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By definition, there will be no 2020 U.S. Open. Here’s why the USGA should reconsider

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In 1942, the USGA decided to cancel the U.S. Open because it was scheduled so soon after U.S. entry into WWII.  They did this out of respect for the nation and those called to war. There was a Championship however called The Hale America National Open Golf Tournament, which was contested at Chicago’s  Ridgemoor Country Club. It was a great distraction from the horror of war and raised money for the great cause.

All the top players of the era (except Sam Snead) played, and the organizers (USGA, Chicago Golf Association, and the PGA of America) did hold qualifying at some 70 sites around the country. So effectively, it was the 1942 U.S. Open—but the USGA never recognized it as such. They labeled it a “wartime effort to raise money” for the cause.  Their objection to it being the official U.S. Open was never clear, although the sub-standard Ridgemoor course (a veritable birdie fest) was certainly part of it.

The USGA co-sponsored the event but did not host it at one of their premier venues, where they typically set the golf course up unusually difficult to test the best players. Anyway, Ben Hogan won the event and many thought this should have counted as his fifth U.S. Open win. The USGA disagreed. That debate may never be settled in golfer’s minds.

Ahead to the 1964 U.S. Open…Ken Venturi, the eventual winner, qualified to play in the tournament. His game at the time was a shell of what it was just a few years earlier, but Kenny caught lighting in a bottle, got through both stages of qualifying, and realized his lifelong dream of winning the U.S. Open at Congressional.

Ahead to the 1969 U.S. Open…Orville Moody, a former army sergeant had been playing the PGA Tour for two years with moderate success-at best. But the golfing gods shone brightly upon “sarge” through both stages of qualifying, and the tournament, as he too realized the dream of a lifetime in Houston.

Ahead to 2009 U.S. Open…Lucas Glover was the 71st ranked player in the world and had never made the cut in his three previous U.S. Opens. But he did get through the final stage of qualifying and went on to win the title at Bethpage in New York.

Ahead to 2020…The USGA has decided to postpone the event this year to September because of the Covid-19 virus. This was for the fear of the global pandemic. But this year there is a fundamental difference—the USGA has announced there will be no qualifying for the event. It will be an exempt-only event. By doing so, the event loses it status as an “open event,” by definition.

This is more than a slight difference in semantics.

The U.S. Open, our national championship, is the crown jewel of all USGA events for many reasons, not the least of which is that it is just that: open. Granted, the likelihood of a club professional or a highly-ranked amateur winning the event—or even making the cut—is slim, but that misses the point: they have been stripped of their chance to do so, and have thereby lost a perhaps once in a lifetime opportunity to realize something they have worked for their whole lives. Although I respect the decision from a  health perspective, golf is being played now across the country, (The Match and Driving Relief—apparently safely)

So, what to do? I believe it would be possible to have one-day 36-hole qualifiers (complete with social distancing regulations) all over the country to open the field. Perhaps, the current health crisis limits the opportunity to hold the qualifiers at the normally premier qualifying sites around the country but, as always, everyone is playing the same course and is at least given the chance to play in tournament.

In light of the recent “opening” of the country, I am asking that the USGA reconsider the decision.

 

featured image modified from USGA image

 

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. Dennis now teaches at Bobby Clampett's Impact Zone Golf Indoor Performance Center in Naples, FL. .

28 Comments

28 Comments

  1. chip75

    Jun 1, 2020 at 8:24 am

    Unless the Open is open it’s an invitational and should be labelled as such.

  2. Mike

    May 30, 2020 at 12:16 pm

    But, we are talking about the ‘USGA’ right? That org lost credibility w/ me years ago, so I’m not surprised at anything they’d do.

  3. YB

    May 29, 2020 at 2:02 pm

    Dennis you are 100% correct. If they can host a major tournament, they can have local and regional qualifiers. Local is 100% people driving to their courses – regional, some people fly but not the majority.

    The fact is if people aren’t allowed to qualify, it’s not an OPEN tournament and it’s just another members’ club invitational . Needs to change now!

  4. Pelling

    May 29, 2020 at 11:59 am

    Give Andy Pope an exemption!

  5. davidar4iron

    May 29, 2020 at 7:20 am

    Possibly change the name to the USGA championship for a one off – still use the trophy, its still a major, but its an acknowledegment of the times –

    Interntaional qualifying is central to both open champioships so just because you can get in your car and drive to AZ or wherever, international travel will still be hugely problematic.

