CLAYTON: Medinah who produces the last straw

Posted by on August 20, 2019  /   Posted in golf news

Justin Thomas tears a driver in Medinah on the way to breaking score records.

The 1975 US Open in Medinah immediately followed the infamous "Massacre at Winged Foot," where Hale Irwin & # 39; s seven-over-par 287 on one of the most difficult golf courses in the United States was good enough to win with two shots .

It produced the now famous quote from USGA blueblood P.J. Boatwright, who, in answer to the question whether officials tried to humiliate the players, replied: "No, we are only trying to identify them."

Many thought that 1974 was a reaction to the previous US Open in Oakmont – one of the game's most investigative investigations – where Johnny Miller might have played the best round of the game; a 63 consisting of long, straight discs and a mix of incredibly long, medium and short irons fired straight at the flags.

Lou Graham defeated John Mahaffey in the 1975 play-off in Medinah after they were equal at 287, but the par was 71. It was clearly a difficult golf course, stretching over more than 7000 meters, the size of a long course in the 1970s.

It was hard enough for the inexplicable Jack Nicklaus to conquer the last three holes to miss the playoff by two shots. Ben Crenshaw missed it by a shot after playing the weekend in 76-74 and dumping a 2-iron into the water for the 17th green. Tom Watson, who won the British Open a month later by beating Jack Newton in a play-off, finished three behind after a 78-77 weekend.

If Nicklaus was the gold standard to play championship golf under pressure, Medina was there – along with Winged Foot and Oakmont – as difficult golf was the measure.

By the time the US Open returned to Medina in 1990, the course was 200 meters longer, the cut came back from seven to one and Irwin won his national crown for the third time and shot 280.

Now, almost 30 years later, the game has changed beyond recognition.

Engineers showed manufacturers how to make a "two-part" golf ball play like a wound ball, the ball of choice in 1975 Medinah.

Probably half of the field still played persimmon riders in 1990 with the rest – many because they were paid – on the then "new" metal heads. The ratio between a steel shaft driver and graphite was probably the same, but 15 years later, graphite shafts and titanium heads were the norm.

Current rulers have become weapons of power that were unthinkable for generations in the past.

Large drivers such as Nicklaus and Greg Norman lost their advantage because hitting the sweet spot on a modern "frying pan" became a much less demanding task and the result of missing shots is more than acceptable.

"With today's equipment," Tiger Woods said in Medinah this week, "you can maximize a driver and bomb it absolutely. The driver is now the main club in the bag simply because of the way the game is played."

Adam Scott, another brilliant driver, also weighed in: "If a golf course is soft, we'll just tear it apart. They haven't gotten out yet, but that doesn't mean much to us. You can't build it long enough. "

Of course the driver was always important. But the long and middle irons and the tallest players who controlled the use of the hardest to use clubs – Jones, Hogan, Snead, Palmer, Nicklaus, Faldo (OK, not that long) and Woods – dominated the game.

"Now," said Tiger, "you just take the driver out, bomb it down there and look for 3-4 good weeks a year."

It is the ultimate result of the most powerful golf country that is obsessed with selling distance and selling hope to millions of golfers who are all looking for the elusive extra few meters.

It has always been that way.

In 1968, the First Flight company published an advertisement (shown on the left) in Golf Digest with the question: "Will First Flight force America to build longer golf courses?"

It is an endless pursuit and marketing campaign and although it was not First Flight that forced the changes, championship courses are all forced to make an effort to keep up.

The ones who really benefit from the technology are the tour professionals who are now bombing the ball & # 39; that the driving average of 1985 (277 yards) of Norman is now surpassed by five women on the LPGA tour and only four players (of 195) this season drive the ball shorter than Norman. (For those who didn't see Greg playing, his driving was incredibly good – and long. For those of you who knew that, you remember how impressive it was.)

The BMW Championship last week in Medinah made us long for the December Presidential Cup in Royal Melbourne – or change channels to watch the US Amateur from Pinehurst – where hard, treacherous greens and the usual coastal winds add an extra dimension to the game , one that makes it infinitely more interesting to watch as well as play.

The greens in Chicago were soft last week, the ball ended up close to where it landed, there was no noticeable wind to consider and of the 70 players, only seven shots of Graham & 287 or higher – all on a 500 lane – 600 meters longer than yesterday.

Of course this is not the USGA that sets up US Open, but rather the PGA Tour that is more interested in "entertainment" than a winning score that is almost equal to

But the combination of the driver technology that Tiger clearly complains and the modern ball has made a course of 7600 meters with soft greens defenseless.

Nothing plays the way it was intended by the great designers and although they expected technological progress, it has gone far beyond what is reasonable.

“Today, many are trying to gain a temporary advantage by buying the latest far-flying ball on the market. It is often suggested that we have already reached the limit of the flight of the golf ball. I don't believe it, because science knows no boundaries. "

Alister MacKenzie wrote this in the early 1930s and although he advised clubs to leave space behind the tees so that they could be moved in the future, he never thought of advising them to buy the houses on the other side of the gates . ]

Although the wave at Royal Melbourne is, as always, brilliant to observe, we will see a course that is so short that it would be unrecognizable to the architect.

We also don't have to wonder what he would make of it.

Apoplectic is hardly an exaggeration.

Justin Thomas was without a doubt the last week in Medina, where he answered all the questions the course asked. His 263 stands for great golf, but is it a full 24 shots more engaging than Graham's 287 was 44 years ago?

The question for the game, for the professional tour and the managers in New Jersey and St. Andrews is: how do you deal with the technological attack on the great courses of the game and a game that is so unbalanced at the highest level?

Or do they relinquish their responsibility to restore the balance that MacKenzie and his great contemporaries have understood and built?

The proof of what we have seen from Medina is that golf is not as interesting if the questions are answered so easily with force and wedges.

Fellow Golf Australia columnist John Huggan didn't even need all 280 Twitter characters to summarize what so many think about the current state of affairs.

Huggan wrote: & # 39; Re Medinah. The low score is not really what makes the head vibrate. No. It is the way in which those scores are compiled. No subtlety. A strategy. Very little thought. A dumbfounded version of a great game. "

You can disagree with everything you want, but he's right.


Justin Thomas en route to winning at Medinah last week.

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