Tuesday 12 December 2017

Survival of toughest not captivating

Little joy in watching Tiger 'plod along', says Lawrence Donegan

There is golf, there is fun and then there is the 2012 US Open, a pointless and frankly spiteful attempt to humiliate the best golfers in the world. Entertain the public? Showcase skill? Illustrate to the watching world that here is a sport that might be worthy of their sustained interest and participation?

Alas, these appear to be alien concepts in the alternative universe occupied by the United States Golf Association, which chose to stage its annual championship at the distinctly mediocre Olympic Club -- don't be fooled by the spectacular television shots of San Francisco Bay, this quirky lay-out hangs on the side of a hill and is the very definition of over-rated -- and then set up the golf course in a such fashion that survival is the primary goal for all involved.

For this we can all thank Rory McIlroy, who had the temerity to win last year's US Open at Congressional with a record-low score of 16-under par. This is the USGA's revenge, its vainglorious run at reclaiming its marketing slogan 'golf's toughest test'. Well, they have succeeded, kicking sand in the face of many, including McIlroy and the world No 1 Luke Donald, both of whom departed San Francisco on Friday evening despite the cut finally settling at eight-over par.

As for those brave souls who earned the right to play at the weekend, the slumped shoulders and hollow stares of those exiting the scorers area told their own story. Never mind a players' locker room, the tournament organisers should have gone the whole hog and set up a field hospital instead.

After two rounds there were only three players were under par: Jim Furyk, David Toms and, to the delight of television executives from Albuquerque to Anchorage, Tiger Woods. All three deserve a medal.

As for taking home the US Open trophy itself, the list of potential winners is long, not least because of the way the golf course is set up.

When conditions are this tough, when great shots are not rewarded as they should be, it is virtually impossible for anyone playing well to separate themselves from the field. Woods is a prime example. He played beautifully on Thursday and again on Friday.

That the former world No 1 tied for the lead with his two fellow Americans would be cause for celebration, you would think, for a man who has gone four years without a Major championship victory. Yet Woods struggled to muster up the kind of enthusiasm you might expect from a man in his position.

"I think that my two best swings I made all week and I end up in just terrible spots,'' he said.

Is it too much to ask that good shots are rewarded? Evidently it is at the 2012 US Open. Players just have to take their medicine. "This is a different tournament,'' said Woods as he contemplated the challenges that lay ahead. "You have to stay patient, you're just playing for a lot of pars. You just have to plod along."

Inspired? Captivated? Didn't think so.

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