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Iain Carter Column

US Open
by Iain Carter (U7103772) 08 June 2008
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“Could you move along please, we don’t want to you to see us doing this work.” It was a polite request and it was absurd.

The man delivering it was a USGA official pacing Oakmont’s 15th green on the morning of the final round at last year’s US Open.

Fellow 5 Live commentator John Murray and I were out scouting the course to check for pin positions ahead of broadcasting the climax to the second major of the season.

The USGA man was sniffy that the media were getting a sneak preview of his work. No matter that the public gates had long since been opened and anyone else was welcome to have a look at the course.

That’s the USGA for you. They’re a rather different lot and are, by and large, responsible for the US Open invariably being regarded as the most controversial major of the year.

But despite this official’s rather ridiculous request 12 months ago, times are changing and those who run the US Open are showing they are rather more enlightened than they are often given credit for being.

Two years ago at Winged Foot, director of rules and competitions Mike Davis took over the staging of the championship.

He has not let up on producing the most severe test in golf, but he has shown he possesses commendable vision in the way he goes about setting up the course.

In days gone by we have witnessed the world’s best being asked to hit to fairways out of their range or onto bone-hard driving areas where balls then run straight into unplayable thick rough.

An inch off target and you would be dead. I remember my first US Open in 2003 at Olympia Fields and my delight at coming out of a ballot to play the course the next day.

The scramble to get a rental set of clubs and back out to the course was classic sitcom stuff, but nothing would stop me from getting a taste of a US Open course.

After nine holes I walked off. It was one of the most miserable golfing experiences I’d ever encountered and for me I was hitting it okay.

The course, and more particularly the rough, was just too brutal and too unfair. Punishments didn't fit the crimes and yet by US Open standards Olympia Fields was regarded as being too easy.

Thankfully, Davis sees things differently. “One of the things about US Open rough was that it frustrated people,” Davis says. “I know it frustrated me.”

So he did something about it and introduced the concept of graduated rough. We’ll see it again at Torrey Pines this week.

“The guy who missed a fairway by a few paces had to chop out. Then we had the guy who hit a shot outside the rope line and he had a chance to recover.

“The graduated rough concept is that if a guy misses a fairway by 25 feet or less he will have an opportunity to create a shot and get the ball to the green – if he’s good enough.”

The theory is that this will tempt players to go for their shots. Risk and reward is introduced, rather than the attrition of just trying to hit fairways and greens and escape with a par.

There will be the shaved collection areas around the greens which dictate the requirement for more short game imagination as well.

It doesn't make the course any easier but there’s a greater variety of golf on offer.

And the last two US Opens have produced some of the most dramatic major action we have seen in recent years.

Monty and Mickelson’s meltdowns at Winged Foot were followed by the desperate attempts from Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk to catch the smiling Angel Cabrera at Oakmont.

The Argentine had hit the shot of the year – his approach to the 15th - to set up his maiden major win.

So it is with great optimism I head to the spectacular Torrey Pines for this week's championship.

Forget about par, just see who comes out with the lowest number.

The winner will have needed to be long and straight – no one can win a US Open without those qualities – but they’ll need shot and decision-making qualities as well.

So many questions will be answered in the coming week. Can hop- along Woods challenge? Is Sergio about to break his major duck (I think it will happen in one of the next two) and can the Brits bounce back from flattering to deceive at Augusta?

Never write off Tiger, Garcia can show us just what winning the Players has done for him and Rose and Donald are starting to find encouraging form.

There are many more issues bubbling away as well, but personally
I just can’t wait to see the course – and hopefully the officials won’t mind me having a look.

Latest 10 comments

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comment by Toby (U12106680)

posted Jun 9, 2008

I think Garcia will challenge this week, he's a big hitter and usually up there in hit fairways and greens in reg %. Of course he still has to putt..... Still the smart money is on Tiger, even if he has been injured as his record at this course (Buick Invitational) is phenomenal. Either way it should be a fun US Open.

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posted Jun 9, 2008

Put all your money on Monty!!! All the signs are there...COME ON MONTY!!!!!

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posted Jun 9, 2008

monty is a choker always will be

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posted Jun 9, 2008

Its always been said that Garcia could chalenge woods, if he could start putting properly. 8 one putts at the players is quite a good sign I think. And that put to force the playoff was cool as you like.

As for Monty..well would be nice but, be serious.

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posted Jun 10, 2008

Would love to see Garcia do it but my head says no.
I think the greens will turn him into a gibbering wreck.
As someone once said (i think it was Bobby Jones)
On greens like this you have to hit the ball with the shadow of your putter.
As for Monty laugh

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posted Jun 10, 2008

I had the absolute privilege of playing TP in Jan this year 2 days after the Buick finished. We played from the middle tees and I shot 83 (7 handicap). To see the back tees on some holes you needed binocs. Course was soft and weather calm. Rough then was about 3 inches (we measured it) and the (local) guy we played with said they would grow it to 12" for the open. I can still see par winning it, even a couple under, unless the wind blows...

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posted Jun 10, 2008

tigers short play and course management will win him us open by 5 shots


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posted Jun 10, 2008

Andrew Mc it will be a birdie fest by US Open standards! The rough is graduated these days and so an errant shot by a few inches will not be punsihed as before at US Opens! Winning score will be close to double figures under and Tiger will have it by at least 5 shots IMO

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posted Jun 11, 2008

Hi Iain,

Is there any news on whether Gary Wolstenholme has made it into the starting lineup?

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posted Jun 11, 2008

Just hope that the course is set up fairly and we see the players who attack get the chance to make a few birdies if they hit the right's not entertaining to see a winning score of + 6 or more..............

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