The Bounce
Doing it for the fans

Is the US Open in danger of becoming a bad reality show?

WRITTEN BY THE EDITOR ON JUNE 17, 2018. POSTED IN SPORTS

Every sporting property is up against it nowadays to compete for audiences. There are so many entertainment options available to people of all ages, and so many ways to experience things that there is no wonder why sports are always looking to evolve and redefine what they offer.

Golf tournaments for example all seem to have taglines or unique selling points that they base themselves on now. The Waste Management Pheonix Open (a great start commercially) is dubbed the greenest show on grass. The Players Championship prides itself on having the strongest field in golf for the so-called 5th major of the year, and even here in South Africa the Nedbank Challenge has been called 'Africa's Major' for quite a while now.

Speaking of the actual majors, The Masters is simply The Masters, a tradition like no other in more ways than one. The Open Championship is the oldest tournament in golf, then the US Open prides itself on being golf's ultimate test.

Now I don't have a problem with any of this, I encourage this kind of thing in fact. But 'golf's ultimate test' is sort of losing its way in trying to live up to its bold title. Something that was all too evident this past week at Shinnecock Hills.

I love the majors, and I know a majority of golf fans around the world live for them each year, but I couldn't bring myself to watching much of this last one. It all just seemed a little too dramatic, a little too contrived... a little too reality TV like. 

The 'cup sounds'.

I started watching on day 1 via the US Open site streaming the early play. Really great offering this, allowing me to watch before my regular provider started their scheduled coverage. I kept hearing this odd sound when the players holed out though, perhaps something a little off pitch due to streaming. Nope, that was the sound that would last the entire tournament on all feeds, and it was unnecesary and annoying throughout.

Why oh why was this implemented? I thought it was just me that was annoyed. Turns out it wasnt.

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The course

Shinnecock Hills a thing of beauty, and a terrific US Open course in every possible way. With the wind picking up in the afternoons it goes from breathtaking to nightmarish though, especially when 'tricked up' by the USGA

You can totally understand them doing this of course. They want to protect par, they want birdies to be rare, but in order to achieve that things do get out of hand. The guys playing early on during the 3rd round had the course 'tough', the guys playing later however had it near impossible as the wind dried things out more than expected.

This happened last time out at Shinnecock too, but they didn't seem to learn from that. Naturally the players weren't happy with all of this, Ian Poulter being one that made this rather clear on twitter.

The whole Phil 'moving ball' incident

On Saturday while the course was 'getting lost', perhaps the biggest talking point of the week occured. Phil Mickelson decided to go after a putt that was about to roll off the green and just hit it back.

Naturally this caused quite the stir with many saying he cheated, others (including him) saying he was just taking advantage of the rules.

Pretty average interview that, question was answered, then some more repetition in a hope to get more out of Phil and add to the drama. Is he a cheat, or was he just playing according to the rules assigned?

I don't think Phil is a cheat or a particularly bad guy, but the fact he did that probably just suggests he was tired of the crazy golf set up and just wanted to get things done. I'm not defending him as I certainly feel you should never do such a thing on a golf course, but I think the circumstances were as much to blame here as the player.

The dreadfully boorish crowds

The title of this piece is about this tournament become a little too contrived and painful to watch, and nothing highlights this more than the annoying members of the gallery that persist in over the top cheers and outbursts.

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All you want to do as a spectator is watch the best players in the world on the biggest stage. You don't want that spectacle to be tainted by some loud arsehat shouting utter nonsense after each shot in some vapid attention seeking exercise.

This is mostly an American thing, and many a Ryder Cup on US soil has been blighted by this, but it is becoming more and more of a thing that is spreading to tournaments around the world. 

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The mindless outbursts aside, the obvious abuse towards non-Americans like Ian Poulter is just pathetic. Who cares how likeable a player is or isn't, there is no place for this in a sport as decent and substantial as golf.

Does the USGA have anyone on the course monitoring the behaviour of these people? Is anything said about unruly behaviour? This event talks about history and prestige and what defines the game in America. But then Vinny from Jersey is shouting 'Apple Sauce' when a player hits a drive ?!?

Protecting par

Getting back to the actual nature of golf's ultimate test. The idea of having a winning score around par sure is nice in theory, but it really shouldn't be the be all and end all. Golf at the end of the day is a sport where the player with the fewest amount of strokes in a tournament wins. What that is to par doesn't really matter.

Brooks Koepka won the US Open at Erin Hills with a score of -16, he then defended his title at Shinnecock Hills with a final score of +1. Was Erin Hills inferior to Shinnecock Hills? Do you really care?

I spoke to a fair few golfing mates this past weekend and the majority felt that the US Open is simply becoming less and less watchable. Set up a hard but fair golf course, don't make it the key player of the week, and just let the pros battle it out. The score in the end will be the right score. Simple as that.

I do whatever I can to try and grow the game of golf in any way I can, and the fact I have written this blog post shows I feel this tournament is not helping this cause.

That makes me a little sad, but all of these things can be remedied and improved upon.

I will leave it there, mostly because I now need to try and find a way of awarding the prize for my US Open comp where you had to pick Rickie Fowler's finishing score. Safe to say nobody saw him shooting an 84 in the 3rd round...



Tags: us open, golf major, golf fans, annoying golf fans, us open course, us open nightmare

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