Only certainty in golf: Change, so get used to it
In response to Gary Van Sickle's article about the bombers and traditional U.S. Open venues such as Pebble Beach and Oakmont (“Open bombers give Pebble short shrift,” June 20), I have a question: Why does it matter that some of these historic venues are now unsuitable for major championships due to distance gains on the professional tours? Venues have been dropped in the past and will be in the future.
I am not being intentionally obtuse here. I understand that there is value in traditional courses and the history of past events held there. But things always have changed. Twenty-four of the first 30 British Opens were held at Prestwick and Musselburgh links, but neither could host the Open today (Musselburgh is now a nine-holer), and you can't get much more tradition and history than those two courses. Yet, the R&A has soldiered on and found new Open venues that have created their own histories and traditions. And, gasp! Officials probably will do so even when St. Andrews no longer can test the world's best golfers.
So? So long, Oakmont and Pebble. It was fun while it lasted. There will be new courses and new venues that will create their own legends. The writers and fans who witnessed the old events will pass away, and the memories will fade just as the events at Prestwick and Musselburgh have faded.
It's a funny thing: Change seems to be happening all the time. We’d might as well get used to it.
St. Paul, Minn.
Distance doesn’t dictate obsolescence
I take issue with Gary Van Sickle’s contention that great courses are becoming obsolete because of the distances that players are hitting the ball (“Open bombers give Pebble short shrift,” June 20).
I would prefer that distances be rolled back by changing the golf ball, but it does not follow that a course becomes obsolete simply because great players who can hit the ball tremendous distances will score lower than we are used to seeing. A course is only obsolete if it fails to identify the best golfer.
Would it have been a better U.S. Open if Gary Woodland had shot 2 over par and beaten Brooks Koepka by three? How about if he had shot 20 under and won by 1?
Sports history is replete with records being broken as improvements in coaching, fitness and equipment allow athletes to perform better. Why should golf be different?
Victoria, British Columbia
Par ought to matter, if only for 1 week
I was lucky to play Pebble Beach Golf Links a few years ago, and it was an amazing experience. I am glad that Gary Van Sickle wrote about the low scores in the U.S. Open (“Open bombers give Pebble short shrift,” June 20). Par should matter for one week, anyway, and I think the U.S. Open should be that test.
I am sad that Pebble Beach was basically a pushover and that so many players were in red figures. The USGA made the fairways wide because of the chance of high winds and that higher scores would result in boring golf – not to me; I’d like to see that struggle. The winds were down, and thus you had these very strong and accomplished professionals with dialed-in equipment and golf balls lay waste to Pebble Beach. Do you remember when Tom Kite won the 1992 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach? High winds and glass-like surfaces were challenging, but equipment was different back in that day. He was one of only two players under par. Tiger Woods was 12 under in winning the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, and no one else was under par.
For this edition of the U.S. Open, the fairways were too wide on many holes. No. 10, for example, looked like you could land an airplane on that fairway. On 16, players teed off with irons and hit wedges into the green. Those fairways, no matter the winds, were too wide. Nos. 2 and 3 had no teeth, either. Too many eagles, birdies and tap-in pars. The Fox announcers were happy. I wonder whether Fox, which gave the USGA big money for the rights to broadcast the Open and other USGA events, had any say in the setup. They have ads to sell, and the last thing the network wants to see is a sluggish par fest.
Hopefully, Winged Foot next year will right the ship.
John R. Cameron
Port Orange, Fla.
(Cameron is a member of the PGA of America.)
Beauty but hardly a beast
The U.S. Open is played at Pebble Beach because of the beauty, but the course really is too short (“Open bombers give Pebble short shrift,” June 20). If the USGA has to depend on weather to help make the tournament a tough test, then the Open should not be played there.
The complaints and boycott threats by players must have scared the USGA’s setup committee. Did anyone ever hear Nicklaus, Palmer, Player or Trevino complain about the setup or threaten to boycott the Open? Absolutely not.
The players today want birdie-and-eagle feasts every week, including at the major championships. They intimidated the USGA setup committee to make the course exactly to their liking: short-iron second shots, par 5s reachable in two and slower-than-normal Open greens.
It was a beautiful golf course but not a real major test.
Port St. Lucie, Fla.
Answer to distance debate: Change the ball
I liked Gary Van Sickle’s article (“Open bombers give Pebble short shrift,” June 20), but what about three simple words regarding drivers and U.S. Open courses: Change the ball.
Reduce the length that the ball will fly that pros are allowed to use in all professional tournaments.
Jack Nicklaus suggested it years ago. It would be simple, elegant and fair.
The outcome would be the same for all players. And golf courses do not have to be continually lengthened all over the country.
I was born and lived in South Africa until I was 40, when I emigrated to Canada. As much as I revered Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, I couldn’t wait to see what Gary Player – or, when I was very young, Bobby Locke – had achieved in every tournament overseas. Yes, it is great to see the best foreign players competing on the PGA Tour, but it’s an American tour, with huge money involved, and Americans want to see Americans succeed, just as I wanted to see a fellow South African succeed.
Perhaps the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup have something to do with American spectators wanting American players to win. One of the major problems with the LPGA is the lack of successful Americans.
Canada just celebrated the Toronto Raptors’ winning the NBA title against the Golden State Warriors. It was the most enthralling, exciting final, with tons of drama, yet it was the least-watched NBA final in the U.S. in 10 years. Why? Because a foreign team was in the final, albeit against an American superstar team.
A simple way forward
Reader John Hanson ended his letter with, "I am really not sure, other than the need to create courses for the highest-level players and then courses for the rest of us” (“From the Morning Read inbox,” June 21).
As I approach 69 in a little over a week, I have found the solution to my lack of distance: forward tees.
James A. Smith
Virginia Beach, Va.
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