Be advised, USGA: The people want carnage, and we want it now

The best players in the world are struggling at Pinehurst No. 2. It's possible they're not struggling enough

Gregory Shamus

PINEHURST, N.C.‚— There was a heartbreaking video that emerged Friday morning featuring an innocent youth—at least I think he's innocent—carrying out an egregious order at the behest of some heartless superior. It would be cruel and unusual to make you bear witness again by embedding it here, but in short—I hope you're sitting down—he was watering the green.

At Pinehurst.

On a day with temperatures expected to rise to 100 degrees.

To slow the course. To put it in shackles. To tether it like a bowed oxen to the plow of easy golf.

The history of planet Earth is rife with suffering and sadness, but this bit of horror was not only shocking to the sensibilities; it was eminently avoidable. Leading into the week, we heard nothing but dire predictions about the conditions at Pinehurst No. 2, and how danger and pain awaited the players in the vicious Sandhills. In other words, hope was dangled before us, and it was salutary, heartening.

We basked in the grim possibilities, because, deep down, the suffering of professionals is electrifying. It allows us to dip into our darkest impulses, but indulge them in a harmless way. Nobody actually gets hurt. People still make money. But along the way, the game that we all know has malice in its black heart turns, for once, on its greatest practitioners, and brings them low, down from the demigod empyrean to the harsh terra firma, where we can recognize their humanity and rejoice in the agonies of the fall. We want the emotional terror of putts trickling maddeningly off greens; of faultless drives careening from fairways into the capricious prison of the aristida stricta; of bull-seye irons landing a foot to the wrong side of a Rossian turtleback and bouncing merrily toward perdition. More than that, we want their sighs, their groans, their heads-thrown-back imploring gazes into the heavens they left behind. We want their resignation—Phil raking a moving putt—and we want their plaintive cries—"they've lost the course."

Brother, the pines whisper back, the course is not lost. You are lost.

Instead, on Thursday, we got Patrick Cantlay shooting the best round of his U.S. Open life. We got Rory McIlory sauntering around without making a single bogey. We had a full 15 human beings under par. You know how many people finished under par at this same course in 2014? Three. In 1999? One. In 2005? ZERO. And you allowed 15 of them to break par in a single day? After the false promise of torment?


Ross Kinnaird

A disgrace. A dereliction. You, by jove, are the UNITED STATES GOLF ASSOCIATION. Your job is not to cater to the warriors; your job is to break them. To flog them into submission, to hear their lamentations. If not you, who? The PGA Tour? They're routinely jetting past 20 under over there! The Masters? They don't care about suffering; they care about prestige. The R&A? Their courses were tough 150 years ago, but now you can drive every par-5 with a niblick. The PGA of America? Who? Who? LIV Golf? They play 54 holes! They strut about in shorts, damn you, high on the hog, the cocks of the walk!

You are the last fortress before the abyss of permanent ease. You are the dust that swirls into a typhoon with paradise in sight. You are the wicked winds that pull Odysseus from fair Ithaca. Golf is the story; you are the conflict. Without you, there is no twist, and the page remains unturned.

In your arsenal this week, you stand ready to deploy the Carolina pine barrens, a dread inferno hospitable to neither man nor beast (and barely plant). This is your playground, and your chamber, and the stage on which you will afflict the mighty and the vain. To have such a weapon in your grasp and fail to use it would be tragic malpractice, and yet we are on the brink of that very failure.

The ship is moving, but you're asleep at the wheel. As we watch late on Friday afternoon, with dusk fast approaching, the course has played even easier than a day ago. Ludvig Aberg is missing fewer fairways than Calvin Peete in a cow pasture. Thomas Detry treated your greens like a fancy-free sojourn through a Belgian tulip patch. Rory tried his usual Friday wobble, but the course didn’t have the guts to obliterate him. Even Tyrrell Hatton can’t find anything to be mad about. The ranks of the under par have swelled to 16. Bryson DeChambeau appeared on television, and he was smiling.

The big lad was smiling. He was laughing. He was laughing at YOU.

It is not too late. Believe me, this could still be your finest hour. The land abets. The mercury is rising, triple digits beckon. Even today, with the projected suffering of the afternoon wave palpable, we had a dash of attrition. And we can have more! There is not a drop of water on the forecast. The loblolly pines quiver with silent menace. The land itself crackles and browns, ready to do its awful work.

Unleash hell, USGA. Unleash havoc. Keep the water in the tank, and let the malevolent sun spread its woe. These people, these players? They don't need coddling. They need to be brought low before our eyes. We are the ravenous mob, they are the gladiators, but you...