|Defending U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell thinks that players will struggle to get par at this year’s tournament. The major will be held at the Congressional Country Club, a 7,574-yard,par-71 course. (AFP)
Defending U.S. Open champ Graeme McDowell recently commented that nobody will break par next month at a muscled-up Congressional that will play at 7,574 yards and par 71.
This isn’t to say that the Open shouldn’t be tough, but it seemed that the United States Golf Association was easing up a bit in recent years on its par-is-a-good-score approach, but if McDowell is correct, nasty is back in style.
To the self-styled purist, a vintage course such as Congressional and the jangled nerves of U.S. Open conditions push first love and the birth of children, at least temporarily, to the side as life’s memorable moment, but at what point does a course on steroids go too far?
We’re not talking about the humbling of the world’s best players, some of which can use that now and again, but the USGA, of all organizations, should be more concerned with the image that is being transmitted to perspective new golfers than its own ego.
The National Golf Foundation in the U.S. reported recently that the number of golfers declined 3.6% in 2010, the third consecutive year in which there was a drop. The belief is that the struggling American economy is contributing to this, but the bottom line is that newcomers to the game are badly needed.
Rightly or wrongly, golf is already seen by many as a game for the wealthy with restrictive dress codes and etiquette that often isn’t communicated to newcomers, who stumble through and make mistakes to the chagrin of more established players.
It’s expensive and already has a high degree of difficulty, so what do the neophytes think when they see the world’s best struggling to make par?
Argue all of those points, but talk to one of your friends who doesn’t play and chances are that he, and especially she, will mention all or some of the above. Humbling the world’s best at one of the season’s most high-profile events will only enhance the difficult-to-play theme.
Golf needs to see things from the eyes of the people it’s attempting to lure instead of just assuming they will come.
Breaking par is hardly a slap in the face to the golf course, nor does it mean that equipment technology is making courses obsolete as the USGA likes to fret about. It simply means that the best players in the world can play the game with some proficiency.
In an era when there are so many options out there in both entertainment and athletics, a guardian of the game such as the USGA should also be aware of golf’s image, either real or imagined.
THE SHORT GAME
Random thoughts for a holiday Monday: What will you notice first when this week’s World Golf Rankings are released? Whoever is on top or the fact that Tiger Woods has dropped out of the top 10 for the first time since 1997? Also, outside of the cheerleaders on television broadcasts¸ how many people have you heard discussing the FedEx Cup standings? … Graham DeLaet of Weyburn, Sask., will make his comeback from surgery in January at the Nationwide Tour’s Melwood Prince George’s County Open, June 2-5 … The Canadian Tour has offered four exemptions to 2009 NCAA champion Matt Hill of Bright’s Grove, who turned pro last year after playing at North Carolina State … Jessica Shepley of Oakville won a four-hole playoff last week in the season-opening event on the CN Canadian Women’s Tour in Squamish, B.C. Not only did her win earn Shepley $10,000, but also an exemption into the CN Canadian Women’s Open in August near Montreal … On the business side of golf, Acushnet, with its well-known Titleist and FootJoy brands, will be purchased by a group that includes apparel/footwear company Fila … Now working as a caddie, former LPGA Tour player A.J. Eathorne of Penticton, B.C., has moved back to more familiar territory from the PGA Tour. Eathorne is now looping for Brittany Lincicome.