The Bad, The Good and Bellerive Country Club
Golf is one of those few professional sports during which your game doesn’t impact your opponent’s and vice versa. It is man, or woman, versus the course, the elements and, perhaps at times, the USGA. Despite the individual nature of the sport, culpability for bad performances doesn’t always lie with the player alone.
There were two schools of thought about the recent US Open at Shinnecock Hills: The first suggested that we should sit back and watch on with fascination as most of the best players in the world came up short when tackling a historically tough course. The second suggested that once again the USGA set out with the goal of embarrassing golf’s elite.
USGA criticised for Shinnecock Hills course
Should the fans really care? It depends on how you like your golf. Rickie Fowler posted a score of 11 over par at Shinnecock Hills, which was enough, remarkably, to secure a top 20 place. Incidentally, that 11 over par score secured Fowler prize money of close to $AUD 165,000, which seems almost unfair when the rest of us can only dream of winning that sort of cash at a top online casino. At Augusta in the 2018 Masters, that score would have put him close to last. Does that mean the US Open was fantastic or farcical? Most fans went for the latter.
Shinnecock Hills really showed how professional golfers have hit the jackpot in terms of monetary reward. but, despite the prestige, the US Open is by no means golf’s richest prize. That honour goes to the ‘5th Major’, the Players Championship, which boasts a purse of just under $AUD 13,000,000. The largess of the USGA is really put into focus when you consider the Australian Open, held at the Lakes Golf Club, Sydney, in November, has a prize pool of just $AUD 1,250,000.
Golf’s roadshow then moved on to Carnoustie and the 147th British Open. If golf needed some redemption after the Shinnecock Hills massacre, they certainly got it here. Carnoustie had everything needed to make box office viewing, including, for a time, a hint of the Tiger Woods of old. Unlike the US Open, it was what might be termed a ‘proper’ test – difficult, yet mastery of the course depended upon skill and not mastery.
US PGA Championship usually player friendly
So, what will the final Major of the year bring? The US PGA Championship is usually noted for being a low-scoring affair, regardless of the venue. In fact, of the top nine best 72-stroke scores ever posted at a Major, six have been recorded at the PGA Championship, including Jason Day’s triumphant 20 under at Whistling Straits in 2015.
This year’s PGA Championship (9th-12th August) will be at the beautiful Bellerive Country Club, Missouri. It was last held there in 1992, when Nick Price won by three shots. The good news for patriotic Aussies is that it is a course well-suited to the talents of Jason Day, who is being backed by many pundits to put aside some of the rustiness he has been showing in recent months.
It is set up nicely for Dustin Johnson as well, but eyes will inevitably be drawn towards Tiger Woods once again. His charge at Carnoustie made fans tingle with nostalgia but also revealed a greater truth, namely that he is still golf’s only true superstar. If he can demonstrate that his excellent play at the Open was not just an anomaly, it will be good for the game as a whole. Cut during the debacle at Shinnecock Hills and just a little short at the glorious final day at Carnoustie: if Tiger can get back to the top at Bellerive, it’ll be the only Major we are left talking about this year.