Shinnecock and the US Open are in the head of Phil Mickelson as he stares down one of his final real opportunities to capture the career Grand Slam. If you don’t believe me, just consider some of the comments made by Phil regarding the 7th hole at the famed Club.
Phil Mickelson had a good week at Muirfield Village and because of that he decided to send a shot across the Bow of the USGA a couple weeks prior to the Open. Phil regarding the 7th hole “It’s a great hole, until the USGA gets a hold of it.” (Quote)
“I think that this year’s U.S. Open is the greatest setup going in that I have seen in my 25-whatever years of playing the U.S. Open,” I t hink that it will reward the best player as opposed to having luck be a big element on some of the bounces in the fairway, bounces around the green, how it comes out of the rough, so forth.” I think it’s a great hole until the USGA gets ahold of it, I’m concerned every time they get ahold of it. But I think it’s a great hole. I think it’s one of the core design foundations of a great golf hole. I think that you see a lot of holes replicated off of No. 7 at Shinnecock that are spectacular.”
At the US Open Media Day, the USGA made note they know what has happened in the past and will not let it happen again.
With Phil being in the twilight of his PGA Career, he is trying to capture that one final milestone. I can appreciate his thoughts, but I have to disagree with him in this particular instance.
Ratief Goosen won back in 2004, edging out Phil Mickelson by 2 strokes. Phil struggled badly on the 7th hole and he has never forgotten it. But was it the 7th hole that did him in? He may like to think so, but let’s step back into Mr. Peabody’s “Way Back” Machine and figure out just where his week went arrye.
The 7th on Saturday was a tough test… no question. But it was in fact 1 hole of the 18. Here were the stats on the day. Three players had made birdie, 28 pars, 27 bogeys, five double bogeys and the three triple bogeys and 27.3 percent hit it in regulation on Saturday. Actually, 17 percent hit the green on Sunday, the day Phil carded a par.
Where Phil’s game came unraveled was the 17th on Sunday. He was tied with Goosen at 4-under then took a double bogey on the hole which put the match out of reach. So, yes the 7th and 11th holes were in question at Shinnecock, but it was the head games that took place in the head of Mickelson on the 17th that was his ultimate undoing.
As for the famed 7th, We all know the story of how the USGA had someone roll the green Saturday, when they were told not too. The USGA went as far as saying it was not the normal person. They tried to offset it by watering it during the round which is something they never like to do. But it had little effect.
With that said, it was during a time when the USGA had tried to make these courses an extreme test for the best players in the world. Only two players were under par for the tournament at Shinnecock in 2004, it also served as one of the 6 US Opens that Phil Finished 2nd.
The fact is, sometimes you’re just not meant to win a tournament, a game, a sporting event… and election etc. I recall Phil speaking after one of the rounds at Oakmont, a venue that has tortured him over the years. He stated the rough was so thick, someone was going to break a wrist or get hurt. The only real thing that got injured or hurt was Phil’s pride.
The players as a whole have talked about how difficult the US Open was. Then in the last couple of years, the USGA has eased up on the venue, allowing for less difficult courses to host the event. Chambers Bay just recently, the course that Jordan Speith tamed with a 5-under par win. Erin Hills rolled over and played dead yielding a 16-under winner in Brooks Koepka in 2017. If you look at the results since 2014 they look like this.
- Pinehurst -9
- Chambers Bay -5
- Oakmont -4
- Erin Hills -16
If you look back in history, there have been other lower scores, but they are fewer in far between. We have not had a run like this in consecutive seasons since the late 80’s through mid 90’s.
Those that read my stuff know that I am of the opinion that the US Open needs to be the most difficult test in golf. Golf Consists of 18 holes, and I believe it is okay that a hole or two be more difficult and the course itself pose an extremely difficult test for 4 days. These are the best players in the world and if they finish at even, or slightly above par is that bad? No! To watch a US Open Venue give up like Erin Hills did last year is just as ugly.
We have become a society that not only gives trophies to every child, but we strip away what makes accomplishing tasks or goals enjoyable. That is, overcoming adversity. Being the last person standing on the 18th at a US Open, regardless if your 5-under or +3 over, should not matter. It’s about the accomplishment of tackling something really hard.
Lastly, If the USGA continues down the path of turning the US Open into the “just another PGA Tour Event” then why even call it a Major. I would like to see the USGA not give in to the pressure of the players. Go back to making the US Open, the most difficult tournament in golf. It is a Major and they call it that because it is not like the rest. Please keep it that way.