June 21, 2010

Ryan Moore: Pebble Beach US Open 'Makes Me Hate Golf': So Ryan Moore, will you be playing the U.S. Open again at Pebble Beach? "Probably, just to torture myself. I get angry, and it makes me hate golf for about two months, and then I'm OK again. ... I think they go for a spectacle; they want some hole to draw attention and make everybody look stupid, I guess. It doesn't reward good golf shots like Augusta does, and I don't understand why you'd have a tournament that doesn't reward good golf shots."

posted by rcade to golf at 04:03 PM - 26 comments

Waiter!? Oh waiter? These grapes... they're sour.

Ryan Moore needs to sit in a darkened room and think about the definition of a "good golf shot". The field of play is different every single time; even if you played the same course every day for the rest of your life, you'd be unlikely ever to face the exact same shot twice. Part of what makes truly great golf golfers truly great is being able to identify solutions and innovate answers to difficult golfing questions. Oh, and not get all petulant about it when things don't go your way.

I'm no great supporter of the USGA's obsession with defending par, but I think after the Massacre at Winged Foot in 1974 they have stuck fairly closely to Sandy Tatum's comment: "We're trying to identify the best golfers in the world, not humiliate them."

So Pebble wasn't set up the same way as the resort courses they play every other week of the year - good. That makes for more interesting viewing. I note that Ryan Moore has played in the Open (or the British Open if you must) only once, and that the one he played at was at Carnoustie. If Pebble makes him hate golf for a couple of months, he must have needed therapy in 2007 after that.

posted by JJ at 05:48 PM on June 21

So Pebble wasn't set up the same way as the resort courses they play every other week of the year - good.

And for those who want to watch pros rack up a 25-under at The Cookie Cutter at [ Canyon | Valley | Ridge | Beach | Pines | Rocks | Resort ] (delete as applicable) the Golf Channel is available from your cable provider.

I'm reminded of the famous exchange between John Tesh and Theo de Rooy after Paris-Roubaix, another event that isn't exactly kind to its participants.

Does the development track and schedule for modern PGA pros set up the idea that if your week-in, week-out skillset and toolbox doesn't work at particular courses, links or otherwise, then it's obviously just showing the players up?

posted by etagloh at 06:27 PM on June 21

I don't know, but it seems to me that when the winner shoots even par for the tournament that the course is absolutely fair. Every player played the same course with the same "trickiness." Pro players skip tournaments all the time because a course does not play to their game. The difference is with a major, like the US Open, they want to play regardless of the course and they must change their game to fit the course.

posted by graymatters at 07:03 PM on June 21

Strongly disagree.

I don't tune in to watch the world's most skilled golfers hit solid shots and have them end up rolling 20 yards off the back of the green, or to have them wave their putter at a 10-foot downhiller and watch it go 7-8 feet by and off the green.

There is a difference between setting up a course to be a challenge and setting up a course to be humiliating. When many of the fairways appeared to be narrower than 30-40 yards and you're teeing off with a 30 m.p.h. crosswind, the ocean to your right and rough over your ankle socks, that's ridiculous.

I asked a number of my customers if they watched the tournament and all of them said they eventually turned it off. You know why? Because only a very few people want to watch someone back into a win. McDowell didn't exactly do that, but he didn't win by going right after the flag either. He played as safely as possible and he barely hung on by taking no chances. That's lousy viewing, and that does golf no good at all.

Maybe they should just stop televising it. Ernie Els would probably appreciate it.

posted by wfrazerjr at 07:16 PM on June 21

They all have to play the same course for the same 72 holes. You have a caddy who, if he knows his business, has gathered every bit of data he can concerning the slope of greens, normal wind velocity and direction, speed of greens, possible pin placements, and so on. By the 4th round, you have visited each green 3 times, and you should have been taking mental notes about places to hit, depending on where the pin is placed. In other words, shut up and play golf. If the course rewards consistent, unspectacular, commercial play, then play it that way. If you aren't good enough to score well by playing a safe game, too bad. There were at least 150 competitors at this year's Open. Please don't tell me that all but one were afraid to voice an opinion about the course. Tough buns, Mr. Moore.

