Spieth last man standing at US Open
Tremendous drama occurred during the final round of the U.S. Open, but not great play. Jordan Spieth posted the lowest score and was the lone survivor of a controversial U.S. Open at Chambers Bay. The golf course is not supposed to be the story of a tournament, but all week that was the storyline with almost all players making some comment about the condition of the course. The final round featured a fair setup with generally benign pin positions. However, the greens were so unforgiving and unpredictable that the championship came down to who could survive and luck in a few putts. The fescue poa annua greens were bumpy and the speed inconsistent. Have you ever seen expert putters work so hard on one and two foot putts?
From tee to green and proximity to the hole on their second shots, the championship belonged to Dustin Johnson. He played the front nine beautifully and stood on the 10th tee with a three shot lead. However, he could’ve been at least four shots lower with more luck on the greens. I felt he putted the ball correctly, but nothing would drop. He then let the field back in the ballgame with bogies at 10 and 11 with errant short iron shots. However, he missed eight and six foot putts on those holes to give up those shots. Another short putt miss at 12 for birdie and a bogie at 13 and you thought he was finished. But he then saved a couple of pars and only made par on the drivable 16 before hitting it to two feet at 17, which setup his last opportunity on 18.
In the meantime, Jordan Spieth was fighting his way around the golf course. Nothing was crisp and natural during this round. I felt he was more deliberative then I have seen him in the past. His time over the ball increased. When that happens, it only means that you aren’t sure of the shot and fully committed to your decision. True champions will “make it happen” even when the conditions and their games are not ideal. Jordan certainly has the maturity and guts to work through adversity. After a fortunate long putt birdie on 16, he had the tournament won. He then immediately gave it back with the worst shot of the tournament on 17. He played a smart second shot to secure his bogie. He then three putted, but I blame the greens more than his nerves. Showing his determination, he brilliantly hit a 3 wood second shot on the par five 18th to setup a chance for a clinching eagle. His putt missed slightly to the left, but given the state of the green, his putt could’ve been perfect and still missed.
Dustin Johnson probably couldn’t have hit two better shots on a finishing hole of a U.S. Open. He was a bit unlucky for his second shot to not roll back a bit further down the hill. But who wouldn’t want a 12 foot putt on the final green to win a major championship. The stage was set, but fate wasn’t on Dustin’s side. Going nearly straight downhill and at the mercy of the bumpy inconsistent greens, he hit a soft putt that didn’t break and traveled an agonizing three feet past the hole. His next putt seemed well struck, but it missed and Spieth was handed a gift and his second major championship. I will believe what Dustin said about his second putt being hit properly. Maybe it wasn’t, but the green was a definite factor in the miss.
Does this make Jordan Spieth a superstar? No, because this win was a survival test on a goofy golf course. He happened to be the last man standing at the end of the day. Was there real pressure and clutch shotmaking? Yes, but he was handed a victory after he tried to give it away on 17. I will give him a mulligan on that mistake and major kudos for making birdie on 18, but I will not rank this victory as a brilliant accomplishment. Right now he is playing like and winning like the best player in the world, but superstar status is earned over years. I like everything about this kid and believe he is fully capable of reaching legendary status. He is a Ben Hogan like player, who is steady and focused. Whereas Rory McIlroy is a Phil Mickelson type who when right is unbelievably good, but lacking in consistency.
I hope the USGA will seriously listen to the players and critics about Chambers Bay. Picturesque scenery does not make a championship golf course. You should not have to worry about a fortunate bounce on every hole and greens that resemble fairways. I hope we have seen the last of Chambers Bay in major competition.