Merion 1, Best in the World 0

Kim Anders
Director of Instruction
John Jacobs Golf Schools and Academies Estrella del Mar Golf and Beach Resort
Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico, AZ

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How good was the US Open this year? Even though your favorite player may not have won, you have to admit it was a heck of a show. In my opinion. You just can’t beat a major championship on an old classic design that is less than 7,000 yards.  

So, they converted a couple of par 5’s to par 4’s and it played to par 70 – by today’s standards a course this short should have played to a par 68. And, still the best players in the world couldn’t beat the old girl.

How many times did we hear commentators say things like, “He’ll be happy to make par (or bogey) from there”, or “He’s just going to get his ball back into the fairway and then try to get it up and down from about 120 yards forpar”. Sure, the rough was tough and the greens severely sloped, but these are the best players in the world. This is the US Open, not the club championship!

The back 9 played to a par 34 and was only about 3,300 yards long. Yet, the best in the world averaged more than 36.3 shots to play the final nine. And get this, there were 373 double bogeys and 78 “others” made from the best in the world.

Aside from the great entertainment the tournament provided all of us, what can we take away from this spectacle that will benefit all us normal players? We try to mimic our favorite player’s swings, but most of the time it’s difficult to really learn much by watching them play. There was a lot of great information there if we were paying attention. For one thing, we saw a lot of great course management.  

Look at all the players that were hitting irons and hybrids off the tee on long par 4’s, just trying to keep the ball in the fairway. And, Phil didn’t even have a driver in his bag – now there’s some course management we wouldn’t have expected! They all had good intensions but in the end Merion wore them out, broke them down, and had her way with all of them.  

So, how would you score your course management game? Do you frequently try to pull off the impossible one in one-hundred shot? How often have you stood over the ball and said to yourself, “There’s no way I have any chance of pulling this off”, but you go ahead and make some sort of violent  slash, while knowing the whole time this is probably the last time you are going to see this ball?

We witnessed the best in the world play safe for bogeys, and several times double bogeys, because they knew losing their discipline and going for it could be far more costly. If it’s good enough for the best in the world, it should certainly be good enough for us.

The next time you’re out with your buddies and faced with a low percentage shot, have some discipline and get the ball back in play. Take a wedge and put it back in the fairway. Play to the fat part of the green instead of trying a low percentage trick shot to get close to a tight hole placement. Play a difficult par 4 as a 3 or 4 shot hole to get to the green. You’ll find your scores are lower when you have patience and discipline rather than going for it.  

And finally, congratulations to Justin Rose, who it would appear out disciplined and out course-managed the rest of the field. I’m looking forward to watching replays of the final round and comparing who had good course management and who didn’t.