US Open being remembered for the wrong reasons
By DOUG FERGUSON
AP Golf Writer
Tuesday, June 19
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. (AP) — If the aim of the U.S. Open is to identify the best player, then the last three got it right.
The problem is a tendency to remember what went wrong.
The lasting image from Shinnecock Hills was Phil Mickelson, now 0-for-27 in the U.S. Open, hitting his putt too hard on the 13th hole Saturday. He moved as swiftly as his 48-year-old legs would allow and swatted the ball back toward the hole while it was still rolling. It was a shocking scene to everyone but Mickelson, who said he meant no disrespect to the game by intentionally violating a rule to either save shots or save a long walk to wherever his ball might have stopped.
Brooks Koepka, meanwhile, delivered a classic U.S. Open performance with discipline, grit and clutch putting. He effectively won by getting up-and-down three times in a four-hole stretch, one of them for bogey, the last one a par on the 14th hole when he first had to get his ball back in play from thick, shin-high grass.
He became the first repeat U.S. Open champion in 29 years, and it’s a wonder anyone remembers he won last year.
Just the mention of Erin Hills brings back memories of wide fairways and record scoring.
There was Koepka posing with the trophy, the large leaderboard behind him filled with more red numbers than had ever been seen at a U.S. Open. He was the third player to win at double digits under par (16 under). The other two were Tiger Woods, who won by 15 shots at Pebble Beach, and Rory McIlroy, who won by eight at Congressional. Koepka won by four shots, one of seven players to finish at 10 under or better.
The ultimate test was finding enough red numbers to put on all the boards.
“Everyone said Erin Hills was set up for me,” Koepka said. “It was set up for a lot of guys that bomb that ball. I just happened to play a little bit better.”
No one was better on the back nine when he ran off three straight birdies, and the middle one was exquisite — a chip 8-iron from 155 yards to a back pin. Koepka called it the best shot he hit all week.
Remember that one?
Probably not, and that’s OK. It’s easy to lose track of birdies on a course that allowed a record 140 rounds under par.
Dustin Johnson spent more time talking to rules officials than to Lee Westwood, his playing partner, during the final round at Oakmont in 2016. There was a discussion on the fifth green on whether Johnson caused his ball to move a fraction of an inch. Equally vivid was the image of two officials telling Johnson on the 12th tee that he might be penalized one shot. Or he might not.
Overlooked is that tough par save from behind the 16th green, and Johnson hitting 6-iron to 5 feet on the 18th hole for a birdie to make the penalty a moot point.
The sign that a U.S. Open is not running smoothly is when Mike Davis, the chief executive of the USGA, is on TV as much as some of the players. The ideal week is when Davis is out of sight until the trophy presentation.
But he had some explaining to do, such as how the wind was stronger than expected on Saturday to the point that he felt good shots were not rewarded, and in some cases punished. He also explained why the rules did not provide for Mickelson to be disqualified.
The severity of Shinnecock in the third round should not take away from this U.S. Open. It’s supposed to be hard. It has a history of being the toughest test, and living on the edge often means crossing the line. Everyone still plays the same course, and Koepka shot 72 that day. That’s why he was in position to win.
If not for Mickelson making a spectacle of himself and the moment, odds are it would be forgotten sooner.
Tom Meeks, the predecessor to Davis in setting up the U.S. Open, used to relish such moments. He said in a 2009 interview that the U.S. Open had to be harder than anything else, but still fair, and that was a hard line to find. “If I had any doubt, I would go the more difficult way,” Meeks said.
He also predicted that Davis, if he were to follow the U.S. Open philosophy, would made mistakes at some point.
“It doesn’t happen by design,” Meeks said. “It happens because of the U.S. Open.”
The USGA doesn’t always get it wrong. Its finest moment was Pinehurst No. 2 in 2014, when the U.S. Open delivered a proper test for the men and women in consecutive weeks. The first year two years Davis was in charge, the winning score at Winged Foot and Oakmont was 5-over par, and no one complained.
Lately, however, the U.S. Open has become more about the USGA than the player who gets the trophy. That doesn’t happen at the other majors. With few exceptions, it’s about the winner, not the golf course. It’s about the player, not the organization.
And so the memories of Shinnecock are as much about Mickelson as Koepka, and memories of Erin Hills are as much about low scores as the guy who had the lowest one.
Fans can choose what they want to remember.
But it would be nice to have a U.S. Open when there wasn’t such a choice.
Phil Mickelson on U.S. Open controversy: ‘Not my finest moment and I’m sorry’
June 19, 2018 field reports from ODNR Division of Wildlife officers
CUFFS & COLLARS
Central Ohio – Wildlife District One
During the Memorial Day weekend, State Wildlife Officer Jeff Tipton, assigned to Champaign County, was working near Kiser Lake where he had been receiving complaints that people were leaving litter on one of the fishing piers. Officer Tipton watched a pair of anglers, and shortly before dark he observed each angler throw an empty bottle onto a pile of trash next to them. He contacted them as they were leaving and asked about the bottles. Further investigation revealed that both anglers had been fishing all day and had left a considerable amount of trash behind. Both were cited for littering and each posted a bond waiver in the amount of $175.