How did they get the camouflage pattern into the greens? OK, only kidding. I understand it is some problem with the type of grass they use.

posted by Howard_T at 08:13 PM on June 21

How did they get the camouflage pattern into the greens? OK, only kidding. I understand it is some problem with the type of grass they use.

Tiger had complained earlier in the week about those greens, and it did appear that ball was bouncing quite a bit on putts. Cosmetics aside, it did seem to affect the roll on putts, but as mentioned, everyone played on the same course.

posted by dviking at 08:50 PM on June 21

That's lousy viewing

And they should only count homeruns in baseball games.

And they should require every football play to be a hail Mary pass.

And they should make basketball players shoot from mid-court on every shot.

posted by graymatters at 09:48 PM on June 21

And they should only count homeruns in baseball games.

And they should require every football play to be a hail Mary pass.

And they should make basketball players shoot from mid-court on every shot.

You should have stopped at one shitty misread instead of going for the full three.

There is beauty in a well-fielded ground ball, in a simple tackle or in a bounce pass. The USGA gave us almost no chance to see any beauty at the U.S. Open because few to none of the golfers had a chance to do anything beautiful.

Yes, there was Tiger's gorgeous second to the 18th on Saturday. Yes, there were a few long putts. Aside from that, there were solid drives which bounced through hard and narrow fairways, solid putts which were simply impossible to stop aside from holing them and overly penalizing rough just a step or two from the green. It wasn't a golf course -- it was a madhouse.

You have a caddy who, if he knows his business, has gathered every bit of data he can concerning the slope of greens, normal wind velocity and direction, speed of greens, possible pin placements, and so on.

You had all those things, and still no one could really play the course worth a shit. So was it 150 stupid caddies and 150 stupid golfers, or was it one stupid course?

posted by wfrazerjr at 10:04 PM on June 21

wfrazerjr, I bet you like tournaments that end in scores in the -20 range--BC Open, maybe? In golf, you're competing not just against other golfers in any given weekend, but the course itself.

Pebble was both tough and fair to all golfers this weekend, as have previous US Open venues, and if they couldn't conquer her like Tiger did in 2000...well, too bad.

posted by bluemagpie at 10:16 PM on June 21

You'd bet wrong, chief. I don't like the courses that roll over and beg when any hybrid-wielding schmuck hits the first tee.

(Okay, I take that back a bit. I like it when the greens are soft enough that when a guy throws a dart from 150 yards, it actually has a chance to stick.)

People also seem to think because everyone played the same course and they all had such a rough time, well, that's fair, isn't it? I didn't say anything about fair -- I said this was shitty and difficult to watch.

And actually, I guess in a sense maybe it wasn't fair, considering there was little to no difference between a mildly off-course shot and an egregiously bad stinker. 5-50% error didn't lead to much difference in the penalty, and even no error, well, you still might get it stuck up your ass. I know that's a possibility everywhere, but it seemed probable this week, and I just don't get how that's good golf.

posted by wfrazerjr at 10:43 PM on June 21

I'll say this about the Open being bad viewing...watching the players finish on 18 was brutal.

Without the ability to stick the ball on the green, most players were aiming for the sand trap, or, as McDowell did, lay up from 200 yards out. No way to go for it on that green, the ball would have rolled on out the back of the green. Not exactly exciting to watch.

While all players putted on the same greens, I'd rather watch guys sinking longer putts, than I would like to watch them three putt. I get to see enough three putting when I play.

Maybe if there was more of this, the Open would have been more fun to watch.

posted by dviking at 11:59 PM on June 21

All the 18th needed to be perfect was a comical windmill in the middle of it.

posted by Joey Michaels at 06:39 AM on June 22

...watching the players finish on 18 was brutal.

I watched the majority of the tournament, particularly every minute of coverage on Saturday and Sunday (which was pathetic broadcasting by NBC on Sunday - and the second I heard Johnny Miller say twice in the span of 20 minutes as McDowell was teeing off on Saturday that there was no way he could hold on ... I tried to call my bookie to bet on Graeme) ... and not once did I hear an ounce of complaint/concern about 18 or any commentary or other evidence that the green was impossible to hold. I don't know if casual viewers see a par 5 and a handful of people within 200-220 yards after the drive and just assume that a lack of tap-in eagles must mean that the green is horrible? But, 18 is an enjoyably difficult hole on any day, even if the green was left as comfortably hairy as the muni courses most of us viewers typically play. From my vantage, players weren't trying to hit the greenside bunker, but if there is room for error on that approach, that's the place. And it\'s misguided to use course management or conservative play by the 1 guy trying to protect his lead as logic supporting how unfair the course must be.

