Me, I like pullingthe legs off spiders. I eat my sack lunch at the Discount Surgery Center, justto hear the wails. I'm the guy yelling up to the man on the ledge, "Just doit!"
But nothing evergave me as much joy as last week's U.S. Open at Winged Foot Country Club, wherethere was more silent screaming than on Mime Night at the tattoo parlor. God,it was delicious!
Pros worth $50million were hitting full shots two feet. Studs with jets were flubbing chipshots that would roll back into their own divots. Legends were biting theirputters in half. Nothing's been this much fun since the days of the KGB.
This wasn't anOpen. It was an open wound. Nobody won it. The USGA finally just gave up andhanded the trophy to the only guy who wasn't curled up in a ball--somebodynamed Geoff Ogilvy. He looked shocked, like the one millionth customer at thedrugstore who suddenly gets handed the keys to a Cadillac. The schmo shot fiveover par! Five over doesn't win the Walla Walla City Championship! Fact is,five over doesn't even make the cut on Tour.
Bodies wereeverywhere. Phil Mickelson needed a par on the last hole to win the tournament.A bogey would've gotten him into a playoff. He made a double bogey. Hecollapsed like a cardboard wind tunnel. He looked as if somebody had replacedall his blood with Metamucil. He kept repeating, "I can't believe I justdid that."
Golf is cruel. Itwill hold you upside down and shake you by your heels until all your dignityfalls out. Mickelson had dreamed of winning an Open since he was a boy,practiced thousands of hours for it--and visited Winged Foot so many times thatthey nearly charged him membership dues. And then he came to the big moment andplayed like a diseased yak.
On the fifth hole,with his ball in rough high enough to hide Corey Pavin, New Phil morphed backinto Old Phil and tried to slap it out heroically with a four-wood. Trying tohit a fairway wood out of six-inch rough is like trying to suck a basketballthrough a clarinet. Mickelson whaled at the ball with all his might. It wenttwo feet. I could've hit it at least three.
It only got worse.Mickelson hit two--two!--fairways the entire day. A man in an iron lung couldhit two. Yet Mickelson kept hitting driver, every tee shot, when even thestrippers in Yonkers knew he should be hitting three-wood. Why didn't he?Because his three-wood wasn't in his bag. It was in his car trunk. In hisintensive preparation, he decided to add a fourth wedge and take out thethree-wood. Oops!
On 17 his driveended up inside a garbage bag. Lefty was now Hefty. He turned 18 into a kind ofRube Goldberg contraption--off the hospitality tent, off the tree, into afried-egg lie in the bunker, across the green, back into the rough, eight feetpast the hole, into the cup for six--his only double of the week. It was theworst collapse in a U.S. Open since Sam Snead made a last-hole 8 in 1939.
But at leastMickelson lost his Open dreams in the rough. Colin Montgomerie lost his fromthe middle of the fairway. He too could've won the tournament with a simplepar, and he too made a double bogey. At age 43, Montgomerie blew his best--andmaybe his last--chance to win a major. "Really," he said afterward,looking like he might want to find something sharp to poke in his eyes,"you wonder why you put yourself through this."
Hey, I'm notpicking on just the superstars. I enjoy watching any pro play like me. PadraigHarrington, the Irish wiz, could have and should have won this Open. But onSaturday he made a triple-bogey 7 on the 18th that featured a 15-yard dribblerfrom the rough. Massive swat at it. Fifteen yards. Bad out. Three-putt. Thanksfor stopping by the booth.
Even JimFuryk--the guy who swings as if he's trapped in his car with a bee--missed aputt no longer than his arm on his final hole. And then the truth hit him."I think that just cost me a shot at a playoff," he said, the wordscoming out of his mouth like lead matzo balls.
But nobody neededto bathe in Bactine more than Mickelson, who apologized to his fans, thenguessed he'd probably spend the next three days in bed.
As for Monty, hesighed and said, "I look forward to coming back next year to try anotherU.S. Open disaster."
Lord, I just can'twait.
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At last week's U.S. Open, there was more silentscreaming than on Mime Night at the tattoo parlor. God, it was delicious!Legends were biting their putters in half.
RIFFS of REILLY
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PETER READ MILLER