One night in May 2018, while patrolling Alum Creek Reservoir, State Wildlife Officer Maurice Irish, assigned to Delaware County, discovered several anglers fishing below a bridge. Officer Irish recognized one angler who had a prior wildlife violation for taking and possessing undersized crappie. As the man waded into the water to fish, Officer Irish noticed a stringer of fish near the bank. Shortly thereafter, the man caught a small crappie and placed it in a 5-gallon bucket. Moments later, he walked several yards down the bank with the bucket, opened a small red cooler, which had been hidden in the brush, and placed four crappies into the cooler. He then continued fishing. Upon contact, the man was happy to show Officer Irish his catch on the stringer, which contained all legal fish. When asked about the red cooler, the man became quiet. Further investigation revealed the red cooler was filled with undersized crappie. He was summoned into Delaware Municipal Court, pleaded guilty, and paid $160 in fines and court costs.
Northwest Ohio – Wildlife District Two
State Wildlife Officer Austin Dickinson, assigned to Williams County, was conducting hunter enforcement in Seneca County during the 2017 two-day deer gun season when he observed a large group of hunters conducting a deer drive. Officer Dickinson was able to contact the group while they were walking back to their vehicles. While checking the hunters for hunting licenses and deer permits, Officer Dickinson noticed the smell of marijuana coming from one of the hunters and one of the vehicles. Officer Dickinson was able to locate the marijuana along with other drug paraphernalia. One of the hunters admitted to smoking marijuana prior to going hunting, along with possessing the marijuana. The hunter was charged with hunting while under the influence of a controlled substance. The hunter was found guilty in court and ordered to pay over $1,100 in fines and court costs, required to complete a hunter safety course, complete two years of probation, and serve 180 days of suspended jail time.
Northeast Ohio – Wildlife District Three
Earlier this year, State Wildlife Officer Tom Frank, assigned to Mahoning County, received a call about a deer that had been shot in a snow-covered field. He arrived at the scene, located the deer, and recovered what appeared to be a small plastic tip from a .17 HMR rifle round from the carcass. Several evenings later, Officer Frank was conducting surveillance in the area when he observed a vehicle driving slowly down the same road where the deer had been shot. Shortly thereafter, he noticed the rays of a spotlight coming from the driver’s side window. Officer Frank followed the vehicle and initiated a traffic stop. The driver was identified along with a juvenile passenger. In the back seat there was a .17 HMR rifle. In addition, a loaded magazine was found on top of the seat. Officer Frank inspected the ammunition and found that it had the same color plastic tip as what had been recovered from the deer carcass. When asked, the driver denied shooting the deer. The man was issued a summons for spotlighting. The man appeared in court, was convicted, and ordered to pay $598 in fines and court costs.
While patrolling Killbuck Marsh Wildlife Area on a rainy afternoon, State Wildlife Officer Aaron Brown, assigned to Wayne County, was positioned in an area to observe off-road vehicle activity. After several minutes, he observed a car pull into a parking area. Officer Brown observed the passenger of the vehicle drinking a beer. Officer Brown stopped the vehicle before it left the parking area and spoke to the two men inside. Both were in possession of opened cans of beer. The men explained that they had been consuming alcohol while they were driving around birdwatching on the wildlife area. Officer Brown issued summonses to both individuals for the offense. Both men appeared in the Wayne County Municipal Court and paid fines totaling $176.
Southeast Ohio – Wildlife District Four
In October 2017, a Vinton County landowner reported a road hunting incident to wildlife officers after he had observed someone discharge a firearm from the road. The man recorded the license plate of the suspect’s truck. After multiple attempts, State Wildlife Investigators Travis Abele and Heath Horn eventually caught up with the suspect on the road and conducted a traffic stop. A loaded 12-gauge shotgun and a cocked crossbow were located inside the vehicle. The investigators determined that the man had recently killed a doe with the shotgun using buckshot during the deer archery season. In addition, a freshly killed 8-point buck rack, that had not been checked in, was found in the man’s garage. Another 8-point shoulder mount was located inside the suspect’s residence. The man eventually admitted that he had killed that buck during the 2016 deer gun season and did not check in the deer. The man was issued seven summonses including hunting without a deer permit, hunting without permission, two counts of failure to game check a deer, killing a deer with an illegal hunting implement, and two counts of hunting with the aid of a motor vehicle. The man was found guilty on all charges and was ordered to pay $2,175 in fines, court costs, and restitution. He was sentenced to 1,080 days of suspended jail time, was placed on two years of probation, and his hunting privileges have been revoked for three years. The firearm and deer were forfeited to the ODNR Division of Wildlife.
State Wildlife Officer Matt VanCleve, assigned to Scioto County, was following up on investigations from the 2017 deer gun season when he noticed that a hunter had used a different birthdate when checking in a deer than what was provided on his customer profile. Officer VanCleve visited the suspect’s house and asked the man about the deer. The man initially said that he had killed the deer, but after a few minutes stated that his brother had killed the deer. The suspect had checked the deer for his brother so that his brother could continue to hunt. Officer VanCleve then spoke to the brother who had failed to check in his deer. Both men were cited. The first individual was charged with providing false information while game checking a deer. The brother was charged with failing to game check a deer. Both men pleaded guilty and each paid $300 in fines and court costs.
Southwest Ohio – Wildlife District Five
During the summer, two men were fishing on the lake at Caesar Creek State Park. The boat the men were using became disabled and had to be towed to shore by two ODNR Division of State Parks and Watercraft officers. The officers noticed that the men were in possession of several crappie that did not meet the minimum length of nine inches. State Wildlife Officer Matt Hunt, assigned to Greene County, was working in the area and responded to examine the fish. Officer Hunt measured the fish and found that eleven of the twenty fish were less than nine inches in length. Each man was issued one citation for possession of short crappie.