    COVID19 is not a hoax – maybe poeple feel isolated and frustrated in their bubble but 37000 people have died here in the UK ‘officially’ never mind the 30,000 ‘additional deaths’ over average. Yes its reducing but only thanks to social distancing.

  6. Gusty

    May 29, 2020 at 6:44 am

    Good thing there was qualifying in 1913 when Francis Ouimet qualified as an amateur and then won US Open….changing the game forever!

  7. Moses

    May 28, 2020 at 11:55 pm

    As far as I’m concerned Hogan has 5 US Opens.

  8. Alrx

    May 28, 2020 at 11:00 pm

    By definition Stfu. The show must go on!

  9. VictrC

    May 28, 2020 at 3:15 pm

    With all due respect, the country, the people, the American people NEED the US Open. They need this despite there being no qualifying. I am bummed, along with the other 1,000’s that were going to try knowing they had little to no chance. But the good of the nation is more important right now than being pedantic about the word “Open.”. It is our national championship and the public wants to see if Tiger can win. If Phil can make one more charge against Father Time. Is this Speith’s redemption.

    The people have had to deal with a crippling shutdown. Kids are going hungry, 40M people have lost their jobs. Businesses that were open for generations will never open again because of the shutdown. It could take years before we are back to Normal. I think we could at least give this nation a distraction, a refuge from the reality of the world that is upside down right now. We’ve taken away, the American people have lost so much, why take this away too just because of the word “open.” Is that where we are now? We’re so pure that if it can’t be “open” to all qualifiers, NONE OF WHOM WILL WIN, then no one gets to play?

    • Dennis Clark

      May 29, 2020 at 12:50 pm

      I see your point but a “the country” may be too broad of a description. 90% of this country does not play or care much about golf. 3 million watched the Open last year, 100 million the super bowl. So whether we hold the Open or not, is not necessarily a national spirit-lifter. For us in the golf community, absolutely. On average if you meet 10 people in the street, 9 of them don’t play golf. We are Jonesin…som I can’t wait. With a qualifier hopefully…

  10. Dennis Clark

    May 28, 2020 at 2:31 pm

    I am not discounting or minimizing the gravity of this pandemic. This was not my intention. And the fact that non exempt qualifiers have little to no chance had already been mentioned in the article. What I AM saying is if it is safe to play the event itself why is it unsafe to have qualifiers? And if it is unsafe, either cancel the event or rename it. Golf pales in comparison To this surreal crisis, but’s let’s not have one and not the other. Personally I think the Open should be canceled if there is no change in the crisis but the powers that be are unlikely to consider that option. So..

  11. J Mc

    May 28, 2020 at 1:37 pm

    Steve Jones was last winner to go through both stages of Q school. Plus there’s a lot more on the line for qualifiers than just winning the event. You can gain exemptions into other tournaments based on your finish, you can gain exemptions into other majors, gain an exemption into next year’s U.S. Open based on your finish, and you can also skip certain stages of qualifying school based on your finish. I’m not saying I agree that they should open qualifiers back up but at least don’t advertise it as a US open if it’s not open

  12. Joe Taylor

    May 28, 2020 at 12:39 pm

    Difference right now is the danger of traveling, the three winners cited were not at risk by entering the event. AOC, 100k dead is a hoax?

    • J Mc

      May 28, 2020 at 1:34 pm

      Doesn’t change the fact that it’s not an “Open”. I think the point of the article is either halve qualifying call it an “open” or don’t have qualifying and don’t call it an open just call it a USGA championship. Can’t call it an open when it’s not open, Can’t have it both ways

    • Dennis Clark

      May 28, 2020 at 2:22 pm

      Local qualifying is a drive in ones car. No flight.

  13. BG

    May 28, 2020 at 11:39 am

    I dont see why they cant do qualifiers. Here in Arizona courses last week were doing 200-400 rounds a day. Not to mention a albeit slower season than normal but still busy season of golf in Arizona. Golf hasnt slowed down much here and everything is ok.

    • BAV

      May 28, 2020 at 5:48 pm

      I’m hoping you’re just referring to the golf community being okay, and not in general terms in AZ??

      People can still play golf here but there are a lot of people who rely on the golf industry for their livelihoods that were laid off or let go with no return to normalcy in sight. I would imagine they wouldn’t agree with your “everything is ok” comment

  14. Mike

    May 28, 2020 at 11:32 am

    This is a once in a century virus. These are very unusual times and Dennis should just get off his high horse and relax. The odds are 99.8% that whoever wins in an exempt event would be the same winner if it was a true open event. Everyone has to make concessions this year and every aspect of life. Whether or not the U.S. Open is a true “Open” Should be very very low on the list of priorities.

