Blow up hole


That golf tournament. This US Open. 

It may go down as one of the most improbable finishes in major championship history. It’s only been a few hours and I must caution myself before leaping too far into hyberbole.

It had drama. It had heroes. It had goats. The final hero, Spieth, was even a goat for a few minutes. How does someone try to summarize what happened at Chambers Bay? 

How many words can one write in a 2015 US Open recap before mentioning the name Dustin Johnson. I only made it about 6 sentences. No one drove the ball better than he did all week. Brandel Chamblee on the Golf Channel postgame said it may have been the best he’s ever seen anyone drive the ball.

But what does twenty-five 340-yard tee shots right down the gut matter when people are going to only remember some 48-inches on Chambers Bay’s 18th green?

dustin johnson

CLICK HERE to watch the video.

Spieth missed the exact same putt 15-minutes earlier. So is the champion a choker as well? The moment tends to define. 

This moment’s magnitude will shine a dull-light on this day, but a 4-foot putt is nothing more and nothing less on a practice green as it is on the 72nd hole of a major championship. It doesn’t take away Dustin’s power, his talent, anything. It was one 4-foot putt, one that can haunt him forever if not looked at in healthy perspective. 

A moment that spoke to me was Greg Norman’s thoughts at the conclusion of play. DJ had finished. Take it from a man whose been there. Norman said, “I’m a lot happier up here talking with you guys than out there playing that game.”

Dustin Johnson

The blemishes on the week are self-evident. He missed putts that could have sealed the event throughout the weekend. The putt on 18 will be remembered forever. A miss left. The way he left vacant a seat saved for him at the trophy ceremony after beating 154 other players– none of those looked good for DJ.

I guess it’s all part of recovery.

His interview with Golf Digest in Marchhighlighted a changed man. A newly engaged golf superstar with a baby on his hip, Johnson was convinced he’d left the childish ways of his past behind him. No more partying. No more lack of focus. Commitment from here on out to capitalize– truly capitalize– on the decade of his 30s. This would be his time.

I made the comment to some family on Sunday, “this is a different Dustin Johnson than the one we’ve seen the past 5-6 years.” In unison, the group agreed. This DJ was one our TV screens had yet to cover in depth.

Sadly, the journey to glory– and the road to recovery–sometimes is riddled with indescribable heartache and road bumps.

This US Open for Dustin will travel with him. It’s another giant missed opportunity among a slew of missed opportunities on the Chambers Bay greens on that final day.

It’s his choice if he chooses to let it travel with him back into the ropes.

Screenshot 2015-06-22 12.33.19

The Course

Where does the debate start here? This golf course is a secondary major headline of the 2015 U.S. Open.

The (growingly cartoonish) Gary Player issued intense critiques about it. There was defense by Mike Davis. The often-emotionally imbalanced Billy Horschel (fake)-slammed his putter into the “injustice” that were the putting surfaces. Comments were made my players. FOX insiders lauded the venue (of course they did, conflict of interest much?).

My take? The course was a different test, but it found a champion. The U.S. Open is a competition in endurance, both of the physical and mental. The course had it’s issues. As evidenced by the tweets below from the weekend, I really only had issue with the conditions of the greens.

Only bad thing IMO is the bumpy greens. Course isn’t too long, it’s not “baked,” it’s a challenge. The winner will accept that.

— Troy Klongerbo Golf (@troy_usgolftv) June 20, 2015

Did the greens cost Dustin Johnson the championship? Interesting to me how FOX didn’t show the slow motion version of the final putt rolling toward the hole. Perhaps they didn’t want to air any further the imperfections of Chambers Bay’s greens?

The US Open will never come back to Chambers Bay. The course was a unique test and found a deserving champion, but no matter how stubborn the USGA is, they’ll learn and understand the multitude of other event locations available to them. They don’t need to do the Chambers Bay thing again for a US Open. 

