Moe Dweck, a reader in Maryland, who (like me) writes a golf blog and (also like me) probably has a real job of some kind, wrote recently to describe his experience at the U.S. Open, which he attended with friends:
A bunch of guys traveled up to Merion on the Friday of the Open for some spectating and a cheese-steak. (By the way, the cheese-steak at Mama’s Pizzeria in Bala Cynwyd is off the charts. Went classic: white cheese, green peppers, and grilled onions. It is the Philly bread that makes these unbelievable.) The course looked the same to me as it did twenty years ago, but with much narrower landing areas. I think the U.S.G.A. overdid that aspect of the set-up more than slightly. But, overall, the presentation of the course was just awesome to witness in person.
(Parenthetically, let me add that I agree with Dweck about the severity of the set-up, and that I don’t share the U.S.G.A.’s crippling anxiety about birdies. Bubba Watson’s recovery from the pine trees on the first playoff hole in the 2012 Masters would be at or near the top of almost any golfer’s list of the coolest meaningful shots in majors in recent years, but nothing like it would be possible in an Open, because if Watson had missed an Open fairway by the same margin he would have been up to his knees in fescue.) Back to Dweck:
The truth is that the course stood up to the challenge, like it did in 1971 and 1981, because of the greens. One of the writers in Golf World pointed out that it is not the undulations of the greens at Merion that make it tough but the tilts. Could not agree more. On the short eighth, it was nearly impossible to get a ball to stay close, even with a sand-iron in the hands of a pro. Nothing more needs to be said about tilt than the lean on No. 5. I hope the U.S.G.A. continues to present the men’s and women’s Opens on classic old courses like these. Taking the driver out of the hands of a pro is not a federal crime, so I am not sure what all the whining is about.
Back in April, Dweck wrote to describe a game that he and his regular golf buddies had played on their home course during Masters weekend—a game they called Virtual Pro-Schmo. What they did was take the best Masters rounds from the previous day and treat the guys who shot them as virtual partners in their own game. They transposed each Master’s competitor’s hole scores, in relation to par, onto a scorecard from their own course, then put all the cards into a hat and picked. If a schmo’s virtual pro partner had birdied Augusta’s first hole the day before, for example, then the only way the schmo could improve their best ball on the first hole would be to make an eagle; if the virtual pro had made a bogey, then the schmo had work to do. My friends and I meant to try Dweck’s game during the U.S. Open, but we forgot. We’re going to try to remember during the British.
Actually, we might use another format Dweck told me about, which he and his friends used during the Open. “We called it Beat the Pro,” Dweck said. “Thirty-two guys participated. Each one picked a pro-opponent scorecard from a hat. (We used eight guys’ scores, in relation to par, from the Thursday round at Merion.) We gave our guys 110 percent of their handicap, and they played a quasi-skins format, in which they got three points for every hole on which they beat their pro and one point for every hole they pushed. Winners were the guys who had the most points against the field. I got to knock around Luke Donald. The guys who drew Sergio had to deal with an eagle on No. 2 (which is a par-3 on our course, so they needed a hole-in-one to push) and a quad on No. 15 (a par-5 for us, so a net nine or better scored points there.) Lots of fun.”
My friends and I are going to try this, too, sometime, if we remember. Here’s a picture of Dweck and some of his friends: