I think I firmly established my old man status by watching approximately 800 hours of golf this weekend. Now, it was the US Open, which is always big. Before we had a lake home and spent most of our June weekends there, I was still watching the Open for hours on Father’s Day weekend. And Topeka, Kansas’ own Gary Woodland leading for over half of the tournament, from his late Friday charge through his memorable back nine Sunday to win his first major, also helped.
Obviously I’m thrilled with Woodland’s win. It has certainly fueled my rediscovery of golf that he is one of the most talented players on the tour. It’s nice that he has a major win to elevate his status from just another guy with talent in a sport that is filled with those guys. His round Sunday was filled with some nervous moments. At times his game off the tee resembled mine: no idea what direction it might go. But, unlike a guy he is often compared to, Dustin Johnson, he found a way to recover from every mistake, or at least limit the damage. Along the way he hit two shots that will go down in US Open history, and be shown each time the championship comes back to Pebble Beach.
His three wood from the fairway on 14 had people Tweeting the Sam Cassell Big Balls GIF. That was just an amazing shot, up the hill, over a bunker, into a tight pin location, as his wheels were getting a little wobbly. That birdie tuned a one-shot lead into a two-shot cushion, largely eliminating Justin Rose and making it very tough for Brooks Koepka to have a chance.
And his chip off the green on 17, which he nearly holed, came after one of his worst shots of the day, an absolutely flubbed iron off the tee that came up approximately 175 yards short of the pin. Yet he calmly clipped it, without taking a divot, and left himself with a couple feet for a gutsy par. On the No Laying Up message board, someone posted that the average golfer attempting that shot would have hit the ball into the ocean or taken a huge crater out of the green. Or both.
And then Woodland closed in style, drilling a 30-feet birdie on 18 after three shots that were almost too safe coming up the fairway.
His win was made more impressive by the run that Brooks Koepka made at him. The two-time defending champion, and winner of the last two PGA titles, birdied four of his first five holes which made it feel inevitable that the best golfer in the sport would catch and pass him no matter what Gary did. It felt like the Sentry Tournament of Champions in January, where Woodland entered the final round with a lead, shot a terrific 68 – one of only two rounds in the 60s – and yet still lost because Xander Schauffele dropped a course-record 62 on him. Sunday Brooks was going low and there was nothing Woodland could do about it.
Until we had that crazy 30–45 minutes where all of the contenders kept fucking up. Koepka would hit it into the rough. Woodland found sand on the right. Rose found sand on the left. Repeat. It was a comedy of errors as all three men seemed to wilt under pressure. As he did all weekend, Woodland found a way to make pars out of bogeys, and limit his bogeys to single shots lost rather than multiples. It was just enough to keep Koepka from ever catching him.
Good, entertaining golf all around. Although I do love the bloody US Opens where no one can break par and all the players are complaining about how unfair the conditions are.
I admit that if Woodland was not a Kansan and a Jayhawk, I would have been pulling hard for Koepka and history. Woodland is kind of the classic boring golfer. He has a huge game, but never shows much emotion. Hell, other than raising his arms and giving a fist pump after his final putt dropped, he still didn’t look a guy who had just won his first major. I think I’d be pissing myself where he remained cool and blank. But fact is he has a Jayhawk on his bag, comes from my home state, and hasn’t seemed to say or do anything super dumb, so I’m on board with him.
I’ve learned that having takes about golf means you need to have takes about the coverage. Fox did much, much better than CBS would have done and outpaced NBC’s efforts as well. Thursday and Friday were absolutely tremendous, exactly the way golf should be covered. Coverage of a wide range of golfers, reduced commercial breaks, some real quality analysis, not too many fluff pieces. Saturday and Sunday skewed more toward traditional coverage, but they still did a better job than CBS or NBC would have done. They’ve come a long way from the first couple years they had the US Open when it seemed like no one had any idea what they were doing.
Some quick words about the NBA Finals.
L is funny. She has favorite sports teams, but she can’t watch them play. Or at least not for very long. Whether it’s the US Women’s soccer team, the Royals, or the Warriors, she’ll sit down to watch a game with me, get antsy, and quickly give up, telling me, “Will you let me know who wins?” The funny thing is when I tell her one of her teams loses, she gets all frustrated. So she was very frustrated as the Raptors and the Hoops Gods defeated the Warriors.
Yeah, I said it. All props to the Raptors for winning a title I don’t think anyone gave them a chance to win. But that was clearly Hoops Gods in action. How else do you explain Kevin Durant getting hurt not once, but twice? If he plays and is healthy the entire series, the Warriors win in five or six. How else do you explain Klay Thompson, who was playing the best basketball of his life, blowing out his ACL on a fairly innocuous play in an elimination game? The Hoops Gods were either sick of the Warriors or punishing them for hubris. I’m pretty sure if game six had gone to OT Draymond Green would have gotten another T so that he would have been suspended for game seven. And if game seven was close, 100% that Steph would have gotten hurt. The Warriors were flat not winning.
So L was bummed and the Dubs’ dynasty likely comes to an end. It’s pretty crazy that they were arguably the greatest block in NBA history and a bad calf muscle away from winning five straight titles. That really shouldn’t happen in the modern NBA.