Reuters reports from PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. The United States Golf Association (USGA) admitted on Wednesday that it was “essential” that they get it right this year after a spate of U.S. Open mishaps that enraged players and brought snickers from fans.
Players have complained that the “Toughest Test in Golf” has become the most absurd task in the sport, prompting talk of a boycott of the major.
The USGA has been driven into full damage repair mode, vowing to make this year’s championship a difficult but fair test, after three of the last four U.S. Opens have been marred by controversy.
The USGA’s senior managing director of championships, John Bodenhamer, told reporters, “I think it’s vital.” “But we’re confident in our strategy,” he says, “and we’re confident in what you’ll see on the golf course and what we’ll deliver to the players as a challenging but fair test.”
Golfers Claim that They Want a Difficult Test, but Not an Impossible One
The state of the greens enraged players at the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, and a rules snafu involving Dustin Johnson enraged spectators at Oakmont in 2016.
But it was at Shinnecock Hills last year that player wrath reached its pinnacle when Phil Mickelson whacked a moving ball on the 13th green to protest what he saw as an unfair hole placement.
New Difficulties Are on The Way
With the U.S. Open being held on the historic course for the sixth time, the USGA is well aware of the obstacles ahead.
The players have been glowing all week, but their moods can change as rapidly as the weather on the Monterey peninsula, as it did in 1992 when officials were taken off guard in the final round when 20 golfers shot in the 80s in dreadful circumstances.
“There are no promises,” Bodenhamer stated there are no guarantees. “On the Monterey Peninsula, the weather can shift quickly.” But we’re confident in the plan, in the strategy we’ve devised, and in the precautions we’ve put in place in case the weather forces us to use them.
In 1955, the Olympic Club
In 1955, when little-known Jack Fleck denied Ben Hogan a record-tying fifth US Open, the Olympic Club in San Francisco became known as the “graveyard of champions.”
The one-hour show ended with announcer Gene Sarazen congratulating Hogan on his triumph after Hogan finished his final round with a two-shot lead over Fleck.
Fleck, who was using a bespoke set of Hogan irons, didn’t read the script and birdied two of the final four holes, forcing an 18-hole playoff.
Hogan had a one-shot lead going into the final hole, but he hooked his tee shot into deep rough and had to hack his way out to the fairway, which took three hacks. In one of the most unlikely upsets in US Open history, he would one-putt for double bogey and deliver Fleck his lone major title.
1974’s Winged Foot
Back in 1974, the site of this week’s US Open witnessed a contentious event.
The USGA replied by ensuring no one broke par in the first round of the 1974 US Open in New York state, after seeing Johnny Miller break hearts and shot the first 63 in a major championship the year before.
Greens were so fast that Jack Nicklaus was spotted rolling putts off the dancefloor, and getting a ball out of the rough even 100 yards was considered a miracle.
Hale Irwin won by two strokes with a 7-over total, the second-highest winning score in respect to a par of any US Open since WWII.
The Inverness Club, Inverness
After Lon Hinkle’s contrived cross-country shortcut, the 1979 US Open in Ohio saw some significant re-landscaping mid-tournament.
Hinkle noticed a gap from the eighth tee to the 17th fairway that allowed him to cut the par-five eighth hole in half, leading playing partner Chi Chi Rodriguez and others to do the same.
“I glanced at the hole and saw that it was a wide-open shot from the 17th fairway,” said Hinkle, who was one-under after the opening round.
“As only Chi Chi can, Chi-Chi became animated. The thought piqued his interest.”
As Irwin went on to win his second US Open in five years, organizers planted an anti-Hinkle tree to fill the void.
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