Not picking on dviking, because I agree that some of the TV viewing was brutal. But, this whining about the course and support for that whining astounds me. Other than raising my eyebrows at 14, I didn't blame an ounce of the brutal TV-viewing on the course. There was frankly some dreadful golf being played, particularly on Sunday. Mickelson could've run away with the tourney if he hadn't pulled about 8 putts. Els had plenty of chances and unfortunately couldn't muster anything after the first couple holes. Havret and Love were other examples of timid putting on albeit tough greens but had multiple makeable putts. 7, especially on Saturday, was crazy, but we saw Dustin Johnson stick one to a foot. Not that every player should be able to mimic that, but it shows there was a way to get it fairly close and not blast it over the green. Of course, that same player jacked one so far left on 3 that he had to re-tee. That's the course's fault? Sure, the course was tough and on rare instances borderline silly, but to bitch and moan about not being able to see someone post a really low number ... eh, move on.

posted by littleLebowski at 06:59 AM on June 22

Ha - just read the end of the article ... Runner-up Gregory Favret received $810,000, while third place earned $480,687. ... did the writer just get done watching "There's Something About Mary"? Nice editing.

posted by littleLebowski at 07:08 AM on June 22

I suppose what makes for good viewing is subjective, but for my money the boring weeks are the weeks when the course features endless holes at which every golfer tries to hit the same shots; holes where the only tee shot worth considering is the same shot for everyone. If you take that kind of course design to its logical conclusion, you might as well save them all a walk and just put them on a driving range, use the launch monitors to measure who is hitting it best and give that guy the cheque.

The 18th at Pebble has always offered choices - risks and rewards. Off the tee, you have to decide how brave you're going to be and choose how much of the Pacific you want to try and bite off. Then you have to decide if it's worth the risk to go for the green in two, and if so, what shape of shot you're willing to risk. The high cut to hold it on the green (but that you have to start out towards the beach), or the safer draw that is very unlikely to hold the green even if you do hit it correctly, and could end up leaving you short-sided to the right of the green if it doesn't turn over?

Do you hit enough club to get you all the way over the bunkers with an average strike? Or do you hit the club that will only carry them if you nail it, and leave you a relatively easy up and down from the bunker short if you don't?

Factor in tournament circumstances and some pressure and that to me makes for great viewing - or would do if you had some better commentators and pundits who were able to explain things like that to a viewing public that is largely (inevitably) ignorant of the nuances of the game at that level.

In so many ways, the game is an analogy for life. It isn't fair a lot of the time. Bad things sometimes happen to good shots (people) and bad shots (people) are sometimes rewarded. It's not about fairness, it's about meeting with triumph and disaster and treating those two imposters just the same. It's about getting on with it and making the best score you can.

This modern myth that every flag should be attackable is just that, a myth. Can't get at the flag? Then if you want to make a birdie, you'd better improve your long putting, or learn how to accept a par and move on. Can't keep the ball on the green; it's impoosible? Better stop trying to hit that shot then and work out a better way to make par; choose where you want to miss to give yourself the best chance to get up and down. Play to your strengths.

I'm not sure what's to blame - maybe the TV's obsession with statistics, specifically with ranking players according to those statistics. Guys get into a mindset that deliberately missing a green in regulation is just inconceivable, or that not being able to hit a par 5 green in two is somehow a failure. The whole thing also comes back to the ultimately irrelevant metric of "par". Par doesn't matter a damn. You don't have to beat par, you just have to beat everyone else.

[JJ repeating old golf story alert]

European Tour pre-qualifying 1998. I played three practice rounds at St Cyprien, using the member's scorecard and course planner to guide me. The night before the first round, the European Tour issued us with their course planners, hole locations for the following day, and the tournament card of the course.

A few guys were thunderstruck and compained bitterly that the long hole we'd been practicing for three days that was a par 5 for the members had been reduced to a par 4 for the tournament. An official from the tour and several of the more experienced players made the same comment: "What difference does that make? We didn't move the bunkers or the water hazard or the green. It's still the same piece of land, and your goal should still be to cover it in as few shots as you can manage."

