. The average amount of putts for the top 5 finishers during the US Open was 1.78 putts per green, during this year’s Master’s Tournament the average amount of putts was 1.57 putts per green. The lowest round ever shot at a US Open happened last year and in 2011 with -16 both stand as an outlier with the next double-digit score under par is in the year 2000 in which was the first time anybody ever scored more than ten strokes under. The US Open is supposed to be so much harder than any tournament played during the year, and relatively the stats prove it was entirely fair. Phil Mickelson leads the PGA in average putts per hole at 1.677 with second place Dustin Johnson at 1.707.
Putting appeared to be not a massive problem for top placers during the tournament no matter the condition of what they were. Why were their so many complaints about the tournament? It really can be quite simple; it made professional golfers look like amateurs. In fact, it didn’t even get them to that point, most golfers that often play during their lifetime will never shoot par on any course. Is it that wrong to shoot par on a course, tour pros this week acted as it was, and they acted a little snobby. Each week they get to play on some of the most beautiful courses that are to be in the most pristine condition while they play them. What’s wrong with some imperfections people around the world play with them all the time.
This week in golf the top finishers showed their mental toughness. They accepted that the course sometimes might eat them alive, but sometimes they were able to fight back. They moved on after mistakes knowing that complaining would not help. Golf is an individual sport, there is never any teammates to blame for your failures, and that should be the same for the course. The course is stagnant it is present 24/7 365 days a year, and nowadays it is accessible in ways that have never be possible thanks to the internet. So how can you complain about a course, there are tee times set aside for each golfer to have the chance to study and prepare. Before each round, there are putting greens to practice on as similar as can be to the ones you are about to play. So how can one complain about a golf course, you can’t, you can only make excuses.
The US Open took god-like creatures and made them seem mortal which does wonders for the game of golf. A young kid can’t comprehend the path to shooting ten under par in a round, but they can imagine shooting even. Of course, the difference between the Shinnecock Hills and a municipal course are grand but watching a professional double bogey, no matter what course, gives people a connection. Blaming the course only allows the next generation to do the same. Golf is a game of millimeters perfection is not achievable in anyone’s game and its impossible, no matter how well Augusta National does, to have a course that is perfect. Enjoy and play golf don’t complain about things out of your handle.