June 15, 2009

Ready, Set, Stop Complaining

Have issues with U.S. Open courses? Bethpage Black in particular? We've heard them all before

Every contestant at this week's U.S. Open is being put on notice. No whining, sniveling, complaining, lambasting, criticizing or chastising the course setup, the conditions in general, or anything that makes you sound like you hail from the Land of Lost Perspective.

It's supposed to be hard. It's supposed to be a little ridiculous, actually, because marshmallows aren't supposed to win our national championship, not unless the pumpkin remains a carriage long past midnight.

Good luck, play hard and save your energy—there's a good chance you'll need it. Bethpage Black is a big, bad municipal built on stern principle, the only golf course I know where a danger sign is posted on the walk to the first tee. If it was meant to be a pushover, they would have called it Bethpage Pink.

Besides, this isn't your grandfather's U.S. Open, or even your Uncle Charlie's, not since Mike Davis took over as the USGA's Guy in Charge in 2005. Davis has a more practical and commercially friendly idea of how the tournament should be presented, a lighter touch on the competitive dials and a bit of compassion for Joe Tour Pro. He also knows the Black is a beast without the eye shadow, leather jacket and spiked heels.

If you're under par late Sunday afternoon at Bethpage, you'll find yourself with premium leader-board real estate and Tiger Woods living next door. Woods doesn't gripe about silly pins or hack-it-out rough. Jack Nicklaus knew that half the field vanished before anyone started keeping score, their premature departures expedited by a negative attitude.

The biggest prizes go to those who find the fewest surprises, and if you're mentally prepared for a U.S. Open, you won't encounter anything you haven't had to deal with in the past. That's another thing about complaints. We've heard them all before, too.

For more of John Hawkins' opinionated insight, watch the "Grey Goose 19th Hole," Wednesdays at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET on the Golf Channel.