From DJ and others to Shinnecock Hills and even a bowling message
As I write this, the second round of the 112th U.S. Open has just finished. Unfortunately, as YOU read this, the fourth round of the same tournament is about to start. Such are the vagaries of a deadline, but I’m guessing you are aware of what happened yesterday in Round 3.
There are a lot of storylines at the halfway point, including who’s in contention and perhaps, more significantly, who’s going home. We’ll get to the players in a minute, but for now I would like to talk about the course chosen for this Open Championship.
Shinnecock Hills is hosting the Open for the fifth time. The links layout, located in Southampton on Long Island, is considered the first golf club in the U.S., dating back to 1891. It has the oldest clubhouse, which was built a year later. It has the distinction of being the first golf club to admit women, doing so from the very beginning.
A little like Augusta National. Or not!
The course hosted the second U.S. Open in 1896. Playing in that tournament was John Shippen, the first black player to play professionally.
Shinnecock is worthy of being a U.S. Open venue, even if the USGA made no changes to the course. That, of course, will never happen. The USGA wants to make the U.S. Open the toughest test in golf and they usually succeed. That may rankle some players, but they still come for the chance to win the coveted trophy.
Open courses usually have narrow fairways, thick rough, fast greens with shaved edges and if you sprinkle in a few difficult pin placements even the best of the best can be humbled. That’s probably why most of us duffers like this tournament. The greatest players in the world can, and do, shoot scores like we do.
Of course, we are playing much easier courses, but who cares. We still say “I could shoot that score!”
In the first two rounds, the course lived up to the hype. Only one player was under par at the halfway point. That would be world’s No. 1, Dustin Johnson. At four under par, he has a four shot lead, but he has one thing working against him.
If D.J. wins the tournament, he will be the first golfer to win the Open after winning the PGA Tour event the previous week. Yes, I am looking for anything to say that he is not a lock to win even though he has a four shot lead.
Two other Americans are at the top of the leaderboard at even par, and they are Scott Piercy and Charley Hoffman. Four pretty good players are at plus-1, and that includes last year’s champion Brooks Koepka, Denmark’s Henrik Stenson, and Englishmen Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose. Other Americans who still have a shot are Rickie Fowler (plus 3), Justin Thomas (plus 4), Jim Furyk (plus 4), reigning Masters Champion Patrick Reed (plus 5) and veteran Phil Mickelson at plus 6.
There are others who may be in the hunt by now, but I am not about to predict a winner. If you want to know why, it is because you can play very well, but a yard off the fairway or a foot from the ridge on a green and you can be looking at double bogey.
Here’s another reason that D.J. is not a shoo-in for the win: Let’s look at some pretty fair golfers who missed the cut. Jordan Spieth who has a couple of major wins shot 78-71 (plus 9) and missed the cut by one shot. Tiger Woods was plus 10 as was Rory McIlroy who shot 80 in the opening round. How many major titles do these two have between them?
Bubba Watson (plus 11), Sergio Garcia (plus14), Adam Scott (plus 13), Martin Kaymer (plus 18), Jason Day (plus12), major winners all, missed the cut. Matt Kuchar, who at minus 2 was leading the tournament halfway through Round 1, ended up missing the cut at plus 12.
Let me give you one more score: Scott Gregory, a 23-year-old from England, shot a respectable 75 in Round 2. That was not enough to overcome his 92 in the opening round. Yes, that’s right. He shot 92! Now you know why some of us amateurs say, “I could shoot that score!”
Well, the final round is upon us. You are likely to see some great shots today. You will also see some crazy things. It will be fun to watch. Just don’t say “I could shoot that score” unless someone comes in with triple digits!
As promised, here’s a bowling note. This Wednesday, the merger between the men’s and women’s bowling associations will take place at Heritage Family Center. The merger is being mandated by the USBC and new bylaws have already been adopted.
The purpose of this meeting is to elect officers to the new Tiffin Bowling Association. Here’s a call to all local bowlers. Show up for the 6:30 p.m. meeting and share your thoughts. The new association can use as much input as possible.
Al Stephenson is the golf columnist for The Advertiser-Tribune.com
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