  15. AOC

    May 28, 2020 at 11:23 am

    if they can play the us open , they can play the qualifiers. covid is the biggest hoax the world has seen

    • Emily Kayton

      May 28, 2020 at 1:57 pm

      My 57 healthy aunt died a painful from covid. You ignorant a hole.

      • Rory

        May 28, 2020 at 2:29 pm

        And my cousin died in a car crash, but I don’t see people wanting to make speed limits 5MPH despite the lives that would save. Worldwide COVID is responsible for about 1.5% of the deaths YTD. NOt sure that justifies the reaction it has received….

        • Pancho Villas cousin

          May 28, 2020 at 11:43 pm

          Preach Rory, PREACH!!! Kinda convenient this has become a giant political vomit fest right before an election?? (Thats about as far as this needs to go into politics too…)

      • Dennis Clark

        May 28, 2020 at 2:59 pm

        Very sorry for your loss, my deepest sympathies.

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: The softest forged irons you’ve never heard of and the Cobra RadSpeed hybrid!

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Ever heard of New Level Golf? If you are looking for wildly soft players irons, then you should check them out. The PF-1 blades and the PF-2 cavity backs are as soft as anything on the market right now. Great irons for skilled players.

The Cobra RadSpeed hybrid is a solid mid/high launching hybrid with a solid Cobra feel and sound. Pretty neutral-bias ball flight with only a slight draw.

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Opinion & Analysis

The future of club fitting is going virtual

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Thanks to technology, you can buy everything from custom-made suits to orthotics online without ever walking into a store or working in person with an expert.

Now, with the help of video and launch monitors, along with a deeper understanding of dynamics than ever before, club fitting is quickly going virtual too, and it’s helping golfers find better equipment faster!

What really took so long?

The real advancements started in the coaching world around a decade ago. What used to require heavy cameras and tripods now simply requires a phone and you have a high-definition slow-motion video that can be sent around the world in a matter of seconds.

Beyond video, modern launch monitors and their ability to capture data have quickly turned a guessing game of “maybe this will work” into a precision step-by-step process of elimination to optimize. When you combine video and launch monitor elements with an understanding of club fitting principles and basic biomechanics, you have the ability to quickly evaluate a golfer’s equipment and make recommendations to help them play better golf.

The benefits of virtual fitting

  • Any golfer with a phone and access to a launch monitor can get high-level recommendations from a qualified fitter.
  • Time and cost-saving to and from a fitter. (This seems obvious, but one of the reasons I personally receive so many questions about club fitting is because those reaching out don’t have access to fitting facilities within a reasonable drive)
  • It’s an opportunity to get a better understanding our your equipment from an expert.

How virtual fittings really work

The key element of a virtual fitting is the deep understanding of the available products to the consumer. On an OEM level, line segmentation makes this fairly straightforward, but it becomes slightly more difficult for brand-agnostic fitters that have so many brands to work with, but it also shows their depth of knowledge and experience.

It’s from this depth of knowledge and through an interview that a fitter can help analyze strengths and weaknesses in a player’s game and use their current clubs as a starting point for building a new set—then the video and launch monitor data comes in.

But it can quickly go very high level…

One of the fastest emerging advancements in this whole process is personalized round tracking data from companies like Arccos, which gives golfers the ability to look at their data without personal bias. This allows the golfer along with any member of their “team” to get an honest assessment of where improvements can be found. The reason this is so helpful is that golfers of all skill levels often have a difficult time being critical about their own games or don’t even really understand where they are losing shots.

It’s like having a club-fitter or coach follow you around for 10 rounds of golf or more—what was once only something available to the super-elite is now sitting in your pocket. All of this comes together and boom, you have recommendations for your new clubs.

Current limitations

We can’t talk about all the benefits without pointing out some of the potential limitations of virtual club fittings, the biggest being the human element that is almost impossible to replicate by phone or through video chat.

The other key factor is how a player interprets feel, and when speaking with an experienced fitter recently while conducting a “trial fitting” the biggest discussion point was how to communicate with golfers about what they feel in their current clubs. Video and data can help draw some quick conclusions but what a player perceives is still important and this is where the conversation and interview process is vital.

Who is offering virtual club fittings?