[/old golf story]

As Lebowski said, there was some terrible golf played out there by some very good players. The course probably contributed to that (the pressure to take your birdie chances is so much higher when you know it might be a while before you get another one), but it wasnt' to blame.

I'm not saying I think all courses should be like that - Augusta for example produced a much more exciting tournament this year than it has done for a while largely because they set it up to offer birdie chances again - but the US Open traditionally has been and should continue to be. Bethpage last year should have been fearfully difficult, but the heavy rain throughout (I'm still finding Bethpage mud in my golf shoes) reduced it to target practice for a lot of the time.

Sure, the ultimate prize in golf course design would be to build a course that rewarded excellence and punished everything else; but again, just like life, golf isn't fair. Nor should it be.

posted by JJ at 07:53 AM on June 22

The US Open is intended to be the toughest challenge in golf, period. The USGA demands that and the golf courses are set up to achieve that goal. Augusta sets up their own course and changes it as they wish. The Open in Great Britain is played on ancient courses that stand on their own, links courses for the most part. The PGA is governed by that body and they may be more player friendly but it's no walk in the park. When you tee it up on your first practice round in a US Open, you know that the next six days are going to be hell. The home course ground keepers give up control and work with the USGA for months if not years for that tournament. In a specific case, the Olympic Club had to redesign the 18th green after Payne Stewart's putt rimmed out and ran 30 feet down the slope in 1998 or was told it would never host another Open. They rebuilt the green to make it easier, through it was beautiful as it was, and I worked there and played it many times. In preparation for the 2012 US Open, the Olympic Club has made vast changes at the USGA's request/demand to make this tournament the game of golf's most difficult. This may be news to some but for a true golf follower, it is common knowledge. If you don't like really tough golf conditions the US Open will never be for you. The Masters is pretty, The Open is historic and the US Open is brutal.

posted by gfinsf at 08:29 AM on June 22

I'm totally on board with wfrazerjr on this one. I've always felt this way about altering a course for the open. When the best player in the world hits a quality drive with a fairway wood, it splits the fairway, but then rolls through the pavement-hard fairway off a cliff, I just laughed. That's not the golf they play week in and out. A quality golf shot should not be a 2-stroke penalty. I, too, eventually turned it off because I was sure I would watch a relatively unknown par his way to a victory.

posted by smithnyiu at 08:32 AM on June 22

We didn't move the bunkers or the water hazard or the green. It's still the same piece of land, and your goal should still be to cover it in as few shots as you can manage."

The same thing happened to one of the holes on the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Do you designate it a par 4 to "protect par" or a par 5 because the gallery likes eagles? Doesn't matter.

posted by etagloh at 09:46 AM on June 22

the best player in the world hits a quality drive with a fairway wood

What's your definition of a quality drive? My definition centres around where the ball finishes. He should have hit an iron, or accepted that the hazard was a possibility if he risked a wood. The ground didn't suddenly get hard while his ball was in the air.

[rulesfilter] ...and it was only a one-shot penalty [/rulesfilter]

I was sure I would watch a relatively unknown par his way to a victory...

Like always happens at Pebble Beach in a US Open, I mean the four other times the US Open has been there it has been won by Nicklaus, Watson, Kite and Woods. Who ever heard of those guys? And par? Nickalus was +2, Watson was -6, Kite was -3 and Woods set the scoring record for the US Open by four shots on -12. Factor in McDowell's level par finish and the Pebble Beach winners are collectively 19 under par.

Calling McDowell an unknown is a bit harsh too. As an amateur he won the Haskins Award for most outstanding collegiate player in the US, broke Tiger's collegiate scoring record (the one that was supposedly unbreakable) and won six collegiate titles. He was also on a GB&I Walker Cup team that became only the second such team in the history of the competition to win it in the US. As a pro he has won six times in all and four times since March 2008. He played in the Ryder Cup two years ago and took 2.5 points from 4 games. He has represented Ireland at the World Cup the last two years (finishing second in 2009).

