Sunday, June 21, 2009

Will Mother Nature allow a lesser U.S. Open champion?

It takes a measure of luck to win the U.S. Open, but this weekend the luck appears only sprinkled among a few players.

The weather has dominated the tournament and today is no different. The field will play round three today and likely start round four, which is expected to be completed Monday.

I don't mind playing golf in the rain. But I do mind when it seems to rain on the same players over and over, while sparing others. Ricky Barnes, a former U.S. Amateur champion who is more or less unknown as a pro golfer, is leading the tournament at 8-under par. He has not played one shot in the rain in three days. On Saturday he torched the softened course for a 5-under 65. The telecast of his early-morning round made it appear like a serene sunny day. Meanwhile, Tiger Woods and the so-called second wave of players played their second round in what generously could be called wet conditions. It didn't rain throughout Tiger's round, but it was a misty drizzle for several holes that eventually strengthened into rain.

I know the U.S.G.A. cannot predict the weather and decides the early round pairings well before the first stroke is played. But I just wonder whether a red flag should go up when the same group of players are benefiting from a soft course, while others continue to fight the conditions. It seems as though half the field has been eliminated without taking a shot.

Barnes even benefited again yesterday after his record-setting round. He was one of the few players that did not have to start his third round Saturday afternoon, when the course had been beat up by the players and the rain. He will start this afternoon, when conditions likely will have improved.

It's hard to find fault with how the tournament has been managed. Like I said, no one can predict a nasty bout of rain. But it seems this year's U.S. Open is a lesser test than it should be given the leaderboard.

This has nothing to do with Woods and other favorites being out of contention. I like the U.S. Open because the players have to make a good swing every time to score. Par is supposed to be a good score, maybe the winning score. Players shouldn't be able to attack every pin placement.

Seeing guys stick six irons, and in some cases fairway woods, 2-inches from every hole is not my idea of a major championship. That is reserved for the weekly PGA Tour events.