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Shinnecock and the USGA, Part Deux
[Posted Wed. a.m.]
NBA Draft Quiz: Name the last five No. 1 overall picks in the draft. Answer below.
*I had a nightmare Tuesday...spending six hours+ trying to track down a critical overnight package I needed to receive yesterday, as I had promised some folks would be the case. It was a huge chunk of lost time...and I’m still waiting for the parcel (damn you, UPS!!!). So at this point, I’m tired of debating the Phil Mickelson issue and just lay out some final facts below. But that doesn’t mean I won’t revisit it later, like next BC!
US Open...final thoughts
--Brian Costa / Wall Street Journal
“Months before last week’s U.S. Open, a highly ranked golfer was asked for his thoughts on the venue that would host it. The player had only positive things to say about Shinnecock Hills. But without prompting, he turned his thoughts to the USGA, which runs the tournament.
“ ‘They’re going to mess it up,’ he said.
“There is an inherent distrust of the USGA among pro golfers that has been built up over years. That is one reason why some of them were so withering in their criticism of the course conditions on Saturday.
“It wasn’t only that the combination of wind, sun-baked greens and challenging pin positions caused well-struck approach shots and putts to roll off greens. Many players are skeptical of the USGA’s aggressive approach to setting up championship courses to begin with. When the result is unfair – even the USGA said the course was too tough Saturday afternoon – it merely inflames tension that already exists below the surface.
“ ‘Did Bozo set up the course?’ Ian Poulter wrote on Twitter.
“Rafa Cabrera Bello wrote that the USGA ‘found a way to make us look like fools on the course. A pity they manage to destroy a beautiful golf course.’
“Rinse and repeat.
“One of the quirks of golf is that it has no central organizing body. It is more a collection of fiefdoms, and the U.S. Open is where two otherwise separate entities come together every year. Most of the players come from the PGA Tour, which runs golf as a commercial entertainment product. But the national championship is run by the USGA, which is more involved in elite amateur golf and views itself as a protector of The Game.
“What’s striking about the flare-up on Saturday is that the USGA knows its standing among players has been hurt by issues including U.S. Open setups to rules and equipment issues. And it knows the criticism hurts its reputation among the larger golfing public.”
Then there is Phil Mickelson. When I posted last time, all the details hadn’t been revealed of his post-round actions, but he had little to say to media members Sunday after his Saturday debacle. However, his wife, Amy, said, “He’s a good man who had a bad moment.”
According to Amy, Phil called USGA executive director Mike Davis on Saturday evening and offered to withdraw. But the USGA, determined that the two-stroke penalty was enough punishment, and Mickelson completed the tournament Sunday with a 69, finishing in a tie for 48th place.
“ Phil really did want to understand how the rule operates because he didn’t want to – frankly, as he said to me: ‘I don’t want to play in this championship if I should have been disqualified,’” Davis said (via the AP). “That’s where we clarified that, ‘Phil, you actually made a stroke at a moving ball, and so we have to apply that rule.’ That’s different than if he had deliberately just stopped the ball or whacked it in another direction or something like that. So it’s just, it’s us applying the rules.’
Clearly, the USGA was showing deference to one of the more popular figures in the sport. Rule 14-5 says, “A player must not make a stroke at his ball while it is moving.” After all, Mickelson admittedly took an intentional swing at it while it was moving, which could have fallen under another rule (1-2) declaring that “a player must not take an action with the intent to influence the movement of a ball in play.”
The penalty for rule 1-2 is two strokes, but it has a provision stating, “In the case of a serious breach of Rule 1-2, the Committee may impose a penalty of disqualification.” A “serious breach” could occur if it allows a player to “gain a significant advantage,” and the advantage gained by Mickelson was arguably just that since he prevented his ball from sliding off the green, whence he would have to chip it back up, putt again and possibly lose even more strokes.
