Monday, June 27, 2005

Time for the USGA to Ease Up a Bit

Congrats to Brittany Lang of McKinney on her U.S. Women's Open showing. The Duke sophomore tied for second with Morgan Pressel behind Birdie Kim.

I've never been one to complain about the way the USGA sets up courses for its Opens. I think the best golfers in the world should be challenged, and I enjoy seeing a tournament where par rather than 25-under might be the winning score.

But I'm starting to think the USGA is going just a little overboard. Not so much in the overall difficulty of its course setups, but rather in the difficulty of the holes on the final day, and particularly down the stretch.

Think about what happened at Pinehurst a couple weeks ago for the men's Open, and what happened this past weekend at Cherry Hills for the women's Open. What we saw in both cases was great golfers sliding backwards all day. Again, I don't mind watching great golfers struggle with an extremely difficult course. But this is what I'd like to see: a few birdies down the stretch to win a tournament.

Augusta puts its pins in birdie positions on the final day of the Masters because they want to see charges down the stretch. At the U.S. Opens, a charge down the stretch is a bogey instead of a double-bogey, or a fluke chip-in on the final hole for the only birdie all day on that hole.

The USGA could have made the Women's Open more exciting by moving the tees up on the par-5 17th to give players the thought of going for the green in two; or by moving the pin to the back of the No. 18 green so some players might actually have a shot at a well-earned birdie.

Keep it tough, keep it challening, keep par as your ideal score. But create a few holes for the final round where birdie is a realistic possibility down the stretch.

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