Lee Bacchus looks at Golf

This Year's US Open a Bust?

Now if someone had told me that's how you had to play to contend for the US Open, well, heck, I could have qualified in a walk.

I can gag three-foot gimmes (Brooks, Cink, Goosen). I can shank a ball into a tree from just 80 yards out (Woods). I can jettison approaches into water (Singh). And I can certainly chunk sand wedges and leave balls in the bunker with the best of Œem (Brooks). In fact, judging by my last round, I've got the perfect US Open-type game.

My friends and I all agree: It's a hell of a lot more fun watching the pros - even Tiger - wear the same mask of anguish as us helpless weekend hackers. Yes, we all like to see a pro stripe a two-iron 260-yards stiff to the pin, but a sweet cackle of glee also comes with watching those same links stars fluff chips or execute futile slashes out of the rough. A kind of crude justice is being meted out when a pampered, silver-spoon-fed, blow-dried, Hugo-Boss-silk-clad, monotonously handsome multimillionaire chokes just like a good ol' Gap-wearing weekend warrior like myself.

But other than those sado-masochistic highlights, I'd say this year's US Open was a bust. Tiger never really contended. Mickelson and Duval faded faster than my stonewashed Levis. And Sergio waggled himself into a masturbatory-like frenzy of self-destruction. So the real drama was left to Goosen, Brooks and Cink.

Now there's a real colorful trio for you. These three are so bland and soulless, they make Dick Cheney look like Eminem. Executives at NBC - still reeling from the XFL fiasco - must have wimpered like babies as Tiger faltered and these three neat-and-tidy golf cliches emerged from the pack. Of course, that didn't stop the network from giving Tiger the kind of airtime attention usually accorded to major news events or Jennifer Lopez's wardrobe.

Even as it became clear Woods would not successfully defend his title, NBC followed him like a forlorn stray unsure of who its new master might be. Bankrupt of real drama or great golf, broadcasters were left to repeatedly speculate on Tiger's demeanor, trying to interpret the furrows in his brow like a coven of desperate palm readers.

Alas, this year's national championship will not be one of the most memorable. Retief Goosen is a nice guy and a great player, but they won't be writing screenplays around his by-default win at Southern Hills.

Sadly, Goosen will be forgotten before the NBC commentators get around to pronouncing his name correctly.

Lee’s Top Five Golf Topics

1. PUTTER SPUTTER. The big guns at Southern Hills all choke down the stretch, missing incredibly shot putts. You know what they say, "Drive for show, putt for D'oh!"

2. GREY POWER. Veterans like Tom Kite, Curtis Strange and Hale Irwin steal some limelight from the young turks over the past few weeks. I'm still hoping Byron Nelson makes a comeback at the PGA Championship.

3. TIGER'S TALE. Woods's fails in his attempt at a fifth straight major. Thank God, or else Nike may have taken over the world.

4. HE'S RIDING. Casey Martin wins the fight to use a powercart in sanctioned tournaments. Scores of headline writers grieve because they won't be able to write, "Casey strikes out!"

5. WHO'S GOT THE BALLS. Legions of male golfers are using Lady Precept golf balls for its rumored distance characteristics. Unfortunately, many of the same users are encountering a strange and involuntary need to wear sockettes with little ink balls on the heels.

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