US Open Wrap; Off to Nova Scotia

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.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

6 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I find your commentary on Barnes very shallow. The fact is that Barnes has won a US Amateur and was two putts away from being US Open champion. That alone suggests that his play is very much at the highest level. I find it amusing that you would repeat Hearn’s comments. When Hearn is as consistent as Barnes (winner of a US Amateur and a whisker from a US Open) then perhaps Hearn can pass judgement as to whether Barnes is consistent or not. I think virtually all elite players would trade their game for what Barnes has achieved. Golf is about results and not about whether one has the perfect swing. To suggest otherwise is to be naive. Then to repeat what some ‘caddy’ told you about Barnes when he won the US Amateur is just plain idiotic. Do you really think his caddy carried him to a US Amateur? How naive and shallow is your thought process? You are the first guy in history to actually think that a caddy has that much influence on somebody’s ability to win the US Amateur. The guy deserves respect and all you can do is knock him. And then to go on and repeat some heresay that he isn’t that bright? What the hell is wrong with you? Or are YOU just not that bright which many of us suspect. What a absolutely iidiot you are.

  • Welcome back YI, or whatever you are posting as now. Did you actually read the post? I think a good caddy makes a ton of difference, more clearly than you know.

    I agree golf is about more than the perfect swing — but a swing that breaks down under pressure is always going to be an issue. That’s why Faldo reworked his — but of course you’re a smart guy with a big mouth, so you already know that.

  • Hey YI, if David Hearn isn’t qualified to comment on Barnes’s consistency because he’s not as good as Barnes, how are you so qualified? Are you better than Barnes?

    He’s good enough to play on tour, but that’s about all you can say for him. He’s 28 and has almost zero good results at the pro level, and his Open winnings account for 85% of career earnings. Virtually NO elite players would trade their careers for that, unless you have a pretty generous definition of elite.

  • Can’t wait for the follow up on Highlands. Too bad they can not revitalize Fundy National or build Thompson’s ‘lost nine’ there.

  • I was fortunate enough to be at the Open on Sunday and watched DD a bit. He was really quite impressive: long, straight off the tee, great iron shots and good putting. His demeanour was great too. I hope it lasts, it would be nice to see his name up there again.
    Barnes was struggling, but somehow contrived to be there at the end with an outside chance at influencing the final result. What a story if he had won!
    Weir’s driving let him down.
    Fantastic tournament for Nick Taylor.
    My memories include a terrific flop shot from the rough in front of the 17th green that went in the hole on the 2nd (?)bounce by TW and another chip in by Henrik Stenson on the 1st hole. An amazing recovery by Sergio on the 1st hole to save bogey. A miss by Jim Furyk from a few feet on the 18th just before close of play; he must have spent 5 minutes lining it up. Painful to see.

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