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The R&A must restore golf's reputation after US Open farce

The R&A must restore golf’s reputation after US Open farce

The Open at Carnoustie is the perfect opportunity to put the USGA's Shinnecock Hills horror show behind us, writes Colin Callander
 

The R&A has an important job on its hands later this month when the Open Championship gets under way at Carnoustie.

They need to do their bit to restore the reputation of the game after it was shredded by the ludicrous manner the USGA set up the course for the US Open at Shinnecock Hills.

That led to what turned into an absolute farce at times and the superb final round in which Brooks Koepka defended his title and Tommy Fleetwood confirmed his major credentials only served to illustrate what a massive opportunity had been missed.

I would regard myself as a dedicated golf watcher but on the first three days of the championship had turned off my TV long before play had been completed.

Watching the stellar group of Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson shoot a combined 25 over par on day one was bad enough but that paled into insignificance alongside the horror show that developed on the third afternoon when several holes were rendered virtually unplayable by a combination of glass-like greens, daft pin positions and winds which were relatively strong but far from unusual on a course situated beside the sea.

Andrew 'Beef' Johnston

The conditions that afternoon were so ridiculous that the last five groups played the course in a combined 57 over par and Mickelson had what can only be described as a mental meltdown when he deliberately hit his moving ball to stop it rolling off the 13th green.

It was an act which should have resulted in the veteran American’s disqualification under Rules 1-2 and 33-7 but the USGA got that wrong too and gave him a two-shot penalty instead.

The carnage that afternoon was such that USGA executive director Mike Davis issued an apology but not before competitors had queued up to voice their disapproval both to camera and online.

One of the more reasoned opinions came from Zach Johnson, who confirmed exactly what the rest of us could see on our TV screens.

“Shinnecock is beautiful,” he said. “But unfortunately they’ve lost the golf course. I thought we could be on the edge but we’ve surpassed it. It’s pretty much gone which is unfortunate because in my opinion its one of the best venues in all of golf.

“When you have a championship that comes down to either luck or a fortuitous bounce that’s not right but we’re there already,” he added. “We’re going to see sheer carnage out there.”

He was absolutely correct and in the end it resulted in the USGA having to pour hundred of gallons of water onto the course that evening in an effort to make the course playable and restore some sort of sanity to a situation that was in grave danger of causing long-term damage to the game.

The authorities are currently spending millions of pounds and dollars on schemes designed to increase participation in our sport but it is exceedingly difficult to believe that any newcomer would be attracted by watching the mayhem that unfolded over the first three days at Shinnecock.

I would suggest the opposite would be the case which is why it is essential the R&A ensures that normality returns at Carnoustie and they present a course that is tough but fair and which identifies the best player rather than threatens to embarrass them all.

There will be those who argue the quality of players on this year’s leaderboard legitimises the USGA’s course set-up strategies at Shinnecock but I do not accept that and would counter that only the panic measures they took ahead of the final round saved them from further ridicule.

The time has surely come for them to take a serious look at their policies but I doubt that will happen in the short term.

“That’s just the US Open for you,” a resigned US Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk suggested at the end of the torrid third day. “You just have to live with it.”

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