There are a lot of companies offering virtual fittings or fitting consultations over the phone. One of the biggest programs is from Ping and their Tele-Fitting process, but other companies like TaylorMade and PXG also have this service available to golfers looking for new equipment.

Smaller direct-to-consumer brands like New level, Sub 70, and Haywood Golf have offered these services since their inception as a way to work with consumers who had limited experience with their products but wanted to opportunity to get the most out of their gear and their growth has proven this model to work.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Why wedge mastery is so elusive

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I have conducted numerous surveys of golfers over my 40-year golf industry career, because I have always believed that if you want to know what people are thinking, you simply have to ask them.

As a gearhead for wedges and a wedge designer over the past 30 years, most of my research and analysis is focused on these short-range scoring clubs and how golfers use them. What this research continually tells me is that most golfers—regardless of handicap–consider the wedges the hardest clubs in the bag to master. That’s because they are. I would even go so far as to say that the difficulty of attaining mastery even extends to the best players in the world.

Watching the Genesis Open this past weekend, for example, it seemed like these guys were hitting wedge approaches on nearly every hole. And while there were certainly many shots that covered the flag—like Max Homa’s approach on 18–there were also a great number that came up woefully short. Not what you would expect when a top-tier tour professional has a sand or gap wedge in their hands.

The simple fact is that wedges are the most difficult clubs in our bags with which to attain consistent shotmaking mastery, and that is because of the sheer design of the clubhead itself. For clarity of this article, I’m talking about those full- or near full-swing wedge shots, not the vast variety of short greenside shots we all face every round. To get mastery of those shots (like the tour pros exhibit every week), you simply have to spend lots of time hitting lots of shots, experimenting and exploring different techniques. There are no shortcuts to a deadly short game.

But today I’m talking about those prime opportunities to score, when you have a full- or near-full swing wedge into a par-five or short par four. We should live for those moments, but all too often we find ourselves disappointed in the outcome.

The good news is that’s not always all your fault.

First of all, you must understand that every wedge shot is, in effect, a glancing blow to the ball because of the loft involved. With 50 to 60 degrees of loft—or even 45 to 48 degrees with a pitching wedge—the loft of the club is such that the ball is given somewhat of a glancing blow. That demands a golf swing with a much higher degree of precision in the strike than say, an 8-iron shot.

I have always believed that most golfers can improve their wedge play by making a slower-paced swing than you might with a longer iron. This allows you to be more precise in making sure that your hands lead the clubhead through impact, which is a must when you have a wedge in your hands. Without getting into too much detail, the heavier, stiffer shaft in most wedges does not allow this club to load and unload in the downswing, so the most common error is for the clubhead to get ahead of the hands before impact, thereby adding loft and aggravating this glancing blow. I hope that makes sense.
The other aspect of wedge design that makes consistent wedge distance so elusive is the distribution of the mass around the clubhead. This illustration of a typical tour design wedge allows me to show you something I have seen time and again in robotic testing of various wedges.

Because all the mass is along the bottom of the clubhead, the ideal impact point is low in the face (A), so that most of the mass is behind the ball. Tour players are good at this, but most recreational golfers whose wedges I’ve examined have a wear pattern at least 2-4 grooves higher on the club than I see on tour players’ wedges.

So, why is this so important?

Understand that every golf club has a single “sweet spot”–that pinpoint place where the smash factor is optimized—where clubhead speed translates to ball speed at the highest efficiency. On almost all wedges, that spot is very low on the clubhead, as indicated by the “A” arrow here, and robotic testing reveals that smash factor to be in the range of 1.16-1.18, meaning the ball speed is 16-18% higher than the clubhead speed.

To put that in perspective, smash factor on drivers can be as high as 1.55 or even a bit more, and it’s barely below that in your modern game improvement 7-iron. The fact is—wedges are just not as efficient in this measure, primarily because of the glancing blow I mentioned earlier.

But–and here’s the kicker–if you move impact up the face of a wedge just half to five-eights of an inch from the typical recreational golfer’s impact point, as indicated by the “B” arrow, smash factor on ‘tour design’ wedges can be reduced to as low as 0.92 to 0.95. That costs you 40 to 60 feet on a 90-yard wedge shot . . . because you missed “perfect” by a half-inch or less!

So, that shot you know all too well—the ball sitting up and caught a bit high in the face—is going fall in the front bunker or worse. That result is not all your fault. The reduced distance is a function of the diminished smash factor of the wedge head itself.

That same half-inch miss with your driver or even your game-improvement 7-iron is hardly noticeable.

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