Sunday morning, the USGA issued a statement clarifying its position, contending that because Mickelson “made a stroke at the ball...as opposed to another act to deflect or stop the ball in motion,” his act specifically fell under 14-5 and not 1-2, and thus there were no grounds for disqualification. That came after Mickelson’s “moment of madness,” as playing partner Andrew Johnston described it.
Amy Mickelson said: “You might have a bad day at work or do something or say something that you regret. When [players] do it, it’s on a very large stage and there’s so much immediate reaction on Twitter and social media, it can overwhelm.
“He’s a good man who had a bad moment. He’s not perfect – I’m not, you’re not.”
Oh brother. I’m tired of this ever-calculating power couple.
As for the difference between Saturday and Sunday’s play, and the course setup, Rickie Fowler shot 84 on Saturday, 65 on Sunday; the 19-stroke swing marking the biggest improvement from Round 3 to Round 4 in Open history.
Tommy Fleetwood’s 63 was the sixth in Open history, shared by Johnny Miller (1973 Oakmont), Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf (1980 at Baltusrol), Vijay Singh (2003 at Olympia Fields) and Justin Thomas (2017 at Erin Hills).
--Brooks Koepka is in some pretty elite company. Since the end of World War II, only Curtis Strange (1988-89) and Ben Hogan (1950-51) have won consecutive Opens.
Sally Jenkins / Washington Post
“Koepka’s feat is as interesting as any of them (Hogan and Strange) because of the radically different kinds of courses he won on and tests that he faced.
“Last year’s Open was a scorefest on a young Erin Hills course with wide fairways and a winning score of 16 under. Shinnecock was an entirely different affair, one of the oldest courses in America and most traditional, a narrow, winding, unforgiving track that pros regard as among the most difficult and strategic in the world. It required the ability to shape the ball from every direction with every club and the mental durability to survive high scores. Throw in the weather and the wind and the USGA’s conditioning of the course, and it was an all but unbearable exercise for many here....
“ ‘The best players in the world are up there trying to win a U.S. Open, and watching them down the stretch, you’ve got nothing but respect for how well Brooks did,’ Fleetwood said. ‘Just to hole the putts at the right time. He kept it together....It wasn’t great for me, but it was great as a golfer to watch how he did it and watch how he closed it out.’”
Fleetwood is a guy to root for. A class act...and the real deal.
Thomas Boswell / Washington Post
“Koepka’s personality is a variant on laid-back, ultra-confident-but-not-arrogant-cowboy cool. Even this past week’s controversies about the USGA butchering the setup of the course Saturday seemed to roll off Koepka, who has a gift for telling the truth but not hurting feelings.
“ ‘It doesn’t really matter to me whether they ‘lost the course’ or not,’ said Koepka, adding that ‘if you were above the hole downwind, you had no chance. But that’s part of golf. You’ve got to understand where to leave it.’
“That is Koepka’s specialty – management of himself, his emotions and his golf ball. And that is why he and the U.S. Open may have a long relationship. Perhaps even one that becomes his legacy.”
--We note the passing of Peter Thomson, 88, an Australian who won five British Opens and became the only player in the 20th century to win that major three consecutive years; 1954-56, and then again in 1958 and 1965.
But Thomson played sparingly in the United States, his style of play best suited for links and seaside golf, rather than the courses that dominate here.
Thomson’s finest moment was his last win at Royal Birkdale in 1965. Many of his wins in the 1950s came in fields with few if any American stars, who hadn’t opted to cross the pond in numbers yet (Arnie changed all that), but in ’65, Thomson left Palmer and Nicklaus in the dust and overtook defending champion, Tony Lema, for the victory.
Russia won its second straight on Tuesday, 3-1 over Egypt, the mighty Mohamed Salah returning to the lineup for the Egyptians, but it wasn’t enough, and he is hardly 100% after suffering his shoulder injury in the Champions League finale.
