Editors' BlogApril 23, 2008

US Open Contest Finalists

I love this letter from Stewart Thomson of Newport Beach, California. In it he reports on a pre-test of the whole US Open contest: Can a 10-handicap golfer break 100 on the Open course under Open conditions?

Like several contestants in the US Open contest, Stewart offered, in his essay, to make a contribution to charity (Tiger Woods Foundation) for every stroke over 100, if he were the Average Joe picked to play Torrey Pines. Though not chosen as a finalist, he decided to determine just how much he would have spent by going to Torrey Pines and playing the course. Here's his report:

Thank you for not picking my entry, where I pledged $1,000 to the Tiger Woods Foundation for every stroke over 100.  I thought this would cost me about $10,000 and after playing TP South yesterday with our club's Senior Group, I believe you saved me some money! I maintain that a 10-handicap player will not break 100.  Our tournament rules yesterday were white tees (1,000 yards less than the black tees), ESC to speed up play, and if a ball is lost in the rough, drop a ball, so the conditions were far from the official rules.  My group was a 7, 9, 10 and 13 handicap and we shot 86, 86, 98 and 98 respectively.  Except for the 9, we all lost balls in the rough, although I expect you will have spotters and caddies to help for searches, which we did not have.  Also, the rough was more penal than it will be for the Open as the USGA is letting the rough grow longer now, so that they can cut it to even heights before the tournament.  Lastly, the greens were not as fast as they will be in June.

Based on yesterday's play, our 9, who hit a very straight ball and probably only was saved one or two strokes by ESC, would be closest to your standard, but in my estimation would not break 100 under your playing rules.  Based on his play yesterday, it would be very close.  The secret key is to stay out of the rough, which he did on all but 4 holes.

I appreciate the difficulty in your selecting the five finalists, but to be fair, a 4.7, 6.4 and someone without an index do not qualify, in my opinion, so I have voted for John and I hope he wins, although he will be very disappointed when he hits his 100th stroke on 17!

Interesting comment about your choice among the finalists. John Atkinson is leading by a considerable margin at this point. John's popularity is certainly due in part to his brave fight against cancer and the wonderfully positive approach he's taken to talking about it. But I'm coming to believe that another reason people have voted for John is that his handicap is closest to the 10 to which Tiger referred when he said a 10 couldn't break 100 at last year's Open course. John's course handicap, were he to be chosen, would be more than 10, actually; probably 11 or 12.

For the record, all of the finalists have handicaps. We estimate their Torrey Pines course handicaps will range from 8 for Erik Norton and Matt Rice to 12 for Phil Dembure and John Atkinson. The precise number will depend on the rating of the course in Open condition, which will happen soon.

Thanks for the detailed report, Stewart. And, um, feel free to make that contribution anyway....

--Bob Carney

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