Taking a cue from John Feinstein, I dug into the pairings at the U.S. Open to give readers a sense of the humour the organization has when putting its Thursday and Friday groups together.
The column can be found here.
Here’s a taste:
There’s nothing random about the U.S. Open. The greens are cut to play at a speed that replicates putting on a driveway, the rough is trimmed using a ruler and even the fairways at Oakmont Country Club have been rolled using strange barrels designed to make the course play as fast and firm as is possible.
So it should come as no surprise that the pairings for this morning’s first round of the tournament have been given equal scrutiny. Former USGA executive director Frank Hannigan was known for saying the best way to set up tee times for the U.S. Open was to write down all the names on little cards, toss them up in the air and determine pairings by the order the cards were picked up.
That might have been the most diplomatic approach, but it isn’t the one the United States Golf Association uses to determine playing partners. There are the traditional pairings, like the group featuring the reigning British Open champion (Tiger Woods), the defending U.S. Open champion (Geoff Ogilvy) and the U.S. Amateur winner (Richie Ramsay). Other pairings are rigged so the best players get significant television time.
But beyond the standard logistics of determining the order of play, the USGA has been known to have fun with the groupings for Thursday and Friday’s rounds. Pairings include the so-called “prick pairings,” a phrase coined by author John Feinstein to indicate a group of players disliked by other golfers and typically the fans as well. This year’s group of loathed golfers appears to be led by the perennially disliked Rory Sabbatini, and includes noted head case Jerry Kelly, and Justin Leonard, who is often characterized as smug and self-centered. That group of well-liked players tees off the first hole at 8:17 a.m. today.