You turned a great contest into the "Who Gives A S***? contest. The idea was to see if an amateur could break 100 at the Open under the same conditions as the MEN who play in it. And what did Peggy Ference prove to anyone this year? Maybe next year you can pick a homeless person. Wouldn't that be a warm and fuzzy story. Nice job on ruining a great idea. What was the point of having a woman out there using tees that aren't even close to anything we see on TV? There is a Woman's U.S. Open in case you haven't heard of it. A giant YAWN on this years contest.Denny Heatherly, Orland Park, IL
I've heard similar opinion, expressed with a bit more finesse, on other blogs. The idea seems to be that Golf Digest, determined to be politically correct, chose a woman as winner this year, despite the fact no woman could ever possibly break 100 from the back tees. Here's the deal. We have, in the course of three years conducting this contest, had one woman among fourteen finalists: none in year one, none in year two, one this year. That woman, a very good player who hits the ball about 225 yards and straight, captured 37 per cent of the public vote--you're part of that public, Denny--to win. She failed to break 100, just as the two men before her had. Indeed, her score, 118, is very close to that of John Atkinson's, 114, in year one. One can argue, and I will because I was at all three events, that conditions this year were the most brutal of the three because the rough was most severe, because the wind blew harder, especially on incoming holes where it cost the amateurs most, and because elements of the setup, including the unruly fescue growing on the edges of bunkers, made it the most difficult Challenge yet. Certainly, the scores of the other players bear this out. Only one, Mark Wahlberg, broke 100. Drew Brees, a fine player with a handicap index of 4.5, shot 102. Wayne Gretzky, handicap index 10.6, shot 100 on the nose. In year one, two celebs broke 100; in year two, three did. Those men played a course rated at 76.3/149. Peggy played a course rated 82.7/155. From those tees she was a 12--the outer limit of golfers with potential to break 100.
Peggy's biggest problem was the forced carries. The distances to the fairways from the tees at holes 2, 3, 9, 13 and 14 were insurmountable. (We played the course from the back a couple days before and a career drive of about 250 yards barely got me to the fairway at 13). She was left, on those holes and others, in deep rough that cost her not one but sometimes several shots to get back to the fairway. But the fact remains that Peggy Ference had the ability to break 100 had she played her other shots as well as she's capable. She would have had to be nearly flawless on those shots--to, around and on the greens--and she didn't come close.
That said, I'm pretty sure that, given the conditions that day, none of our other finalists would have broken 100 either. It was that difficult. Some writers have said that they thought the USGA may have toughened things up in this year's Challenge, brought it closer to real Open conditions, because last year all three celebrities-- Justin Timberlake, Ben Roethlesberger and Michael Jordan--all shot in the 80s. I don't know. I only know that this was the most difficult Challenge yet.
And Peggy, not on her game that day, paid the price.
Please, watch the show on Sunday. Tell us if you think that our foursome's high scores resulted from political correctness. Or simply the most monstrous Open set up in years.