U.S. Open News And Notes, June 10, 2021
An all-USGA edition includes random thoughts, Whan's rangefinder take, secondary market prices, a weather update and random Tweets
Next Major: U.S. Open (June 17-20)
Days To First Tee Shot: 7
Forecast: Mostly sunny, slightly above average temps, light breezes
Days To The Open’s first tee shot (July 15-18): 34
Days To The Ryder Cup’s opening session: 105
Has the new condensed PGA Tour schedule spoiled the traditional build-up to the U.S. Open? I think so.
Perhaps we're still too close to an extra-special PGA Championship and that deadens some of the momentum into Torrey Pines. If Tiger was playing and Kiawah had given us a clunker, this U.S. Open might seem more eagerly anticipated. Or maybe I’m just still wrapping my head around the idea of an April-to-July Grand Slam accomodating the moribund PGA Tour Playoffs.
Nonetheless, a great week awaits with perfect southern California weather, some possibly silly rough and any number of intriguing storylines. The Quad will detail some of those over the coming days. For now, a few random thoughts before this week’s all-U.S. Open and USGA edition.
While crafting this week’s letter, I watched the 2008 U.S. Open replay and was reminded of an incredible week for Tiger, Rocco, San Diego, the Century Club (who lured the U.S. Open there) and the USGA. From the way Torrey Pines came together last minute, to Rocco’s fortitude, seeing NBC in peak form and reliving some of the putts Tiger made, it’ll always be a tough one to top.
Whether it’s a sign of viewers are discarding Golf Channel or the huge cutback in marketing, or both, there was almost no social media chatter for the terrific 2008 U.S. Open replay. Not long ago there would have been multiple fun threads about the shots, the puffy pants, hearing Bob Murphy and reactions to the various incredible moments of this centuries most amazing major. Some of the missing “engagement” can be chalked up to a younger audience of cordcutters not watching. But plenty more can be attributed to Comcast cratering the channel and viewers detecting the corporation’s disdain for them and the sport. Either way, it’s sad and lousy for golf. I wonder if any of their “partners” are starting to get concerned?
Monday’s “Longest Day” coverage was rough at times but captured enough of Final Qualifying’s essence to reinforce a special day in American golf. Golf Channel’s coverage effort had ended when the USGA took their media rights to Fox Sports, but they somehow returned with an ambitious effort. Maybe the beancounters weren’t looking. Either way, a special shout-out to Shane Bacon and Damon Hack for keeping the conversation informative and engaging over many, many hours.
We learned today that Tiger Woods declined an NBC invitation to participate in the U.S. Open. One option floated to Tiger: a voiceover introduction for the telecasts. He passed. But after watching the terrific “Golf’s Greatest Rounds”, it was reminder how much his presence will be missed this year.
I’ll have more from NBC’s preview teleconference and how to plan out a viewing schedule over the coming days. This is also a gentle way of reminding you that The Quad will go mostly behind the paywall over the next week or so. But you know how to remedy that!
Brooks Felt “Under Repped” At PGA
Speaking before the Palmetto Invitational at Congaree, this week’s PGA Tour Canadian Open replacement, Brooks Koepka explained why he’s teeing up this week before heading west to Torrey Pines where he has very little experience.
“The one thing why I think we're playing this week, I like playing before the U.S. Open, and I'm under repped this whole year. I haven't played much. So I think the big thing is just getting big reps under my belt. I felt like I played good at Kiawah. I liked the way I played, putted iffy, didn't putt too well, but it's one of those things where I felt like maybe if I had a few more rounds kind of going through the year and was a little more comfortable, it might have been, I guess maybe easier for me.
Koepka’s limited track record at Torrey is not impressive: two missed cuts (2017, 2021) in three Farmers Open starts, with his best finish a T41 (2015).
Much sexier is his U.S. Open record since 2014: T4, T18, T13, 1, 1, 2.
Koepka did not play last fall’s U.S. Open at Winged Foot.
