There were only five guys who have won The Masters and the U.S. Open in the same year….until yesterday when Jordan Spieth shot 69 and outlasted the field to win the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay. He joins the heady group of Craig Wood, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods who have done this Two-Step….pretty sassy moves for a 21-year old Texan.
The week began with a litany of guys complaining about the course style, conditioning, and set-up as inappropriate for a U.S. Open Championship. This reached a fever pitch when Gary Player went into a diarrhetic rant blaming the USGA’s decision making picking Chambers Bay for everything from killing The First Tee Program to Global Warming.
How short are the memories of these critics and touring pros? Torrey Pines 2008 Tiger and Rocco epic duel was played on sketchy greens, Congressional 2011 Rory’s domination was on mushy renovated greens not close to ready for prime time, or Justin Rose at Merion two years ago deftly managed to win on rock hard landing strip fairways between stifling Bluegrass rough. Pick any venue that Open Doctors Robert Trent Jones Sr. or Rees Jones prepared over the last 50 years and you have ample fodder for player complaint. It is a tradition, U.S. Open venues are sadistic and torturous set ups meant to protect par.
Chambers Bay seemed other worldly to some……..Embed from Getty Images
Truth be told the course came through with flying colors….albeit most of them brown tones not green….in providing a stage of compelling drama until the last putt didn’t fall. For all the carping, Sunday yielded over 20 scores in the 60’s. The USGA should be commended for flexible decision making in the course set up the last two days. Holes 15 through 18, two par threes, a reachable par four, and a wicked risk/reward par five, gave at least six guys a credible chance to capture the flag.
Plenty of red numbers on this final scoreboard
Dustin Johnson did what Dustin Johnson has done three times before grabbing a major by the throat with accurate long driving and adept short iron approaches. An opening round 65 put him in control of his own destiny and 18 birdies over the four days should have been enough to bring him his first major. But as we have seen with Dustin before mediocre putting, four three-putts in the last nine holes, led to his demise and another major championship slipped from his grasp.
The last one hurt the most…..Embed from Getty Images
The real crowd pleaser was Jason Day who showed courage on a Ken Venturi scale as he battled Benign Postural Vertigo trekking up and down the severe elevation changes of Chambers Bay. With an unsteady gait and lots of deep breaths to refocus Jason made five birdies in the last nine holes on Saturday putting him in the final group with Dustin on Sunday. But five bogies and a double in the last round squelched the anticipated fairy tale ending.
Jason Day’s steely resolve in the face of adversity….Embed from Getty Images
Branden Grace, a South African with six wins on the European Tour-two this year, was rock steady for four days using a boring driving trajectory and solid lag putting to adeptly manage the links layout and conditioning. Chugging along nicely down the stretch one untimely errant railroad track swing on the drivable par four 16th on Sunday led to double bogie and put the kibosh on his hopes.
For Branden Grace the one that got away on 16…Embed from Getty Images
Possibly the best story of them all was Louie Oosthuizen who gave three shots back to par on the front nine Sunday apparently killing his chances, making the turn at 2-over par. He then reminded us that South Africa produces players who are not afraid to go low running off 6 birdies in the last seven holes to shoot 29 on the back side in the final round of a major. Maybe only Johnny Miller understands what that feels like. After opening 7-over par on Thursday Louie simply shot 66-66-67 to set the bar at 4-under in the clubhouse for the others to shoot at.
Louie O was going low on the back nine…..Embed from Getty Images
In the end it was Jordan, with the patience and perseverance of a cagey veteran, wrapping two birdies around a potentially disastrous double bogey on 17 to post a 5-under score that proved good enough to get the silver.
Putting the double bogey behind him Jordan’s confident approach into 18…Embed from Getty Images
His bounce back driver/three metal on 18 to set up his finishing birdie was Brett Farve-ian clutch. A friend of mine observed “He has the ability to simply wipe it out and live and act in the present..it’s as though he made that double on the front nine in the opening round, it simply is part of his score going forward..perhaps it is merely the exaggerated ego of youth; perhaps his coal mine/Central Pennsylvania DNA …but whatever it is, it is the rarest quality in a golfer and it will serve him well for as long as it lasts.”
Jordan get used to seeing your reflection in these….
Now the anticipation begins, can young Jordan continue this major’s streak at St. Andrews next month. The only other player in history to win The Masters, U.S. Open, and British Open in the same calendar year was Texan Ben Hogan. Fire up the band.. this could be the seldom seen Texas Three-Step in the making?