Saturday, June 15, 2013

Why do they call it "golf"?

Way back in the early nineties, I was playing golf with my friend and roommate Bill Williams at a public course in Columbia. I love to play golf, but I stink. I've never shot better than 50 for nine holes, and that's with a liberal amount of mulligans. Anyway, we were joined early on by a couple of older guys—in their fifties or sixties, I guessed—around the second or third hole, and I found myself just butchering the fifth or sixth, taking my usual 8 or 9 on a par four. This prompted one of the older players to ask me, "Do you know why they call it 'golf'?" I shook my head.

"Because 'Oh, #&@$!' was already taken."

It's my favorite weekend of golf, the U.S. Open, and I'm pretty sure NBC's on-course microphones are on a seven-second delay so as not to inadvertently broadcast "#&@$," "$#^%," and the ever-popular "%@#$&#@$%#!" sure to be uttered by so many of these talented golfers this weekend.

What makes the U.S. Open great is a sadistic cruelty inflicted by the United States Golf Association on its annual entrants. It's great because it makes these ridiculously good professionals (and a few great amateurs) look like...well, like me.

Well, maybe not just like me, but you see the kind of shots that weekend duffers all over the country deal with consistently. Because of the difficulty of the course—especially the course at Merion near Philadelphia this week—you see beautiful tee shots take a bad bounce into deep rough, followed by rough shots that only go 100 yards. Back on the fairway, they'll put a wedge less than ten feet away from the hole, only the watch the putt slide right by the hole.

Merion has played like the Marquis de Sade of golf courses so far this week. I'm in the midst of watching third round coverage on a Saturday afternoon, and the tournament lead is at -1. Phil Mickelson, a five-time runner up in this tournament, is two strokes back, evidently getting a head start on choking away this title. Tiger is at +6; NBC keeps him on mute and won't show a close-up when he talks for fear of offending astute lip-readers.

These greens are just insane—almost impossible to read and evidently equipped with ball-repelling force fields, a new innovation from the dungeon masters at the USGA. I'm waiting for someone to freak out and start breaking clubs over his knees and tossing them into a pond (my money's on Tiger—he's just having a miserable round).

There used to be a PGA Tour ad with the tagline, "These guys are good." The U.S. Open should use this for their promos:

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