Monday, June 18, 2018

MAKING THE MONSTER IN 1951. TWO STRONG WILLED MEN JOINED FORCES TO TURN OAKLAND HILLS INTO THE TOUGHEST UNITED STATES OPEN VENUE EVER


In 1951, Ben Hogan-arguably the greatest player ever-won the United States Open at Oakland Hills-arguably the most difficult Open course ever. It would be his 3rd of 4 official Open wins.

It was written that:

Ben Hogan enlivened the trophy ceremony at the 1951 U.S. Open by
casting the South Course at Oakland Hills as a "monster" and
himself as St. George. "I'm just glad," Hogan said, "that I
brought this course, this monster, to its knees." And it was
long before other journalists characterized the 28-year-old
course as "Frankenstein," "the green monster," "the Oakland
Ogre" and--by a sports editor who spied neither shoulders nor
legs on the beast--"a golfing rattlesnake." 
Hogan's 67 at Oakland Hills

This year, a group of spoiled, pampered professional golfers exposed themselves as world-class whiners when the Open at Shinnecock refused to allow one of this assembly of shining stars to trot off the 18th green on Sunday with a score of 25 under par!

The following article appeared in Breitbart after the Saturday round:

Saturday at Shinnecock, a Preventable Disaster

By Daniel Redmond

The integrity of the 2018 U.S. Open golf championship is compromised after another disastrous blunder by the United States Golf association (USGA) in regards to the course set up of Shinnecock Hills.
In trying to set up difficult conditions for Saturday, the USGA neglected to consider changing winds and drying conditions as the day progressed. This led to a massive advantage gained by the players who were teeing off early on Saturday. The advantage was so outrageous that Daniel Berger and Tony Finau, who started the day 11 shots back of leader Dustin Johnson, are now tied for the lead.

There is often a slight advantage in playing earlier in the day in that you get a fresh course without spike marks and sun baked putting greens. The USGA however, in placing the pins in such difficult places, neglected to consider the possibility of an increase in wind (which is actually common at Shinnecock).

This is the crux of the issue.

With the responsibility of putting together a fair course for all the players, they neglected to plan for a worse-case scenario. That’s disastrous mismanagement. So much so that if Finau or Berger were to win the event, there should be an asterisk by their name. Nor is this the first time the USGA has mismanaged a U.S. Open at Shinnecock.

In 2004 play had to stop in the final round to spray the 7th green with water, after 2 groups had already played it at 8 over par collectively. JJ Henry, who triple bogeyed the hole after his fine approach rolled off the green confronted Tom Meeks, the USGA Director of Rules and Competition, in the scoring tent after the round.

“Tom, when you watered the greens after the first two groups had come through, you changed the way the golf course played,” Henry said. “That wasn’t fair at all.” To Meeks’ credit he owned up and said, “You’re absolutely right JJ. We had no choice- we needed to protect the integrity of the championship”. As bad as that episode was, what happened on Saturday at Shinnecock could prove worse.

In 2004, the best player was Retief Goosen, and he won. If Finau or Berger wins tomorrow, that will not be the case. Mike Davis — to his credit — also took responsibility. “We thought it would be a great day. Frankly, we missed it with the wind. The speed of the greens was too much for the wind we had,” Davis said after the conclusion of play Saturday.

Another shame is that Shinnecock is a perfect set up for the U.S. Open if only the USGA wouldn’t meddle with the course. Just let its natural defenses (high rough, tough greens, wind) be used without setting impossible pin locations. Root for Dustin Johnson on Sunday, because if he doesn’t win then it’s likely the U.S. Open trophy is not going to the player who played the best in the tournament.

As the article indicates, early morning times often reward players with a ‘fresher’ course; with greens that hold better thanks to morning dew, with no spike marks around the cups and the like. But over 72 holes, every player is going to be required to contend with a very demanding test of golf. As a club pro, I have played courses which require a player to think his way around 18 holes; greens with such severe slope that “missing” an approach above the cup means a putt not holed will roll off the green and as many as 20 yards (or MORE) into the fairway; other greens which must be missed on purpose, even to placing an approach into a greenside trap.

Ben Hogan won the 1951 U.S. Open with a score of 287—7 OVER par. This year at Shinnecock, the winner was 1 over. There were exactly 2 rounds played under par at Oakland Hills; Hogan recorded one of them with his extraordinary 67 on Saturday afternoon. (In those days, the final 36 holes were played on Saturday.)
Ben Hogan

Today’s players apparently demand that golf courses be groomed for the purpose of making them look good; appear super-human. It is a personal affront to be required to undergo a true test of golf—that is, to play every shot; to play every club; to demand that players think their way through 18 holes. When a green doesn’t stop a 3-iron approach as though it were a pitching wedge, it’s time to complain. When fairway bunkers are placed to potentially penalize those whose tee shots travel 300 yards; when an errant shot means an unplayable lie in knee-deep rough—such conditions are deemed unfair. Unnecessary. And the whining begins.

Today’s players should take a lesson from those who preceded them. Oakland Hills was indeed a Monster as Hogan deemed it. But Hogan—a player certainly superior to any who graces today’s tournament venues—played the final 36 holes in one day, on legs wrapped in bandages and racked with pain after an accident which nearly cost him his life. When this man finishes at 7 over, you can bet the play at Oakland Hills was more difficult than that of Shinnecock. But here was no whining; no striking at a ball after missing a putt; no running to officials to bitch about greens or wind.

Perhaps the USGA will choose to cancel scheduled rounds if the wind blows at more than 5 miles/hour. Maybe difficult pin positions should be outlawed; traps which penalize errant shots should be filled in; all greens will be leveled and rough will be no more than 1” in length. That way the par 4’s can all be played with a drive and a wedge, a 4 iron second on the par 5’s and a winning score of 30 under.

It won’t be much of a test. But boy, will everybody LOOK good!

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