AFTER Rory McIlroy's demolition of both
the field and the course at Congressional last year, the USGA,
organisers of the US Open, were always going to have their own back
12 months on.
Indeed, in the build up to Olympic it
seemed like the defending champion might find himself as the least
popular man in the locker room with the prospect of a course set-up
that would humiliate the entire field.
That did not happen and while the days
and weeks leading up to each US Open are full of predictions that
this year's will be the most brutal yet, the record will show that
Webb Simpson's winning total of 281 was only one over par – and at
that a typically stingy par of 70.
There was a time on the first day when
we were watching balls roll frictionless across the Olympic greens
and into back collars when it seemed things might get out of hand.
And perhaps there would have been more
of that on the final day but for the sea mist that rolled in and
coated the course with a layer of moisture that undoubtedly took the
edge off the firmness and pace of the greens.
Mike Davis, the USGA's executive
director, promised beforehand that anyone emerging from the first six
holes in level par would have made up at least two shots on the field
and in that he was proved right.
Watching the players start their rounds
at the weekend was fascinating – not least because the late start
times meant that for many of us in Britain that was about as long as
we could stay awake for.
The record will show that Webb Simpson's winning total of 281 was only one over par
With two short holes and back-to-back
par 5s in the last six holes, and a short 4 to finish, Olympic's
closing stretch is highly irregular.
Needless to say, they made the 16th
so difficult that it ranked among the hardest holes all week –
almost unheard of for a par 5.
Similarly, the 18th must be
the hardest par 4 of under 350 yards in championship golf.
Especially when the pin was front left,
as it was on Sunday. Incredibly, there were only six birdies in 70
attempts. When you think that the field were hitting 4-iron, gap
wedge, that really is a remarkable statistic.
The rough, by US Open standards, was
actually quite manageable, which is probably just as well because the
cambered Olympic fairways and doglegs mean that many shots that land
on the short grass end up in trouble, let alone wild drives.
At no point was Olympic unplayable –
there were scores under 70 each day – and on Saturday we saw
Davis's sense of fun, with a couple of tees pushed forward, most
notably at the 15th, which was played at little over 100
yards to a pin as good as on the lip the front bunker.
It makes for mush more interesting
golf, if slightly forced.
The USGA's goal is for the winning
score each year to be par, and they pretty much achieved that.
The lowest score of the week came on
the first day when Michael Thompson shot 66. It would never be
matched, though there were a couple of 67s on Sunday.
There were few complaints from the
players, who know what to expect these days.
You can criticise the USGA's fixation
with par – is it really so bad if someone shoots 64 every now and
again? – but it is hard to argue with the quality of the final
leaderboard or the thoroughness of the test provided.
Olympic was much different to Augusta,
and Lytham in turn will be a further stark contrast.
It's what makes the Majors work – and
by the time Kiawah Island, a seaside course that has little else in
common with Lytham – has been visited for the PGA the players will
have been set four very different examination papers in 2012.