SCOTLAND’S Martin Laird last night finished the 113th US Open with a round of 68 and some strident criticism of tournament organisers for making players “look like idiots” with “ridiculous” pin positions.
Laird improved from 13 to 11 over at Merion, which had been feared too short by modern standards at under 7,000 yards but saw just one player – five-time runner-up Phil Mickelson – under par after 54 holes. The USGA are renowned for setting up US Open courses with narrow fairways, thick rough and fast greens but Laird feels they went too far in trying to protect a course which had not staged the event since 1981.
“From 14 on is the hardest finish in golf I’ve ever played,” said Laird, who won the Texas Open ahead of Rory McIlroy earlier this year thanks to a closing 63.
“It really is just brutal,” he added. “There’s out of bounds in play on a couple of the holes – it’s 250-yard par threes with pins that are on slopes.” Asked if he enjoys the challenge, Laird added: “I enjoy it now that it’s over and I have shot two-under in the final round, but I’ll be honest, I do not. I think that they push the envelope a little too far in the first few rounds.
“I’m all for hard set-ups, but a few of the pin positions get a little ridiculous. And it’s a tough week. It really is just a [case of] survival out here.
“US Opens beat you up from the first tee to the last. And it can make you look like an idiot sometimes and sometimes that’s hard to handle. I can maybe see why some people [spectators] would like it. Definitely it brings us all back down to earth from normally thinking that 15 under par is a good score at a tournament, and it definitely brings you back down to earth when you come to a US Open.
“And if they’re aiming to test all aspects of your game, they definitely do that.”
The anniversary of his last major victory proved an unhappy one for Tiger Woods yesterday, who finished at 13 over par. Five years to the day since he beat Rocco Mediate in a play-off at Torrey Pines to claim his 14th major title, Woods carded a closing 74 at Merion to post his worst total score in a major as a professional.
“There’s always a lesson to be learned in every tournament whether you win or lose. I’ll look back at the things I did right and the things I did wrong,” said Woods. “I did a lot of things right. Unfortunately I did a few things wrong, as well. I’m sorry that the golf wasn’t what I would have liked but it was a fantastic atmosphere, the people were into it. Obviously there weren’t as many people as some of the US Open sites, but this was I think more intimate. People were very close to you.
Merion had not hosted a US Open since 1981 but Woods added: “I’m sure it will come back… I think that overall as a golf course, yes, it can be played. They move the tees back and they give us some pretty tough pins. But certainly it could definitely host another major championship. But I don’t know if the USGA wants to, they make a lot of money on other venues.”