But after a 5-0 opening win against Saudi Arabia, Russia, which came in as the lowest ranked of the 32 teams, is already in the knockout round (virtually assured at this point).
Tuesday, Russia notched its three goals in the first 16 minutes of the second half.
I was with a local merchant from Egypt, watching the late action, and we both just shook our head and said simultaneously, “Putin.” Just sayin’...especially if Russia keeps winning.
That said, both Saudi Arabia and Egypt didn’t look good. Dr. W. said the Saudis played like a high school team against the Russkies.
Monday, my man, Harry Kane of Tottenham, led England to a 2-1 win over Tunisia, Kane scoring both goals, including the winning header in injury time. Great to see the incredibly humble lad come through. Next up for England is Panama on Sunday.
Iceland returns to action Friday against Nigeria.
--The Nationals and Yankees completed a suspended game from May 15 on Monday in Washington, and Juan Soto crushed a pinch-hit, tiebreaking two-run homer. But since the game dates back to May 15, and Soto didn’t make his major league debut until five days later, Soto’s blast is not considered his first major league homer, but it will be counted as being hit on May 15. So he’s a time traveler.
The 19-year-old had just 31 at-bats above Class A when he was called up, and before the season, ESPN’s Keith Law ranked him as the No. 42 prospect. But all Soto has done in his brief big league career is hit .326 in 86 at-bats, 6 HR, 14 RBI, 1.013 OPS.
Meanwhile, the Nationals got off to an early start in the trade market, which should heat up in the weeks just before the July 31, non-waiver deadline. Washington acquired closer Kelvin Herrera from Kansas City for three minor leaguers. Herrera adds to the Nats’ back-end depth in the pen, along with Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Madson, and Sean Doolittle.
Herrera, 28, had a 1.05 ERA this season in 27 games, converting 14 of 16 save opportunities.
Tuesday, the Yanks defeated the hot Mariners, 7-2, and with the Red Sox losing to Minnesota 6-2, New York is now on top by a game.
Red Sox 49-25 ... 1
--Despite their putrid play since their 11-1 start, entering Tuesday’s contest in Colorado, Mets starters had the best ERA in baseball over their past 28 games, 2.77. But then, in an attempt to stretch their winning streak to four, they sent Jason Vargas to the mound and he was pounded for seven earned in just 2 1/3, his ERA now a sickly 8.60...the Mets 31-39.
--San Francisco closer Hunter Strickland is out six to eight weeks after breaking his hand punching a wall following a poor effort on Monday, Strickland blowing a 4-2 ninth-inning lead, the Giants falling 5-4 to the Marlins. Strickland is 3-3, 2.84, converting 13 of 17 saves.
--Milwaukee reliever Josh Hader is having a season for the ages, with 77 strikeouts in just 38 2/3 innings, as well as a 2-0 record, 1.16 ERA.
As the Wall Street Journal’s Jared Diamond notes, Hader entered Tuesday having struck out 54.2% of the batters he has faced, which would set an all-time record, surpassing Aroldis Chapman’s 52.5% from the 2014 Cincinnati Reds.
--I have to admit, I had no idea how good a season Minnesota’s Eduardo Escobar was having until Ken P. alerted me to a statement by ESPN that he was going to break Earl Webb’s all-time, single-season mark of 67 doubles set in 1931. [Todd Helton had 59 in 2000...the last time someone seriously threatened Webb.]
But as Ken and I know, and as I pound the table on the topic every year in these pages, as the season heads into summer, triples become doubles, and doubles become singles, simply due to the wear and tear on players over the course of a 162 game season and the heat of summer.
--Johnny Mac asked, “Did you see Paul Goldschmidt’s June?” He’s hitting .423 this month, after finishing May at just .209. I’d say the perennial All-Star is back on the beam.
--Less than two weeks after the Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history, the coach, Barry Trotz, resigned, marking the fifth time in the past 40 seasons that a coach did not return to his team the season after winning the NHL title.
