OAKMONT, Pa. - What is trainer Jim Weathers - probably the biggest, baddest dude currently in Pittsburgh - doing massaging golfer's wrists and backs this week at the U.S. Open?
This former Green Beret who was once trapped under a collapsed building should be putting some of these wimpy tour players through his own boot camp. It's clear some weren't ready to go to battle this week.
Most obvious was Phil Mickelson. Each time he was asked, he said the wrist he injured here practicing Memorial Day weekend was fine - but that didn't stop him from taking shots at Oakmont Country Club and the USGA on a daily basis. He called the course "dangerous" and took jabs with every bit of sarcasm he could muster at the committee regarding setup and how they define a championship.
Mickelson isn't alone in his complaining. Some of the tour's more inexperienced U.S. Open players have been less than thrilled at Oakmont's setup. Sergio Garcia quipped before the tournament even began that it was a "par 78." He failed to break par in the opening round with 79 and was sent home early.
"It's their championship, and that's how they want it," scoffed Masters champ Zach Johnson after a third-round 76. He made the cut on the nose at 10-over entering the weekend. He didn't go as far as to say the course was unfair but he was visibly flustered throughout the week.
It also had Oakmont members who claim the rough is actually shorter this week and the greens slower than usual, rolling on the floor laughing at these players' discontent.
How happy must the committee - no doubt tired of Mickelson's little quips - and Oakmont members have been when Angel Cabrera's last-hole birdie sent Mickelson and 18 others packing?
The cream always rises to the top: This week it's in the form of Tiger Woods, who watched the inexperienced players above him fall back as he surged forward Saturday.
Complainers won't win the U.S. Open. After hearing how different players handle the U.S. Open setup, there's no doubt in my mind that Mickelson, Garcia, Johnson and Rory Sabbatini - who has been quick to condemn the course after each of his poor rounds - will never win a U.S. Open, not without a major attitude adjustment.
These venues aren't going to get any easier. And the weather has been a gift thus far. Nothing but calm and sunshine, unless you want to count a late-afternoon thunderstorm that did nothing but soften the course for an easy first day. What will happen when these guys face heavy winds at Torrey Pines next year?
"The course is plenty fair," said Els, who sits near the back of the field but made the weekend. "I just haven't shown the patience I've needed this week."
Others who don't even have a tour card are showing more maturity. Kyle Dobbs, who made the Open by qualifying, missed the cut and isn't making any excuses.
"It's fair. You just have to do your homework."
Dobbs added, "We'll be back next year."
Most of the quotes this week will only last a few days in the media before talk turns to Carnoustie, then the PGA Championship. But a U.S. Open title isn't getting any less prestigious any time soon. There is no asterisk next to the Open at Shinnecock in 2004 - an Open everyone says "crossed the line" with a course that got out of hand. All it states is that Retief Goosen won it.
The players with the chance to win this week will be the players who aren't concerned so much with Oakmont as with but the courses six inches between their own ears, as said by Bobby Jones. Everyone is playing from the same tees to the same pins - however fair or unfair they may be set up. It's the great equalizer.
The winner will have done it better than 155 others this week.
June 16, 2007
Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Channel Courses & Travel. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours.
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