Last year he finished in the top 20 of three of the four majors (and 34th in the Open Championship).

posted by JJ at 10:24 AM on June 22

Not picking on dviking, because I agree that some of the TV viewing was brutal. But, this whining about the course and support for that whining astounds me

Gee, thanks for not picking on me. Never crossed my mind that you were picking on me, I'm pretty comfortable with the idea that we might have a difference of opinion on the 18th at Pebble Beach.

and not once did I hear an ounce of complaint/concern about 18 Check one of my last posts in this thread, it has a link to where players were complaining about the greens but were hushed by the PGA. Do you really think the network is going to bash the course?

I did say that since all players played the same course it's all fair, that wasn't my point. I'd rather see the top players that were within a couple of strokes be able to go all out on the final hole(s), rather than having to lay up or go for the bunker. My preference, if the lay up golf suits you, I'm good with that.

posted by dviking at 10:28 AM on June 22

I skipped this year's U.S. Open, but the talk of how hard it is makes me wonder what people think of the British Open. Part of the appeal of that tournament is watching great players suffer.

posted by rcade at 10:59 AM on June 22

Ryan Moore is an average journeyman who has made 7 million playing very average golf by tour standards. Most great players embrace the challenge that is the US Open. Thousands of lesser journeymen and hanger-ons attempt to qualify every year and would consider being in the field a great honor. Ryan Moore, you should keep your mediocre game at home the week of the Open next year, or play the Nationwide event that week, and let someone who desires to play in our national championship take your spot...

I just don't get how that's good golf.

With the exception of Andy North (who was a great grinder if nothing else), the players who have won the Open multiple times are all considered great. I feel that the Open brings out the best qualities in great golfers, patience, strategy, shotmaking, and even courage.

This is a game of misses. The guy who misses the best is going to win.
~ Ben Hogan

Congratulations to Graeme McDowell. Pebble played very much like a links type course, and I'm not surprised a European won.

posted by mjkredliner at 01:50 PM on June 22

McDowell, and Havret played the best golf on Sunday, and deserved to finish 1 and 2. Having said that, I think any top competitive player would have a problem with the fact that, on those greens luck is definately a factor. Also, the course condition and setup was unfair, at best, in some places. Even the winner, who you would expect to put the most positive spin on any comment about the course, said that 17 might have been unfair. When you have a combination of Poa and Bent on the greens, as many California courses do, they are rarely smooth. However, when you nearly kill the greens like they frequently do in the Open, it puts you completely at the mercy of the greens, as the ball crosses from Bent, to Poa, to Bent, etc. Those greens need to be re-built prior to playing the Open there again, in what 2019?

posted by str8erro at 02:24 PM on June 22

Yeah, 2019. I agree about the greens needing to be rebuilt; they didn't look good on TV and although they seemed to putt OK early in the week, as they got burnt (with the poa burning faster than the bent) they seemed to get uneven.

(Long time listener, first time caller, str8erro? Welcome.)

posted by JJ at 03:48 PM on June 22

JJ, I get what you're saying about playing an iron and all that -- but golf is built for television and spectacle. That's what drives sponsorships and ratings, and the big purses the players play for today.

I enjoy someone who's an excellent technician as much as the next fellow, but I don't think the majority of the golf audience tunes in to see the best players in the world reduced to playing half-assed shots at almost every turn out of fear a minor error will turn into a snowman.

You're telling me it's good golf when Phil barely taps a putt and the ball rolls seven or eight feet off the green? If you don't get it in the hole, you're putting from the fringe or chipping. How is that any different from the volcano hole at your local putt putt?

posted by wfrazerjr at 04:30 PM on June 23

How is that any different from the volcano hole at your local putt putt?

Phil wouldn't have got a free pint if he'd holed it?

Golf has become built for TV and spectacle, but the essence of the game isn't and never should be. I'm no stuffy traditionalist by any stretch, but I like that the second most prestigious prize in the game is tougher than all the other weeks (unless the [British] Open if the wind blows). If guys are hitting putts off the greens then one of two things is possible - either you have a mess like they had at Olympic in 1998, or Phil needs to pay more attention during the practice round and not hit the ball above the hole with his approach.

Until a hole gets to the point where there is no way to make par (and nobody in the field manages to), I say let them do what they like with the course set-up and let the onus be on the most pandered to group of sportsmen on the planet to get out there and find a way to amaze us.

posted by JJ at 07:29 PM on June 23

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