Welcome to Teeing Off, where Devil Ball editor Jay Busbee and head writer Jonathan Wall take a day’s topic and smack it all over the course. Suggest a future topic by writing email@example.com, or hit us on Twitter at @jaybusbee and @jonathanrwall. Today, we discuss whether the just-ended U.S. Open is a classic, or just another really good tournament.
Busbee: So the US Open is done, and a guy nobody, not even Webb Simpson himself, envisioned winning is the winner. So, here we are at the end of another major. Now, every major is by definition an important tournament, but does that make it a GOOD tournament? My question to you this week, sir: was the 112th US Open any good? Will we remember this tournament even five years from now?
Wall: I think it depends on how you define a “good” major championship. Plenty will say the casual sports fan doesn’t know Webb Simpson and therefore the tournament suffered by not having a big name lift the trophy. In my opinion, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Look, the only thing that matters at a major is the finish — and that was one of the best we’ve seen in some time. You had Simpson getting up-and-down on 18 for par, and then having to watch as Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell tried to make birdie to force a playoff. There were plenty of other names in contention for much of the day, including Michael Thompson, Padriag Harrington, Ernie Els, and John Peterson. If you couldn’t get into the drama that was unfolding on the back-nine, well, I don’t know what to tell you. That was a darn good finish.
Busbee: Two things, to my mind, keep it from being a classic. First, the star power. It’s inescapable. Big moments demand big players. And while you can have a (relative) unknown craft a classic (think Larry Mize chipping in for the win at Augusta), it’s far more likely that you get the classics from the biggest names. (Now, if Webb Simpson goes on to win 10 majors, this narrative changes.) Also, the fact that the event was lost, not won, on 18 deflates it a touch, in my eyes. You want to see the winner going insane on the green, not gently embracing his wife on an awkward tape delay.
Still, you could feel the drama ratcheting up as every minute passed. What were your thoughts, being on the ground at Olympic?
Wall: You could definitely feel the pressure starting to increase on the back-nine. Sitting in the media center as the tournament was starting to unfold, I think a lot of us were just waiting for someone to grab a lead and hold on, but it seemed like every couple of minutes someone would drop a shot and the leader board would change again. That’s what you want if you’re a fan; but from a golf scribe’s perspective, that’s the last thing you want — especially if you happen to be on deadline and don’t have a clue who’s going to come out on top. Regardless, it’s always fun to be on-site at a major championship. There’s a buzz in the air that can only be felt when you’re that close to the action.
As far as Olympic Club is concerned, I walked away from the course believing that it’s one of the best U.S. Open venues around. I’ve watched the 1998 U.S. Open highlights and had an idea of what to expect, but I was still amazed at how hilly the course was in person. You can burn some serious calories walking that course! The fairways were also about 12-20 yards wide, which looks crazy on television. But when you see how narrow it in person, it really makes you appreciate the grind these guys go through for a whole week. Plus, the temperature never got above 75 degrees the entire week. It really is a special golf course.
Busbee: Yep, that’s an excellent point. Aside from the potential tee-at-16 issue, we didn’t hear anything serious about problems at Olympic, which is a pretty solid endorsement of the course setup. I agree, Olympic absolutely earned itself another Open. The next undesignated year is 2020 (right after 2019, another Pebble Beach return), and while that might be a bit too soon, I could definitely see the course back in the rotation in around another decade or so.
Webb Simpson will be in the prime of his career … and Beau Hossel won’t even be 30.
All right, your thoughts. Was this a classic US Open?