It is this week, July 6-12, 2009. As I have noted earlier, one cannot call this a "Strong course" anymore just a "strong Fazio course" using strong in the Fazio fashion. I'm getting started. There are a few interesting attempts (misguided a bit at least twice) by the USGA to be creative. Comments along the way ...
First tee shot (regular ladies tees, over 100 yards up from 549 used for Championship)Approach to 4, one of the more distinct shots on the Old Course. Front green bunkers removed and green advanced to water, I'll show better later. A similar change to Fazio's change at Kiawah River #1. Here
View of hole 5 from fairway beginningView of hole from "Orphan" championship Tee with post at tee used by Ladies Open 409 yardsTypical tee shots on 7 taking all the bunkers out of play at 453. Even last year's USGA Open Champion Cristie Kerr on this tee said "I can't get there; when I played here before I played up a tee, I didn't figure on playing from here". Mike Davis of USGA was quoted yesterday "We're not going to use every back tee every day, we just set up the course all the way back today". (Not known if before or after LPGA players demanded Commissioner Bivens resignation)Players chipping (repeatedly) at the front of this green. Most attempts for this group from the fairway actually missed right, presumably from swinging too hard and none hit the green. Ninth Hole, two tees will be used (announced)210 yard 9th tee. For those unfamiliar, the teeing ground intended for use in USGA Major tournaments are covered with green mesh (chicken wire) to maintain pristine turf for tournament days.178 yard tee - players used both in their practice rounds. I found it interesting that the tree overhangs the tee as it does. There is at least 35 yards of width to this tee, yet this portion under the tree was covered with mesh.Ten tee at 332 yards, to be used majority of days.Ten tee at 252 yards, reportedly to be used one day, perhaps Sunday to tempt players to hit green off tee with Driver, or other club. Note trees dictating a fade. Players in the group I followed who tried to carry the tree failed to hit the ball hard enough.Par 3 Eleventh at 165, one or more clubs uphill and the most severe green on the course. The front has been flattened since the USGA Seniors in 2000, but Mr. Nicklaus a competitor at that time - voiced an opinion something like 'They ought to blow up that green'. Thankfully that did not happen. It is a charming old-timey par three, mostly severely back-to-front sloped.12 back tee at over 600 yards. The USGA is using one tee up at about 550 for the women. Just another of Fazio's Orphan tees that technology has apparently mandated.As used by "top notch club players" - note divots and their orientation on a par 5 (driver) over 600 yards. I cannot understand this logic.Newest iteration of the bunkering of the Iconic Club's 18th played as number 15 for the USGA.
Two years and countless millions of dollars yielded the most perfect turf conditions the USGA could have wanted, but despite the infrastructure, it is not a course for the USGA Men's Open, in fact Trump's Old Course in nearby Bedminster, NJ, is notably better and more appropriate for the men. BTW, The juniors, boys and girls simultaneously are there next week. Anyone nearby get off your ass and go, it is FREE for god's sake! July 20-26, 2009, visit Trump for free. See me there, let me know when you are going.
Back to the ladies:
Over the weekend of the tournament, it became more and more clear that in no other tournament is it more important to "Not screw it up" than in the USGA Women's Open. Not about just doin' it, but not messing up. The 10th hole alone with conservative play would have on the weekend at 252 and 242 yards par 4 kept Paula Creamer with all the other mistakes that she might have made from winning. I was there in person on Sunday for her errors and it was really something considering how hard she fought not to let her thumb get to her to lose by that margin: Two pars on a 240-250 par 4 was all she needed. Christie Kerr just let it slip away with a case of the dwindles and to be honest, she should be steamed. (She really kicked the hell out of her bag on the 71st hole tee box as seen on Golf Channel.) She knew that that did her in for the last time. Until the 70th, she still had a chance.
One comment that I have to add as regards the women is the surprising number of entrants - 1200 or so tried to qualify for the arguably most prestigious women's golf tournament in the world (I happen to think that the R&A Open is more universal in recognition). Nearly 40 amateurs were in the field with many of them teenagers who will be competing in the USGA Junior Girls Tournament at Trump National in Bedminster, NJ, the week of July 20-25. At the same time, there were notable absences such as Michelle Wie, rightly or wrongly given exemptions in recent years and the ever-popular Natalie Gulbis (On premise Sunday for a Lexus Media event. I encourage the USGA to continue trying to get players into the field from all the aspects of elite women's golf, but more than the Top 10 from the LPGA Money List is the only area where I can quibble with them for their process this year. By merely expanding that to 25, I feel proper reward and merit will be meted out.
All in all the event ended with a bang after many whimpers with Ji a deserving champion. Kerr will be wondering for many a sleepless night the rest of her life over and over a few little errors that eventually wee devastating. All in all great spectacle.
The USGA and the LPGA so well represented in this event are truly the best value in spectator golf available to the fan today. Truly a wonderful family entertainment event, I wish the LPGA well in the next 18 months.
A few more photos to come.