SOUTHAMPTON - Golf correspondent Derek Lawrenson shares his highlights, and lowlights following the 2018 US Open at Shinnecock Hills.
Let’s hear it for the classy Englishman Scott Gregory, who shot 92 in the first round and still signed autographs and spoke at length to the media. What he didn’t say was how in the build-up he gave away his allocation of free tickets to a local branch of army veterans. All those who sought to ridicule him on social media on day one should be truly ashamed of themselves, and not just because he earned his place in the field on merit. The 23-year-old from Portsmouth is one to root for, and no mistake.
The circus in town
Place the course in the useless hands of the USGA and it’s easy to get the idea that all it is lacking is a clown’s mouth and a couple of windmills. That is something of a sporting tragedy because, in anyone else’s hands, it would be seen for what it really is, which is one of the great courses in America. Walk out of the stately clubhouse on to the first tee with the course all laid out in front of you . . . well, any other time, but US Open week and golf really doesn’t get much better.
There’s no easy way to get to the far end of Long Island. It’s a nightmare in the car and it’s 90 minutes from Manhattan by rail. But still the New York crowds came. My favourite moment of the entire week might have been on Friday morning as the rain that caught everyone unaware bucketed down and a multitude stood by the seventh tee, smiles on their faces despite the conditions, and all for the chance to be close to Tiger.
Not fit for purpose
Seriously, where do you begin with the USGA? Two years on from describing them in these pages as unfit for purpose, they seem to be getting worse. Why don’t they ask the R&A for advice on how to organise traffic at an Open in a confined venue? Why are they sending the media through grass on holes where signs direct you to stay out of the fescue for fear of catching Lyme disease?
Yes, I know there are a few souls who seem to take pleasure in him cocking it up each year but, for the rest of us, watching him at the US Open is a bit like watching Messi play for Argentina. Or Federer play on clay. Let’s hope he figures something out and we get to witness the real Rory McIlroy next year, when the tournament is staged at its greatest venue of all, Pebble Beach.
Long day in Long Island
There’s the morning lot of New York fans who are real golfers and appreciate the action. And then there’s the afternoon lot who drink beer, wouldn’t know a five-iron from a clothing iron, and think it’s funny to shout abuse. Some of the stuff picked up by the on-course mics last week was truly horrific. The Ryder Cup is being staged just outside Manhattan at Bethpage in 2024 and there must be a real fear that it will make the bearpit of Boston in 1999 seem like a tea party by comparison.