So, after what will most likely be the only major tournament to ever be played at Chambers Bay, the irrepressible Jordan Spieth -with a little help from his caddie– ruled supreme once more to continue a truly incredible year for the Texan. Even Lionel Messi and Dan Carter weren’t this measured at such a young age. We won’t pretend we stayed up until 3 a.m. to watch what by all accounts was an incredible ending but it seems former good-time guy Dustin Johnson will be rueing his missed opportunity for quite some time. A double-bogey by Spieth on seventeen seemed to have fatally damaged his chances of victory and even after a birdie on eighteen the Masters champion looked wistful –longing for a chance to go at seventeen again- as he headed toward the scorer’s shed.
Enter D.J., who had destroyed the vast majority of the seventy-second hole of the tournament –the 601 yard eighteenth- with a thunderous drive and subsequent five-iron approach to twelve feet. Eagle for victory or birdie for an eighteen hole playoff and a return to this lunar-like creation to go toe-to-toe with the twenty-one-year-old, Spieth. A three-putt par? Unthinkable. But, of course, given the nature of sport and these curmudgeonly greens, a dramatic three-putt was exactly what ensued. Johnson, despite staying at the top of the leaderboard all week is probably still wondering ‘what the fuck just happened?’ Spieth, almost sheepish in the immediate aftermath of his victory will no doubt be exultant today, having broken another of Tiger’s records- youngest winner of both the Masters and U.S. Open in the same year. Spieth’s victory at Augusta confirmed his arrival as a genuine week in week out rival for world number one Rory McIlroy. This weekend’s outcome means McIlroy must surely better Spieth’s result in next month’s Open Championship if he wants to somehow thwart his fast-charging rival. We’re inclined to think that McIlroy will come to St Andrews in a heretofore unforeseen mode of steely determination.
As was to be expected Chambers Bay played as a de facto links course meaning Spieth will have little or no fear coming to the home of golf, St Andrew’s – as true a links course as one will encounter- next month. Rory McIlroy, as defending champion, will want to set down a very clear indicator to Spieth that he has no intention of stepping aside for the ultra-impressive world number two. Spieth’s ascendancy to the same plane as McIlroy may have been expected by some, but few would have expected it to happen so rapidly –save for the usual masters of hindsight. It’s worth mentioning once more that Jordan Spieth has replaced Tiger Woods, not once but twice in the record books this year and that we may be dealing with a true phenomenon. Given the scale of both McIlroy and Spieth’s achievements at such young ages there must be concern –for other players- that these two are going to leave very little major silverware behind for the chasing pack. The truth is, golf never had a true rivalry when Woods was in his absolute pomp –though honourable mention goes to Phil Mickelson- so we should actually savour the fact that these two uber-talents are going to push each other to their uttermost limits for who knows how long. What we and, frankly, the rest of the world thought before the Masters- that Spieth would be the true challenger to McIlroy- has now been emphatically confirmed.
If bad publicity is better than none at all then the aesthetically challenging, bobbly, fescue greens of Chambers Bay have assured mass attention for the course and the game of golf this week. A clearly enraged, Gary Player –nine-time major winner- either completely out of touch with world affairs or using the word in a sporting context described this year’s U.S. Open a ‘tragedy’. In all honesty, the greens did prove at times to be badly prepared and a little bit loopy. And, for those who rely on their putter to pick up strokes, the most powerful weapon in their armoury was negated by the sort of obscure greens that Salvador Dali might have crafted on one of his more introspective days. Johnson will no doubt feel in the inner recesses of his mind –rightly or wrongly- that it was the putting surfaces and not his lack of composure that cost him a maiden major victory. The languid, vacuous Carolina native seemingly could not get a putt to drop for him throughout Sunday’s final round –a fate that has befallen many runners up on a multitude of courses- so perhaps it was his own putting and not the dodgy greens which ultimately cost him. In any event, Johnson reputedly has the ability to forget any bad events which have befallen him – which probably helped him more than once in the last few years- so by Wednesday he may well have forgotten this heartbreaking defeat.
As the tournament concluded the players ire at the greens was there for all to see on the medium of moderation –Twitter. As expected Ian Poulter was in with his two-cents although at this point, and despite the accuracy of his points on this occasion, you really have to wonder does anybody really care about anything the Englishman says. Henrik Stenson, ordinarily the consummate, laid-back Scandinavian described his experience, pretty fantastically, as like ‘putting on broccoli’. Meanwhile, we warned you that one of our pre-tournament picks, Billy Horschel, could lose the rag if things started to unravel. Well, they did. So, rather delightfully, we got this. Horschel was quick to point out, not unreasonably, that he is “a really good putter” so the unpredictable greens really blunted his offense. If in pursuit of entertainment, then keep an eye on Horschel. He can be, for want of a better word, a bit of a jerk but he’s highly entertaining and nowhere near as polite or composed as Jordan Spieth.
While the often peculiar behaviour of the greens does merit criticism –particularly the uneven nature of the surfaces- we find it strange that the massive breaks were condemned and pilloried while the same breaks in Augusta National are revered for their unique trickery. Maybe it’s just a case of horses for pristine courses. Anyway, while everyone moaned incessantly, Jordan Spieth –whose putting is incidentally one of his stronger suits- went relatively quietly about his business. Sometimes if you want a job done it may be best to ask a fortitudinous Texan with a seemingly endless ceiling of potential.