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Mike Sorensen: U.S. Open might be a little too tough

SHARE Mike Sorensen: U.S. Open might be a little too tough

I used to wonder why golf courses couldn't be made a lot more trickier than they are.

Why not put a huge oak tree smack dab in middle of the fairway and force golfers to hit over or around it? Or how about a big tree right in front of the green, I mean right in front, forcing the golfer to hit a low shot under the branches or a Phil Mickelson lob shot directly over?

Why not cut the hole right in the middle of a steep downslope on the green? If you don't hit it hard enough, the ball will come right back to you. Or maybe put a stream right through the middle of a green. If you hit the wrong half of the green, you'll have to pitch over to the other side.

Why not make golf holes like the ones you see on the funny golf calendars with tiny greens sitting on a ledge or a hole on a small island out in the middle of a lake?

Well, golf isn't like that. Sure, courses are designed to be difficult and sometimes overly so. But the idea is to reward good shots and take luck out of the equation as much as possible. It's not fair to penalize a golfer because of some goofy tree in the wrong place or a hole that is cut in an impossible place on the green.

So how come every year when I watch the U.S. Open, I feel like the golfers are playing mini-golf at Trafalga, just without the clown's mouths or windmills?

The U.S. Open is supposed to be tough. But you should never have a 5-foot putt that ends up 25 feet away if you barely miss it.

That's how it's been at the U.S. Open for several years now. The United States Golf Association officials who run the U.S. Open are determined to keep the winning score around par, even above it if possible, so they make the greens impossibly fast and the rough unbearably deep.

Maybe that's why people such as Andy North and Lee Janzen end up winning a couple of U.S. Opens but little else in their careers. They must be good at hitting it straight, keeping their putts on the green and making a lot of pars.

There have been controversies at the Open several times over the past decade because of unfair conditions. Everyone from Vijay Singh to Phil Mickelson to Davis Love has chimed in on the subject.

Last year's tournament at Shinnecock Hills in New York was a joke, particularly on Sunday, when 28 golfers failed to break 80.

"All the things I practiced my whole life didn't matter," Scott Verplank said in the Miami Herald about his final-round 83. "Because my whole life, I practiced golf."

What's wrong with seeing some red numbers on the board and the winner finishing 8- or 10-under par, instead of 1- or 2-over par as so often happens?

I've been to a few U.S. Opens and except for the 2000 Open when Tiger Woods lapped the field at Pebble Beach, I always observed that if a player would just worry about making pars, he'd have a great chance of winning.

But birdies and eagles are what make golf exciting and since the U.S. Open tries to keep them at a minimum, it has become the least exciting of the four majors.

After the criticism of last year, the USGA claims it won't have the same travesties it had at Shinnecock.

"Big, big lesson," the USGA's Tom Meeks, who was in charge of the setup for last year's Open, told Golfweek. "Probably the biggest lesson of all is Shinnecock."

"We're just going to have to be more sensitive to it," USGA executive director David Fay told the Miami Herald.

So perhaps this year at Pinehurst, we won't see the great shots landing near the hole and rolling off the green or see the tapped putts from three feet end up 30 feet away?

I'll believe it when I see it.

E-mail: sor@desnews.com