US Open round four: Again Furyk snatches defeat from jaws of victory
It was his for the taking until he had his own minor Mickelson moment on the 17th with an over-confident choice of driver that had knowledgeable onlookers gasping in surprise. Result: overshooting into thick rough and struggling to a bogey and second place for the second year running. He can’t say he wasn’t warned - he had already suffered miscues with the driver on Sunday.
As for Tiger, the claim of some scribes - well one that I know of anyway - that his failure to win from behind on the last day is no big deal is fatuous. Let’s do the maths: the odds-makers, who you would think know a thing or two, priced Tiger’s chances on Sunday at 2.3. By my dodgy calculations they were saying that for every 10 times he found himself in a similar situation they would expect him to win at least four, or at least 12 times out of the 29 he has now accumulated. In fact the figure is a stunning zero.
The contrast with when he leads a Major going into Sunday couldn’t be more stark. It’s still a big flat zero, but that’s for the number of times (out of 12) he loses. If that’s not a trend then I’m Einstein’s illegitimate son.
There has to be a reason and the one I go for is that when Tiger is in the lead he has the confidence that his regular game is enough to stay there, whereas when he’s behind his anxiety to catch up and win pushes him to try too hard and make too many errors.
Still, where’s the shame in being runner up? I read that Jack Nicklaus came second in Majors a record 19 times. It happens when you are the world’s number one and always in the thick of things on the final day. Pretty amazing nevertheless. As Tiger reminded us, he’s 1,1,2,2 in his last four Majors, adding without any hint of sarcasm: “It could have been a bit better.”
The sad part is that although his play Sunday could have been better, his putting was the best it has been all week, although it still came up short.
The real irony of Oakmont for us Brits, though, is that while Maggie Thatcher was in London saluting a parade of Britain’s finest veterans to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Falklands War, an Argie was sticking it up Britain’s finest golfers on another foreign field.
Or were they sticking it up themselves? I really do blame our ‘no losers’ education system that ends up turning everyone into losers. And I still fret that Justin Rose will become another Colin Montgomerie nearly man in America. Paul Casey would prosper greatly from spending more time in America though. In the end the duo were shown up by Nick Dougherty, whose seventh place earns him a crack at the Masters as well as the US Open next year. I suppose I shouldn’t cavil too much at having three Englishmen in the top 10. Just where were all those Aussie ex-convicts anyway?
But European honours, such as they are, rightly go to Niclas Fasth, who produced the day’s best putting performance.
As for Angel Cabrera, the way he pulled himself back to the front on such a difficult track was awesome, although I honestly thought he’d thrown it away with those two bogeys at the end. The least said about Aaron Baddeley’s effort the better. Apparently forsaken by his Master, he surely knows now what it’s like caught up in the eye of the Tiger.
One other round stood out Sunday: Anthony Kim’s. Sure he was under no pressure, but his three under was the final day’s best round - only he and Cabrera were under par - to put him in 20th place, fantastic for a rookie. He surely has to end up a winner before long - if not this season then certainly next when he knows all the courses.
PS: As for Oakmont itself, I don’t think anyone can argue it was unfair. But that didn’t make it a joy to watch unless you are a sadist. The glee with which the USGA punishes golfers makes it my least favourite Major. The golf is simply too negative for my taste.
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I'm sure the suit and blazer set of the USGA is appropraitly proud of that convoluted torture maze.
I was always under the impression that golf was a game to be enjoyed by everyone, including professional golfers.
Judging by the number of sticks I watched being flunk at bags and/or caddies, I'd say there was little enjoyment amongst the players on any of the four days of "Nightmare Oakmont."
Do runners enjoy a marathon? Probably not. Do triathletes relish the ironman? Doubtful. Do cyclists revel in the physical pleasure of the Tour or the Giro? Heavens, no. The US Open brings golfers closer to the athletic, closer to the warrior, closer to the edge. For that reason, it's a great tournament. It places callouses on the oiled hands of the pillowed.
Gentlemen never break a sweat, always appear to slide through any troubles with the least resistance, right?
Well, there was certainly lots of sweat, tons of resistance and some very short tempers.
All in all, if your vision of the US Open is the norm, then they were all winners.
But from where I was sitting, I would have to believe the only true winner was the Nightmare course. Oh, and those self satisfied kooks in the natty blue blazers and vests.
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