18th hole of Bethpage Black is the major letdown at the U.S. Open - not Phil Mickelson or David Duval
It seemed like right when Hunter Mahan’s approach to the 16th green of Bethpage Black struck the flagstick and catapulted about 60 feet off the green, it began an anticlimactic backslide at the U.S. Open, going from a classic finish to one that won’t be remembered for much else besides bad weather that practically rendered half the field out contention by Friday afternoon.
Instead of a finish that had crowd favorites Phil Mickelson and David Duval, plus a surging Mahan and the lead group fighting to keep their ships afloat, we saw a remarkably stable two-shot win from relative unknown Lucas Glover, ranked 135th in the world.
We all took a sick day from work this morning for this?
Glover deserves kudos for taking advantage of a favorable draw in the opening rounds, firing a second round 64, while also plodding his way down the back stretch free of any major gaffes.
But more than Mickelson’s bogeys on 15 and 17 or Duval’s cruel lip-out of his own on 17, the culprit of the unsatisfying finish was the setup of the par-4 18th hole. It’s distance at just 347 yards meant you could easily hit a mid-iron off the tee and still have a 9-iron in. That took away the need for a bold driver or 3-wood off the tee like at Winged Foot and Oakmont among other venues. Just about any tour pro is going to find the fairway with a 6-iron.
And those who hit driver off the 18th tee, from Mickelson to Woods and Mahan, were left with a difficult pitch shot that was practically impossible to hit it close. I thought Ricky Barnes’ approach was the best of them all, and even though it hit pin-high, still rolled 20 feet past.
The pin location should have been a little more accessible - or the tees should have been set up further back - something to either make the hole a tougher par or an easier birdie - not just a sure par. In the top 20 on the leaderboard today, there were just four birdies (none from anyone in contention) and one bogey, making the 18th green snooze city. No wonder Glover’s reception wasn’t exactly a raucous one at the afternoon award ceremony.
Now, if you’re going to have a short closing hole at the U.S. Open, you need one like Olympic, where the green is so severely slanted, bogey comes into play. But who didn’t par the 18th on Sunday?
That’s something that is going to have to be addressed for the next Open, because it took all the life out of the tournament, at least whatever life was left in it after Mother Nature did her thing.
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