Chip Shots

Koepka wins again

by Jim Buzzerd

Brooks Koepka won his second U.S. Open title Sunday at Shinnecock Hills in Southampton, N.Y. No player has successfully defended the U.S. Open title since Curtis Strange in 1989. That kind of makes one wonder why Koepka isn’t more of a household name. Koepka has won 10 times as a professional, but only three of those have been PGA tour wins. He spent the early part of his professional career playing in Europe and Japan. He actually missed much of the current season with an injury. Chances are we will be hearing more from Koepka.
While Koepka’s win was the final result on Sunday, the championship wasn’t without some fireworks on Saturday. As it did at Shinnecock in 2004, the United States Golf Association allowed the setup of Saturdays course to succumb to the weather. Dry and windy conditions dried out the greens and that wreaked havoc on the players with afternoon starting times. The hole locations combined with the dry greens saw players putting off of the greens and numerous good shots to the greens being rejected, because they were too firm.
Saturday was definitely a day where the players with morning times had a distinct advantage. In situations like this, the argument that ‘all is fair since everyone has to play the same course’ can have some holes poked into it, because the USGA purposely tried to make the course very difficult. When they whiffed on the weather forecast, they ended up with a course the best players in the world couldn’t play.
Many players complained afterwards, but it was an on course action of golf icon Phil Mickelson that will have tongues wagging …… likely forever. Mickelson was in the process of a bad round of golf and when a downhill bogey putt on the 13th green rolled past the hole destined for a place in the fairway well below the green. Mickelson decided to catch up with the ball and putted the moving ball back at the hole.
After finishing his round of 11-over 81 that left him at 17 over for the tournament, Mickelson spent forever in a scoring room with reporters waiting outside. If he devoted most of that time to crafting a story to feed the news media beast, he came up with a doozy. Mickelson emerged to say that he was merely using the rules to his advantage. Asked whether he is concerned that his standing as a wildly entertaining player might’ve taken a lethal strike, Mickelson had the audacity to suggest that those who had a problem with his stunt needed to quit acting like wimps.
Seeming majorities of talking heads suggested then, and continue to say that his action should have disqualified him for actions detrimental to the game. Despite Phil trying to explain away his action, it appears it was some kind of moment of frustration. He volunteered to withdraw, but was told not to.
After two days of thinking about this I’m in agreement that Mickelson should have been disqualified. That wasn’t my initial reaction though. I was on the side of him and the other players who expressed displeasure with the USGA. The USGA gets plenty of deserved criticism for the way they implement penalties and set up open championships, but Phil was wrong here.
I, however, won’t be one to hold it against him.