The USGA setup for the U.S. Open is intended to be a stern test of golf that will challenge the best players in the world to the limit of their ability. But many times the setup gurus have crossed the line and turned testing golf into Tom Foolery.
This article by Ron Whitten from Golf Digest recounts the last time the Open was held at The Olympic Club and the fiasco of the pin placement on the 18th green that Friday in 1998. It has taken 14 years for this prestigious event to return to Olympic and much of that hesitation can be accounted for by what happened that Friday afternoon.
Ron Meeks, whose set up of the course that year earned him the moniker of “Marquis de Sod”, admitted “We all make mistakes with course setup….I have never set up a championship where I haven’t made multiple mistakes. Mother Nature sometimes fools you, or you sometimes don’t anticipate certain things.” Maybe they are just trying too hard.
There have been many other such incidents over the years, most vivid to my memory is the debacle at Shinnecock Hills in 2004. Who can forget what the seventh green looked like, devoid of a blade of live grass because of the stress of water deprivation, as pro after pro simply watched in disbelief as their balls trundled off the back of that par three. It will have taken 14 years to get over that experience as The Open is not scheduled to return to Shinneccock Hills again until 2018.
Take a moment to read this article and view the embedded video of an interview the next day at Olympic in 1998 with David Fay the USGA Executive Director. It reveals how precarious it can become when the USGA tries to push the limits of fairness in trying to fulfill their desire to create a true test of golf.
(Click to read Ron Whitten’s “Testing The Limits of Fairness”)