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Sunday, June 16, 2013

"Inconceivable!"

If you've ever seen the movie The Princess Bride, you recognize that line. The Sicilian genius Vizzini uses it every time something doesn't go as he planned. Eventually, after hearing it so many times, the Spanish swordsman Inigo Montoya says, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."



This week's tournament at Merion reminds me of this clip. Can a small course like Merion handle the infrastructure of a U.S. Open? Can such a short course, especially after it's drenched with 6 inches of rain, challenge the best in the game? You really think the winning score will be somewhere around even par? You think most of the favorites will struggle?

INCONCEIVABLE!

And yet, it's time for the final round and it appears every last one of these things was true. I'm still in shock that all five of my picks from earlier in the week did so poorly. Tiger Woods and Matt Kuchar are 9-over while Graeme McDowell, Matteo Manassero, and Sang-Moon Bae didn't even make the cut. To this point, nobody has shot a better round than a 3-under 67, and a single player is under par. Do you realize that the final 5 holes at Merion are the toughest 5-hole stretch in Open history?

INCONCEIVABLE!

Even more amazingly, the one player under par is Phil Mickelson, the least likely player in the field to play a conservative game. And who would believe that two of his closest competitors would be Steve Stricker (E) and Luke Donald (+1) -- two players who always struggle at U.S. Open courses because they aren't particularly accurate?

Could one of these three players actually win this major? Could Phil finally, after 5 close calls, snag one on his birthday?

The only thing I'm sure of today is that the ending of this tournament will be... well, inconceivable.

1 comment:

  1. Geoff Mangum's response: Completely unreal, and perfectly believable. In the movie The Greatest Game Ever Played, portraying the win by lower-middle-glass golfer Francis Ouimet over the elite rich golfers of the day, the writers and director laid heavy on the theme of working class versus snobbish country club elites (Harry Vardon's thinly veiled dislike for the British "gentlemen" class and Quimet's father's open distaste for the propertied class). And in fact the victory by Ouimet inspired the middle class of working stiffs to take up golf, and has fueled a steady rebalancing of the private-public mix in golf in America.

    Apparently, The Club at Brookline clings desperately to its white male elitism even today.

    This popularizing trend accelerated after 1913 with the advent of the car allowing worker mobility plus the industrialization of America out of its rural roots in the 19th century. Bobby Jones, albeit immensely "likable" and adored by the masses, was in essence the little rich kid of a corporate lawyer, whose father sent him to Harvard as a faux student (without any intention to graduate or earn a degree), simply so Bobby could play golf for the Crimson. Walter Hagen, in contrast, was the true benefactor of the Ouimet-inspired popularization of golf. Hagen in fact finished 4th in the 1913 US Open, his first, and then won the 1914 US Open, choosing golf and the snazzy clothing (creamy yellow cashmere sweaters, silk shirts, flannel pants, two-toned shoes, etc.) over a pro career in baseball -- a much more popular and middle-class sport with more immediate lucre. His famous quote is, "I don't want to be a millionaire -- I just want to live like one."

    And again the class conflict was evident in phenomena like "Arnie's Army" and the rather silly admiration for John Daly. the wild child drunken abuser of girlfriends with a redneck penchant for stupid game management, and the Kevin Costner glorification in Tin Cup of the range pro versus the slick Don Johnson and his dumping ball after ball in the drink in misplaced but applauded go-for-it heroics, a theme apparently played by Phil Mickleson with lasting damage to his career.

    But golf's taking on a working glass gloss slowly over the decades, unfortunately, does nothing for broadening the game's welcome to minorities, women, and juniors. And worse still, the grotesque money for select pros such that the WORST Tour player makes TWICE as much as the President of the United States, has pushed back against the working class golfers since the 1970s and the coming of "Resort" golf. Ask PGA of America grass-roots, rough-cut pros in used-to-be-a-farm courses across America what happened in the mid-1970s when the Jack-and-Arnie TV bonanza was in full cry: the PGA invited them OUT of the organization in an elitist effort to "tony up the joint" so the PGA could serve the rich resorts with suitably mannered butlers.

    So the pendulum swings while elite golf continues to poison the game.

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