Summer approaches and with it the majors save Augusta - which doesn't really fit the mold of the rest as I see it because of its odd selection process. There's a bit wrong with ANGC and all the control about the Maters, but it is so well-loved no one ever dares criticise it. So I usually refrain from commenting much partly because it usually is entertaining the last day. It is a wonderful Rite for all golfers, the annual re-awakening and unveiling of a new Fazio-design.
This year 2016 and The Major Championships - let's get the curmudgeonly stuff out of the way.
The 2016 USGA Open
Go see it at Geoff Shackelford if you care, you won't find anything about the course here. He's doing two holes at a time.
A rather charmless brute, an homage to the un-fun, penal golf beyond the interest of completing a round, perhaps even bothering to make the turn. "The U.S. Open is supposed to be hard", repeat that mantra over and over and over. It's supposed to make the world's best play as we regular golfers do day-in and day-out. I must admit that once I did buy into this concept and as an American I defended my country's Ruling Body for Golf and their posterchild of Tournament Golf. Oakmont does everything possible to make golf slow. Ironically the USGA face of "While we're young" program is none other than the Iconic Arnold Palmer - so strongly identified with Oakmont, especially after what was to be his Coronation in 1962 utterly ruined by the Greatest Major Player of all-time Jack William Nicklaus. Tied in regulation 72 holes, Palmer was never ahead in the playoff and was nearly ceremonial, albeit the most loved golfer perhaps of all time, in golf after that. (1966 at Olympic just deepened the misery of Palmer fans to abysmal levels)
Time has taught me otherwise, after such events as the persistent non-control of implements, lengthening golf courses by necessity, the disconnect of "Game Improvement Advances" ironically much more helpful to the more skilled golfer than the regular handicap man and woman intended to be the target of such advances. Average Handicaps (By the awful cheat-ridden methodology that is GHIN) have not risen or dropped significantly over the last 25 or so years, remaining about the proverbial Bogey Golfer among those who play regularly with some enthusiasm and financial commitment. Introduction to regular Links golf, not the faux version available in the USA also has had a profound influence on what I've felt a proper golf tournament should be. I am a proponent of dropping the PGA Championship in favor of an Australian Major played on Couch/Bermuda requiring the special skills required to play on that surface. It would also lend a credence of the US PGA Tour and US PGA not having such a stranglehold on the "Majors". So personally the USGA Open has fallen mightily in my eyes. They do however excel in Amateur golf.
Back to Oakmont. Built in the most mean-spirited way and made worse by narrowing fairways and deepening rough, I hear so mny golfers lately excited for this upcoming Major. The idea that the greens are slowed by the USGA for the US Open is laughable. To paraphrase Mae West "Too hard is never hard enough". Fast, sloping greens, absurd bunkering schemes, landlocked with often sweltering heat and little wind, little resemblance is borne to golf's origins. I'd pay not to play there.
Oakmont is the USGA on steroids, its pin-up course for "Par is Sacred". Johnny Miller despite winning there with a record (tied) 63 final round score in 1973, his sole US Major has oft opined that he'd be happy with the USGA Open played alternately at Pebble Beach and Shinnecock with something else thrown in every so often just to break it up. Can't call him a homer on that one, he won on a wet, soggy, toothless Oakmont. (UGH say the brass).
I have very little to say about Oakmont except that the Women's Open won by Paula Creamer was the most painful excuse for a golf tournament that I have ever attended. That was the last time I was on property, likely my truly not only last but "final visit".
The probability of a first-time winner of a Major is greater than 50-50 but it will not be Dustin Johnson. THE BIG THREE make up the other 50% as I see it unfolding.