USGA Should Take Notes from 2011 Canadian Open

Michael FitzpatrickFeatured ColumnistJuly 26, 2011

BETHESDA, MD - JUNE 15:  Mike Davis, Executive Director of the USGA, speaks to the media during a press conference during a practice round prior to the start of the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club on June 15, 2011 in Bethesda, Maryland.  (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
David Cannon/Getty Images

If the 2011 Canadian Open didn’t send shock waves through the USGA headquarters in Far Hills, New Jersey, nothing will.

Perhaps the USGA should think about outsourcing the 2012 U.S. Open to the Royal Canadian Golf Association, as they seem to have a far better grasp on how a national championship golf course should play.

Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club, the site of the 2011 Canadian Open, played significantly more difficult than Congressional Country Club, site of the 2011 U.S. Open, did just a few weeks earlier.

Only eight players finished under par at last week’s Canadian Open, and Sean O'Hair won the tournament with a four-under-par score of 276.

The U.S. Open, on the other hand, looked more like the Travelers Championship than a tournament that is meant to be the toughest test in all of golf.

Twenty players finished under par at Congressional, and Rory McIlroy won the event with a 16-under-par score of 276.

Last week at Shaughnessy, the fairways were narrow, the rough was dense and guys were actually penalized for wayward shots.

It was a fair, yet extremely difficult test of golf, as a national championship should be and as the U.S. Open used to be.

Last week’s Canadian Open was almost like a step back in time to the U.S. Opens of the 40s, 50s and 60s, before the USGA let technology and the game in general get away from them.

It was also evident that the planning on the part of the Royal Canadian Golf Association for the 2011 Canadian Open was far superior to the USGA’s planning for the U.S. Open.

The greens at Shaughnessy were firm yet still receptive, and the rough was thick yet not overly ridiculous. 

And when the course did start to approach the point of being excessively difficult, the Royal Canadian Golf Association simply trimmed the rough between rounds two and three.

Mike Davis of the USGA, who is meant to plan course setups years in advance, was somehow left with rough less dense than you’d see at your local muni and greens that resembled waterbeds at Congressional Country Club.

Yes, the weather in the Washington D.C. area in the weeks leading up to the 2011 U.S. Open was extremely hot, which stunted some of the growth in the rough, and damp conditions in the days leading up to the Open caused the greens to soften.

But the only problem with the weather excuse is that the grass should have been three inches taller to begin with. It doesn’t take a degree in agriculture from Cornell University to realize grass can be cut overnight, but it cannot be grown several inches in one day. 

The greens at Congressional should have also been firmer to begin with. You can always water down greens to make then softer, but unless you have a multi-million dollar SubAir system, it’s very difficult to get the greens rolling quicker in a short amount of time.  

Somehow the Royal Canadian Golf Association seemed to grasp this concept a lot better than the USGA.

We’re less than 12 months away from the 2012 U.S. Open at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, and Mike Davis has two choices.

First, he could plan better and bring the U.S. Open back to it’s glory days when it actually was considered the toughest test in golf.  

Or he could simply outsource the planning to the Royal Canadian Golf Association, as they put on one hell of a national championship last week at Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club.

Earth to Far to Far’s time to reclaim the U.S. Open.        

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