I only hope, for the sake of the midwest, that the Erin Hills Open in 2017 gets some better pub than Chambers Bay. I hope the agronomy staff took notes. 

The Coverage

FOX Sports did not cover this U.S. Open from a journalistic stance. Throw objectivity to the wayside and present the information with influenced bias. FOX just gave the USGA billions of dollars…why would they slander the event or offer authentic viewpoints on the course condition and setup? They were batting in the USGA’s corner and eating from their hands all week. 

Was Joe Buck that bad? Were the interviews so horrendous? You know, I was so unimpressed Thursday, I watched a good amount of the weekend on ‘mute.’ Not all by choice (I was at events), but I was able to digest the golf the way I wanted– without the constant influx of random voices on the FOX broadcast. 

Screenshot 2015-06-22 15.04.18

I will say this though. No broadcast has been under harsher critique than this year’s US Open. The intently focused eyeballs of the scathing golf community were locked in. Is there a happier man in golf than Johnny Miller? (Aside from one particular jubilant Texan…) The scrutiny on this event was unparalleled to any I can ever remember.

We’re bound to find the bad, when we’re consciously looking for it

Regardless though, there is work to be done. Faxon provided nice, albeit awkward, commentary at times. Norman’s insights into tournament pressure and golf were invaluable for the team. Holly and Charles need serious work in their interviewing. Buck’s voice sounded too much like intense October baseball still– let’s give him a year or two. 

I really hope they find their groove heading to Oakmont.

The Contenders

Adam Scott’s 64 in the final round won’t get the talk it probably deserves. Funny enough, Rory McIlroy could have easily posted one on his own with a stronger finish. Day’s vertigo–despite not closing it out– will go down as a historic victory of the mind over the body in U.S. Open play.

The story of the day from the contenders stance is Louis Oosthuizen. He was a MC on Thursday after putting up a sluggish 77 alongside the train-wrecks that were Tiger Woods and Rickie Fowler, how was he ever in contention to win? A back nine 29, is it the best 9 holes of golf ever? It’s up there.

Branden Grace, along with Cameron Smith, offered surprises in the sleeper categories. Grace had the event in hand until an untimely “block” put him out of bounds on 16.

What more could the USGA ask in an event filled with competitors.

The Champion

Despite the disasters, the chokes, the chaos and the noise emanating from Chambers Bay, an American icon solidified his place in the heart of America.

Showing no regard for cliche, Spieth was classic Spieth. He was incredible all week. He was the tournament’s goat about 25-minutes before he would pass that title onto Mr. Johnson– and become a national champion.

Remember, he’s been a national champion before at Texas. This is no new feat.

And how about the way he gathered himself on 18 tee after that unexpected snakebite? How about the way he answered post-round questions about the golf course, questions easily intended as a trap? Maybe he’s part magician, as well.

Jordan Spieth is an all-around, unequivocal star in this game. He’s the luckiest man in the world.

The next 20 years will be fun.

Blow up hole

The Conclusion

In a way, I want to thank Dustin Johnson. He showed the golfing fan– both the passionate and casual– again, what golf tournament pressure does to a man. He showed how hard this game is, even for the most talented people in the world.

He missed a life-changing putt and sauntered off into the sunset with his son in hand and family by his side. He showed the world that one doesn’t shrivel up and disappear from the earth after tramatic moments. Yet again, golf taught us that life is about bigger and that the next step must be taken in life.

I understand some of the criticism he’s received about his failure in addressing the media. Phil Mickelson addressed the media for years after shortcomings and heartbreak. And speaking of his next step, this was a mis-step by DJ. But still, a bit of an understandable one. I wish he had seized the opportunity to speak and own the moment, no matter how hard. It would have earned him respect that would go long and far.

This golf tournament. It was one of the best in recent memory. Last fall’s PGA, followed by this spring’s Masters newbie, followed by the drama at Chambers Bay?

Let’s hope the spoiling continues in a few weeks at the home of golf.