The U.S. Open is one of the four major tournaments in professional golf, and, for American golfers, at least, it holds nearly as much prestige as The Masters. So what has compelled the USGA (the governing body that oversees the tournament) to make such crappy decisions in recent years regarding the venue for the U.S. Open?
The U.S. Open isn’t held at a specific site year after year. Instead, it rotates through a variety of renowned golf courses around the United States. Naturally, some courses, such as Pebble Beach and Oakmont, are popular enough that they are played more often than others, but the USGA has been fairly diverse in its selecting of courses lately.
While that diversity could be a good thing, the unique courses chosen by the USGA, for the most part, don’t fit the billing of a course designed for one of the most important golf events in the world. And, because of that, the USGA has earned the wrath of the golfers playing in the tournament in recent years.
Two years ago, Jordan Spieth, in the midst of one of the most dominant years in the history of the PGA Tour, won the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, which is located on the coast of Washington. That tournament was marred by oodles and oodles of gripes and complaints raining down from the players throughout, as the course wasn’t at all fit for hosting the U.S. Open. Resembling a golf course from a post-apocalyptic world, Chambers Bay is a dry, sandy wasteland that doesn’t look like a manicured golf course suited for the pro circuit.
Even Spieth, who won the tournament, couldn’t hold his tongue when discussing the course, describing that the much-maligned 18th hole as being “stupid.” The obscure course even drew outrage from all-time great golfer Gary Player, who pointed out all of the flaws associated with the course in an interview.
Fast forward two years later, and, fresh off of a 2016 event that took place at the beloved Oakmont Country Club, the USGA is using an even worse golf course to host the U.S. Open. This year’s venue is Erin Hills in Wisconsin, marking the first time that it has played host to the tournament. Erin Hills has already come under fire from several players in this year’s field, particularly Kevin Na, who made an Instagram video detailing how ridiculously impossible it is to hit out of the rough there.
This sparked an opposite reaction from Rory McIlroy, who implied to the media that he likes the thick rough because it presents a challenge and that if a competitor couldn’t keep the ball on the exceptionally wide fairways of Erin Hill, then he should bow out. Player also resurfaced to provide yet another scathing review of the golf course, and the company that designed the course fired back at Na in a snarky tweet.
— Hurdzan Golf Design (@HurdzanGolf) June 13, 2017
So, basically, this course is tearing the golf world apart at one of the sport’s most celebrated events. And it’s all because the USGA is choosing to think outside of the box when picking the U.S. Open venues.
The 2017 U.S. Open is supposed to be one of redemption. After the 2015 event at the desolate Chambers Bay course and the 2016 debacle surrounding that infamous infraction suffered by eventual winner Dustin Johnson, the 2017 tournament is meant to be a competition that showcases what makes golf so great. Instead, it’s featuring more controversy.
While the British Open has prided itself for years on being the tournament played on the most inane, difficult courses in the midst of crappy weather, the U.S. Open is meant to be a picturesque tournament that embodies the essence of American golf. American golf has been built on Augusta National, Oakmont and Torrey Pines. Not some goat farm out in the middle of nowhere being passed off as a golf course. So if the USGA is wise, it’ll stick to the basics and keep the golfers (and the golf fans) content and keep the U.S. Open as one of golf’s most prestigious tournaments by choosing its courses more carefully.