This is written because John Feinstein is a fucking idiot and thinks that Pebble and Shinnecock are the top two and said the rest are “lagging behind.” Yes, he said that places like Winged Foot, Oakmont and Pinehurst are “lagging behind.” Lagging behind?
Well pardon my freedom, John, but you’re out of your fucking mind.
Pebble? No complaints there even if the course is a little played (be it from Tiger Woods PGA Tour Golf on Xbox or kitschy motivational posters or highlight films). But Shinnecock? Uh…2004 wasn’t really all that long ago, John…and it was right in your back yard too, and I know you saw it.
2004’s US Open was a disaster, no two ways around it. I’ve obviously never played any of these courses, but I’ve seen their layouts and vividly remember pretty much every Open since 1999, yes, even Michael Campbell’s meh-fest at Pinehurst and the chokercoaster at Southern Hills in 2001. And what I remember from 2004 was that the US Open was absolutely terrible to watch thanks to those greens and the conditioning. The USGA or Shinnecock’s members or whomever fucked up, but what was done was done, and the US Open suffered.
Point being, Shinnecock is firmly on top of the short list of the dream courses I’d love to play. I know that it was rated as the hardest golf course in America by Golf Digest in 2008, and it’s old school, American classic aura is something I dig. But there’s only been a few US Opens here and that Raymond Floyd and Corey Pavin’s wins were awesome, but there are some heavy hitters that Feinstein says was “lagging behind.” A few courses that, when it comes to US Opens, don’t lag behind Shinnecock*.
4. Olympic Club: The best nickname on the course…The Graveyard of Champions.
Jack Fleck, Billy Casper, Scott Simpson.
These guys beat Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson when all were at their arguable peak and all in absolute gut-wrenching fashion. Fleck, a two year nobody tied arguably the greatest ballstriker in history and beat him in an 18-hole playoff. Casper, one of his generations true greats (who went head to head with Palmer, Nicklaus and Player in their primes and is one of the most accomplished, and unheralded golfers in PGA history), was the benefactor of Arnold Palmer’s complete meltdown where he blew a 7-stroke lead heading into the back nine.
As for Watson? That was the peak of the USGA torture track era. Check out highlights, if you can find them…the pin positions were on the middle of slopes…there were 6-footers that ended up 30 yards down hill in the fairway and 3-footers that fell off into bunkers which would’ve been bad enough without Olympic’s crazy, back asswards sloping fairways. It was unfair.
It was exactly like Shinnecock’s situation, but is Shinnecock The Graveyard of Champions? I think not.
3. Pebble Beach: I agree with ol’ turkey neck here because I’m not an idiot and Pebble is legit, but at the same time, I’m not in favor of playing it here every five years, as Feinstein suggested. Pebble is special and we already see it once per year and to give it preferential treatment would be a disservice to how breathtaking it is.
As for history? Nicklaus’ 1-iron, Watson’s chip in and Tiger’s smushsmortion should suffice, don’t you think?
2. Oakmont: Between it’s reputation as the beast of all beasts when it comes to the greens, the church pews and the fact that double bogey comes into play on pretty much every hole of a course that has like three trees and very little water and the list of champions that might as well serve as the litmus test for being a Hall of Famer, Oakmont doesn’t lag behind any course save one when it comes to US Open history.
Tommy Armour, Hogan and Nicklaus won here and Arnie said the greatest goodbye this side of Lou Gehrig. Some of the top players of their generation in Ernie Els, Larry Nelson and Johnny Miller also took home the hardware at Oakmont but it’s Miller’s win, particularly the final round 63 he shot that lead to the USGA going apeshit on the field the next year at…
1. Winged Foot: The Massacre at Winged Foot defined an era where the US Open solidified it’s reputation as being the most severe test of golf anywhere in the world. The US Opens of late, ever since Mike Davis took over, have been trying to get away from the ankle high rough and the cement hard greens that they took to the extreme at Olympic, Oakmont and yes, Shinnecock, but it was the 1974 Open that was when the USGA went plaid.
And even during the 2006 Open, where Mike Davis’ setup yielded a high score, yet received rave reviews from everyone involved, one of the most disgusting collapses in recent sporting history occurred when Phil Mickelson totally lost his brain and blew probably his best chance at getting the US Open monkey off his back.
Those two tournaments stand out in US Open history as being sparkling examples of the USGA’s test on a golfer’s game. Winged Foot’s Opens are a total examination of a player’s accuracy, strategy and will and the 1974 and 2006 editions stand out in completely different ways.
In 1974, the rough was super thick and you had to hit it in the right places if you wanted to score, meaning you had to find the 30 yard wide fairways, hit precise irons and putt with a cellist’s hand. You had to survive and adapt, something not all players were able to do:
Nicklaus made bogey on the first four holes in the first round. In another round, he airmailed a green because he miscalculated the distance of his approach shot by adding instead of subtracting.
“That’s when Jack became human to me,” says Jim Colbert, who played three of the four rounds with Nicklaus. “Before that I thought he never made a mistake.”
And in 2006, under conditions that were slightly less penal, but much more taxing on a player executing their strategy, Mickelson made crucial mental errors by forcing himself to rely on his wild driver because his longest fairway wood, a 4-wood, wasn’t long enough to carry the rough to find the fairway on 17 and 18. And the last place you want to try and be a hero? Winged Foot.
So, in summary, John Feinstein made me angry and I didn’t appreciate it. It’s not that I don’t like Shinnecock the course, because I do…it’s that saying something like Oakmont and Winged Foot can’t hold a candle to it is a bit asinine.
Then again, Winged Foot is like a 90 minute drive for Feinstein and Oakmont probably a burly 6 hours, and seeing as Feinstein is one of NYC’s biggest honks, it makes sense to pick the one a mere half hour from Manhattan. But come on man…Winged Foot and Oakmont! WINGED FOOT AND OAKMONT!
*one last time, I’m not hating on Shinnecock, I’m hating on Feinstein.
Some of the authors’ top 3:
- Bethpage Black
editor’s remark: Pinehurst is awesome because it’s the hardest test in golf from 100 yards in, Bethpage could end up a staple if it keeps producing Open’s like the past two…maybe with a little less rain though, and Oakmont is my favorite course in the United States.
editor’s remark: Tips is a DC homer, but Congressional boasts Ken Venturi’s win despite heatstroke and an Els win and hosts next year’s Open so I can’t hate. But I swear if one of the authors included Torey Pines, I would’ve had to kill a snitch.
- Pebble Beach
- Winged Foot
- Pebble Beach
- Winged Foot
editor’s remark: A lot of Pinehurst love…I guess the USGA agrees as the Open’s coming back and the 2014 US Amateur and US Women’s Amateur are being played there too. And I know nobody’s ever even seen it, but I have a feeling Chambers Bay in Washington state is going to be a personal favorite. If only Bandon was more accessible…if only.