17 Jun 2012
The USGA’s Mike Davis, the grounds crew and the Olympic Club teamed up as winners, staging a great event where once again the lady (the golf course) beat the men (the players). All week long the key word from the players was “patience.” Bogeys were inevitable – particularly on the brutal first 6 holes. Few made it through that gauntlet unscathed. Those who kept their nerve and their focus came out of that shoot with a switched focus – from grinding it out to let’s make some birdies!
On Sunday, winner Webb Simpson never stopped. He birdied 6, 7, 8, and 10. And the rest of the way in, he gave himself a good chance on nearly every hole, just grazing the cup several more times. As the only player in the last nine groups to break par, Webb Simpson WON this tournament! And that chip on 18 from a tough lie just left of the green to save par was no easy shot. A BIG CONGRATS to ’surprise’ winner Webb Simpson, who came from well back to continue Olympic’s tradition of knocking off the big boys!.
The set-up of this course did indeed identify the best players in the field – those who knew their game, who consistently were able to produce intended ball flights and could convert their opportunities on the greens. It is no fluke that we saw so many former Major winners come to the fore during the week. It was good to see Jim Furyk, Reteif Goosen, Ernie Els and Padrig Harrington back in the hunt. And Major hopefuls Matt Kuchar, Justin Rose, Jason Dufner, John Senden, Lee Westwood, K.J. Choi, Steve Stricker, Nick Watney and Adam Scott all with a chance on Sunday. Yet it was equally tough to see Mickelson and Woods self destruct.
Mickelson didn’t, for what ever reason, get his game ready to play this course. I believe his schedule is currently too busy and his family life is too important to him to currently be able to focus sufficiently on the Majors.
Tiger prepared, the best way he knows how. The problem, I believe, is still that “swing immediately left after impact unnatural release” that for Tiger, just doesn’t hold up in the heat of battle. Oh sure, if he works with it long enough he will find a away to make it work. But it’s just a shame to take a player as naturally talented as Tiger and put him through that totally unnecessary and extended learning process.
Jim Furyk played patient, consistent and defensive golf all day – until he lost focus and got out of his routine for just one shot. And it cost him the championship. Furyk apparently had trouble switching his focus from patience to let’s make birdies. On the 16th tee, with the hole playing 101 yards shorter than it had all week, the players were tempted – with their tee shot – to try to get home in two. A hard dogleg left, the tee shot called for a draw – a ball flight that Furyk plays regularly. But something happened here, between his ears, that lead to his one bad swing of the championship.
In hindsight, Jim probably should have stepped away. Re-visualized and re-rehearsed his swing and then proceeded with his meticulous routine. One shot does not a tournament make, but one shot played that poorly (a duck hook into the trees), can have a significant impact on one’s psyche! Jim could have recovered. He pulled a good lie. And though he couldn’t reach the par five on his third shot, an up and down from wedge distance would still have saved par. He missed the green from wedge distance! Following his bogie 6, he failed to birdie the par five 17th – playing as the easiest hole all week. And then he missed again with a wedge on 18 from a great lie.
Never have Walter Hagen’s words rung more true, “It takes two bad shots to make a bogey!” So what can we all learn from Furyk’s collapse down the stretch? Gather yourself, trust your routines to carry you through. That is the only way to stay focused! And step away when you’re not ready! And one more thing – one bad shot is not enough to lose a tournament!
Graeme McDowell came close. He competed right up to that last putt on 18. But Graeme hit a few too many loose shots, was off balance in way too many finishes and failed to use the line on his ball too many times with makeable putts. As a competitor he is fun to watch, because there just isn’t any “quit” in him. His showing here this week, with just a few corrections, could be the confidence boost he’s needed to prepare to win The Open in July!
Our CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR AWARD this week goes to Jason Dufner. Like Ernie Els at Pebble Beach two years ago, if Duff had putted even reasonably well from inside 6 feet, he would have run away with this event. He finished only two shots back and must have missed at least 10 times from inside FOUR feet! Jason, by a wide margin, lead the field in GIR and proximity to the hole. I’d love to work with Duff on his putting stroke and his routine. When he learns a good combination of the two, he can finally play with that relaxed focus that makes for great champions. Go Tigers!
A big part of the story of this year’s open was 17 year old high schooler and Amateur Beau Hossler. With a chance to win this tournament on Sunday, and a goal of being low Amateur, Beau showed us some kind of poise and recoveries for such a young player. In the end, he just ran out of adrenaline! His final collapse on the 72nd hole lost him his low amateur goal, which was won by Jordan Speith, a freshman at the University of Texas, where “Hoss” will matriculate.
It was Peter Jacobsen, in his commentary about Hossler’s round on Saturday who coined a new golf term for us to all carry forward from this event. Remarkably, following each of his four bogies on Saturday, Hossler responded with an immediate birdie. No small feat under normal circumstances, but in a U.S. Open, as a 17 year old, on Saturday, to stay in contention – now THAT’S AN ACHIEVEMENT, Jake noted, worthy of naming, once and for all, any bogey followed by a birdie, from this day forth “a Hossler.!”
And finally, in this Open we were treated once again to the story and courageous struggle of Casey Martin, who on a golf cart and one good leg, qualified for this U.S. Open. Casey missed the cut by just one shot when he bogied his final hole on Friday, the scenically beautiful par three 8th, by failing to get up and down from greenside. But in Casey’s typical “the glass is half full” style, he found only positives coming from the glow of basking in the warm waves for applause he received from the huge hometown crowds that followed him.
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