Whan Wants Rangefinders To Cut Down On Player-Caddie Chatter
According to a new Golf Digest interview, incoming USGA CEO Mike Whan will be at next week’s U.S. Open talking to what he deemed as the “customers”. He was referring to the players.
After posing atop an Olympic Club conference table, Whan talked to Alan Shipnuck about a variety of major championship-related issues.
Like most, he’s befuddled by the opposition to rules bifurcation.
He also threw some curveballs, saying he’s “nicknamed half the board already” (eh-em…Executive Committee, Mike). He also said he’s “built with a marketing bone that’s out of whack.” That came through in his passion for ending long player-caddie chats via rangefinders:
We're going to go to range finders on the LPGA in 2022 across the board. The PGA Championship announced the same. It just makes sense. There is nothing worse on TV than watching a golfer and caddie do arithmetic. That is the worst television experience of your life. To me, it's one of those technological improvements that can improve the viewer experience and the pace of play.
In his defense, the interview was conducted prior to the recent PGA where the devices were allowed and did little to cut back on those tedious math sessions. Rounds were pitifully long.
While it’s disconcerting he believes rangefinders would the make the game faster, it’s surprising he believes elite players would rely on device-captured yardages to the flagstick even after most have explained that’s not how they play.
To date, the USGA, R&A and PGA Tour have shown no interest in adoption the PGA of America’s position for their various championships. Will Whan change that?
U.S. Open Tickets: Secondary Market Prices Better But Still High
Three-digit prices starting around $325? To attend the U.S. Open with fewer amenities than normal? Better than just a few weeks ago!
Ticket sales have been limited to USGA members along with other quiet offerings to organizations like the Southern California Golf Association. With retail prices starting at $160 (plus USGA membership), secondary market prices were starting at over $1000 until last week.
Fans who do attend must be vaccinated or show a negative COVID test within 72 hours of entry. Masks are still required despite Tuesday’s full “reopening” of California businesses. Then again, masks were required at the recent U.S. Women’s Open in northern California and anyone who watched the telecast knows the mandate was lightly enforced.
I also heard from some fans who attended. Regarding the mandatory vaccination check at Olympic Club? They report the process looked something like this:
Torrey Pines Weather Update: Brace For Perfection
The forecast for 2021 looks incredible: some morning clouds, mostly sunny skies and slightly above average temperatures.
A theme to watch: the rough is described as five inches of kikuyu grass.
Torrey Pines gets a heavy ryegrass overseed for January’s Farmers Insurance Open, so I’m guessing a fair amount of that has hung around this year. But if there is more kikuyu than in 2008 when the irrigation system and maintenance operation was not as refined as it is in 2021, expect shots like this one from Xander Schauffele:
Will Gray @WillGrayGCPretty cool dynamic to 5-for-4 playoff in Columbus for final @usopengolf spots: 3 Tour vets (Jhonattan Vegas, Peter Malnati, Tom Hoge) and 2 amateurs who played the Walker Cup in April (Cole Hammer, Pierceson Coody). 1st alt in Columbus often gets in, so all could be at Torrey.
Jimmy Stanger @jimmy_stangerWas notified today that I am the 3rd alternate at the @usopengolf next week at Torrey Pines. Let’s hope we are taking our talents westward next week! https://t.co/b4iWki1fxp
Given the looming possibility of a COVID-19 positive test, alternates have more reason to be ready this year. One man already in after Final Qualifying will have his son on the bag:
Regarding the U.S. Women’s Open ratings story…
Saturday’s third round aired in prime time on Golf Channel while Sunday’s final round was on NBC. Essentially the numbers we see above suggest weak Golf Channel numbers dragged down the final figures, as did Sunday’s crowded sports calendar.
Finally, Collin Berger snapped this epic shot of the Olympic Club crews prepping last week. It’s a nice reminder to thank your superintendents and crews for working crazy hours!
Have a great weekend and get ready for plenty of Quad’s to cover the 121st U.S. Open.