Trotz is the NHL’s fifth-winningest coach all time, but he didn’t receive a contract extension before the start of the 2017-18 season and entered the last of a four-year deal as a lame duck. Despite compiling the league’s best regular-season record each of the two previous seasons, he spent the past year in limbo and was nearly fired twice during the campaign.
By winning the Cup, however, Trotz triggered a clause in his contract that gave him an automatic two-year extension, but the extension included only a modest raise that put his contract at $2 million, far from the ranks of the highest-paid coaches, let alone one who just won a Cup.
Montreal Canadiens Coach Claude Julien signed a five-year, $25 million contract in the middle of last season – and Trotz thought he deserved a similar deal, which would have meant more than doubling his salary. Toronto’s Mike Babcock is the highest-paid coach at $6.25 million annually.
Aside from the Cup win, in his four seasons with Washington, Trotz guided the Caps to two Presidents’ Trophies as the league’s best regular-season team.
--San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich flew to Southern California to meet with disgruntled superstar Kawhi Leonard, in what was probably a last attempt to convince Leonard to stick around and rescind his trade demands, but Leonard indeed wants out. He is said to be upset with how the team handled his quadriceps injury, as well as with Popovich and teammate Tony Parker for comments Leonard felt weren’t supportive.
--Controversial 27-year-old two-time Olympic champion, South African runner Caster Semenya, plans to issue a formal legal challenge to make sure the track and field world views her as a woman, as she argues a new rule aimed at restricting testosterone levels in female athletes is unfair and unnecessary.
“I just want to run naturally, the way I was born,” Semenya said in a statement Monday. “It is not fair that I am told I must change. It is not fair that people question who I am.”
I’m sorry, Caster. We have every right to question just what the hell is going on with your body, because you sure as heck don’t look like a woman. I was once semi-sympathetic, when we all first learned about her, but no longer.
Semenya, who won gold in the 800-meter race at the past two Olympics, is believed to have an intersex condition that causes her body to naturally produce testosterone at levels much higher than most women, and many in the track world attribute her blazing fast times to this biological advantage.
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) says the heightened testosterone levels could be a result of a Difference of Sexual Development (DSD) and suggests they could improve performance by 5 percent or more. The organization says it instituted the rule to ensure a level playing field.
“The latest research we have undertaken, and data we have compiled, show that there is a performance advantage in female athletes with DSD over the track distances covered by this rule,” Dr. Stephanie Bermon, who works with IAAF’s medical and science department, said after the rule went into effect.
Semenya’s lawyers called the rule “discriminatory, irrational, unjustifiable.” The rule will impact runners competing in 400-, 800-, 1,500-meter and one-mile events (as well as hurdles at those distances).
“I am very upset that I have been pushed into the public spotlight again,” she said in a statement.
Sorry, Caster. It’s time for you to move on. [Rick Maese / Washington Post]
Top 3 songs for the week 6/19/65: #1 “I Can’t Help Myself” (Four Tops) #2 “Mr. Tambourine Man” (The Byrds) #3 “Wooly Bully” (Sam The Sham and the Pharaohs)...and...#4 “Crying In The Chapel” (Elvis Presley) #5 “Back In My Arms Again” (The Supremes) #6 “Wonderful World” (Herman’s Hermits) #7 “Help Me, Rhonda” (The Beach Boys) #8 “Engine Engine #9” (Roger Miller) #9 “For Your Love” (The Yardbirds) #10 “Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte” (Patti Page...outstanding, diversified week....)
NBA Draft Quiz Answer: No. 1 overall pick....
2017 Markelle Fultz...Philadelphia
2016 Ben Simmons...Philadelphia
2015 Karl-Anthony Towns...Minnesota
2014 Andrew Wiggins...Cleveland (traded to Minnesota that summer)
2013 Anthony Bennett...Cleveland (biggest bust ever as an overall No. 1)
Next Bar Chat, Monday.