John Granato: Hey golf, you are embarrassing yourself

The course may have been hard, but it did not stop Brooks Koepka. Andrew Redington/Getty Images

I’m in the minority. I know this because I’ve heard so many people criticizing the USGA for Saturday’s third round of the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills. I’ve heard “joke” “clown’s mouth” “unfair” “brutal” “abomination” and so on and so forth.

I, on the other hand, found it compelling. I thought it was the closest thing golf has had to an endurance test. We’ve seen those pictures of athletes giving it their all with nothing left in the tank but somehow fighting through, crawling to the finish line.

Marathoners and tri-athletes come to mind. You older readers will remember Kellen Winslow being carried off the field after the greatest playoff game ever and Michael Jordan battling through the flu to beat the Jazz.

The closest thing golf has to that is Tiger limping around on a bum knee to beat Rocco Mediate in the 18-hole U.S. Open playoff at Torrey Pines in 2008. But that was special because Tiger fought through an injury. The only thing that got hurt last Saturday was the players’ feelings.

Waaaaaa. It was windy and the course was too hard. Waaaaaa.

I agree there were a couple of pins that were unfair. When Brooks Koepka hit a beautiful approach on 15 that landed about 10 feet from the cup and backed up into the bunker. That was crappy. Good shots should be rewarded not penalized.

The way the players reacted though you’d have thought every shot was unfair. Zach Johnson was the most outspoken saying, “They’ve lost the golf course. When you’ve a championship which comes down to sheer luck, that’s not right.”

That came from a guy who shot 2-over par 72. If it was Rickie Fowler I could understand it. Rickie shot 84 that day. 84 is really bad. 84 is embarrassing. But 72 is not and Zach Johnson shot 73 the first two days so he actually played better on the day he was complaining about.

And oh by the way Zach, Brooks Koepka did not win it with sheer luck. He just flat out played better than everyone else. He also shot 72 on Saturday and he played in the worst of the conditions. If you watch a lot of golf you know that sometimes you get the raw end and sometimes you get lucky. If you have a morning tee time and there isn’t any wind you can score well. If the wind picks up in the afternoon, chances are the scores will be higher. That’s just the luck of the draw.

The lucky guys on Saturday played early and took advantage. Daniel Berger and Tony Finau both shot 66 in the morning. They moved up 44 spots and were tied for the lead by the end of the day. That seems like a lot but it was actually just 6 shots better than Koepka. It’s not that unreasonable to make up six strokes when the conditions change so drastically.

Let’s go back to Friday’s second round.  It was windy in the morning and the scores showed it. The winds subsided in the afternoon and the scores went down. No one complained about it then. Why? Probably because the course got easier.

On Saturday morning there was very little wind. On hole 7 they were hitting 9-irons into the par 3. By the afternoon when the winds picked up they were hitting 6-irons into that same green. That’s a huge swing. Ask any player which club he’d rather have in his hand and the answer is pretty simple. It’s the 9.

That alone can explain the soaring scores. Of course the greens are going to dry out and get crusty. That happens on every course. Did the USGA cut and roll them so they were almost unplayable by day’s end? Yeah probably.

The USGA took the heat, accepted their role in the controversy and acted accordingly the next day. They made it so much easier that Tommy Fleetwood was a five foot putt away from shooting the only 62 in U.S. Open history. He missed it but tied for lowest round ever. Is that what everyone wanted? Over 4 rounds that would be 28 under par. No thanks. I’ll take 1-over anyday over that in our national championship.

And speaking of 1-over, that’s what Zach Johnson shot when he won the Masters in 2007 and in his third round he shot 76. My guess is that it got windy and the greens got so slick they were almost impossible. Sound familiar? But I’ll bet he didn’t complain about the greens and the course setup after that round. You know why? They wouldn’t ask him back. Gary McCord was kicked off the broadcast team because he said they used bikini wax on the greens.  

Remember Sergio Garcia on 15 at Augusta this year? He went Tin Cup with five wedges into the water; five wedges that on any other course would have given him five birdie putts. But did he or anyone else complain about the greens? No way. Can’t risk losing playing privileges at Augusta.

But by all means pile on the USGA.

Was it too hard on Saturday? Maybe.

Were there a couple of unfair holes? Yeah.

But as the old saying goes, “They weren’t trying to embarrass the best players. They were trying to identify them.”

And they did.

His name is Brooks Koepka.






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Now my job: Texans out-Patriot the Patriots

Texans take down the Pats. Photo by Getty Images.

Every dog has its day. A broken clock is right two times a day. All the clichés about it being better to be lucky than good can apply here with the Texans 27-20 win over the Patriots. In a matchup that broke a record for the oldest combined age for opposing head coaches, 141 years old, Romeo Crennel beat his former boss Bill Belichick. There were other narratives at work here, as well as a few things (good and awful) that the coaching staff did.

First thing I saw that I liked was the spread and no-huddle on offense. If you've been following this series of articles, you know I've been on this train quite a while now. This allows Deshaun Watson to find the matchup he likes, exposes the defense because they can't sub, takes advantage of Texans' speed at receiver, and creates a tempo most defenses can't keep up with. Not to mention the spread is the offense Watson operated in at Clemson. 28/37 for 344 yards and two touchdowns of production from Watson was enough for me to say they need to have this as their M.O. moving forward.

Tim Kelly called a great game. He used the short, quick pass game in lieu of the run game. This also helped since Laremy Tunsil was out and Roderick Johnson had to play at left tackle. This offensive line is not very good at run blocking. Hence, why Watson was again the team's leading rusher with only 36 yards. Almost all of those were on scrambles. By going spread and no-huddle, Watson can take advantage of man and zone coverages to extend plays or scramble because most teams won't spy him. Even when they do, he makes them look silly.

Not everything was on the up and up. The defense continued to look like booty juice. Cam Newton threw for 365 yards and Damiere FREAKIN Byrd torched them for 132 of those yards! When I heard the quote from Crennel that defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver is getting the most out of his guys, I found it laughable. To double down on that, Weaver was quoted as saying, "This narrative that's being painted like my guys aren't disciplined and running around blocks, quite frankly and to put it bluntly, is bull---t!" Sorry guys, but you're both wrong. This defense can't fight its way out of a wet paper bag if you gave them knives. The worst part about it is that the offense's best chance at success sets the defense up for failure. Their hurry up scheme leaves little time for this porous defense to catch its wind. If they could get some turnovers or just off the damn field and get stops, it would help the offense.

With six games left, their three games outside the AFC South (Bengals, Lions, Bears) are all winnable. The two matchups against the Colts and the season finale against the Titans will prove to be their biggest tests. However, this is the same team that has four one possession losses. 3-7 could look a lot different if the offense stepped up against the Browns, or the defense made stops against the Steelers, Vikings, or Titans. Let's hope they can build off this win and salvage whatever they can of this season.

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