Watching the U.S. Open yesterday was akin to watching a slow-motion car crash in wet conditions, and wondering which of the drivers would survive. I must admit I had the feeling it wouldn’t be Ricky Barnes. His swing makes Arnold Palmer’s look Hogan-esque, with his hang on at the end in an attempt not to hook the ball. It worked for three rounds — or pretty much three, considering there were a couple of mid-round pull hooks going — but it practically fell apart in the final round. I guess his finish was still significantly better than anyone expected — and I wonder if he really thought he could win heading into the final round. I recall playing at Oakland Hills near Detroit as a set-up for the Ryder Cup in 2004 and hearing stories of Barnes’ play there at the U.S. Amateur. The caddy in our group had caddied in the event and said that Barnes wouldn’t have survived without the assistance of his brother, who also caddied for him at the U.S. Open.
“Not all that bright,” was the caddie’s take. Of course that means little — in my mind Barnes seemed affable and enthusiastic about the U.S. Open, a refreshing difference from the normal cliches. But his golf swing may never be built for consistency — and I doubt it’ll last on the PGA Tour. Last year David Hearn told me he thought Barnes simply had too many moving parts to be consistent. Despite that, Barnes made his way to the PGA Tour. Let’s see what happens with his new-found fame.
For me the most intriguing story was David Duval. Now I’ll admit to having been a Duval fan for a long time. But ranked 882 in the world heading into the event, and playing on an exemption to the PGA Tour for the second year in a row, one had to figure the gig was up. And then Duval finished second in the US Open — and held a share of the lead with a few holes to go. Duval said he always felt he’d make a comeback, not that many believed him:
After his round, Duval added: It may be arrogance, but its where I feel I belong. And I was glad to come up here and hit the golf ball like Ive been saying Ive been doing.
Duval’s take was refreshing, and it was kind of stunning to see him as a huge fan favourite at Bethpage. He’s always been the aloof man behind the dark glasses, though I’ll say my only encounter with him as a reporter — at Glen Abbey a few years back — was intriguing. Duval was combative and interesting, as well as thoughtful. Beyond that, I think people relate to him now because he’s seen the depths of the game — something pretty much every weekend golfer has experienced: “I know what awful golf is about too,” Duval says.
What about Mike Weir? Well the first round was amazing, but I wonder if the cracks were there from the start. He didn’t hit a lot of fairways even in the first round, but made amazing recoveries. His hybrid play was amazing and he made lots of putts. He didn’t play nearly as well for the remaining four rounds, and his putter wasn’t as hot. That said, his T10 demonstrated that Weir always plays well in tough tournaments — and continues to do so. However, I think many are starting to wonder about his ability to close them out and win another major. I think it is possible, but I believe that if it is to happen — and that’s an if — it will occur at a U.S. Open or a British Open.
Of course one of the great stories is Nick Taylor, currently the #1 amateur in the world, and rightfully so. The Ottawa Sun’s Chris Stevenson caught up with Taylor after the final round:
Canadian amateur Nick Taylor ran out of steam — and shirts — at the U.S. Open.
He’s taking away a load of laundry from this marathon and a bunch of great experiences, including a record 65 in the second round, tying the record for the low round for an amateur in the U.S. Open.
The 21-year-old from Abbotsford, B.C., finished with a second straight 75 and a total of eight-over 288.
Making the cut allowed Taylor to play with Sean O’Hair in the third round and teen Rory McIlroy in the fourth.
“I learned a lot, watching the shots they hit,” said Taylor, who will return to the University of Washington for his senior year.
But he won’t be turning pro:
Taylor will return to the U of Washington for his senior year in the fall, but before then his summer shapes up like a professional’s schedule — with seven tournaments on his dance card including the U.S. Public Links, Canadian Open, Four Nations Cup and the Canadian Amateur. (source)
That’s probably a good move. A sports agent told me recently that its a tough market for young Canadian golfers — even those as good as Taylor.
I’m off to Nova Scotia this week to do a story on the revitalization of Highlands Links. I’ll report back with some photos in coming days.