Nine-time major winner Gary Player labelled this week’s US Open the “most unpleasant” tournament he has ever seen as Rory McIlroy tried to boost his chances of winning it for a second time.
McIlroy was among the early starters in the third round at Chambers Bay having only made the cut by a single shot, the world number one four-putting the 17th in a second consecutive 72 on Friday.
‘You don’t bring the US Open to courses like this. This is devastating’
That left the four-time major winner nine shots off the lead shared by Ryder Cup partners Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed and the gap was down to seven when McIlroy birdied the second and seventh. However, the 26-year-old failed to take advantage of the par-five eighth, lipped out from three feet for birdie on the 10th and then three-putted the 11th to drop back to three over par.
The course has come in for heavy criticism in some quarters, with Spieth calling the 18th “a dumb hole” when played as a par four and Ryder Cup team-mate Lee Westwood said most players were “too afraid” to say what they thought about the course in public.
However, on the 50th anniversary of his sole US Open victory at Bellerive, Player was not so reticent and laid the blame at the door of course designer Robert Trent Jones Jr.
“We’re playing the US Open, this great championship, but this has been the most unpleasant golf tournament I’ve seen in my life,” Player, 79, told Golf Channel. “The man who designed this golf course had to have one leg shorter than the other.
“It is hard to believe that a man can miss the green by one yard and the ball ends up 50 yards down in the rough. This is a public course where we are trying to encourage people to come and play and get more playing the game. They are having a putt from 20 feet and they are allowing 20 feet right and 20 feet left.
“You don’t bring the US Open to golf courses like this. This is devastating. To see a man miss the green by one yard and end up 50 yards down there, caddies falling and hurting their ankles and knees, players falling... this is terrible.
“It’s actually a tragedy – 7,900 yards long. An average golfer playing this course, a 15 or 16 handicap, he is going to shoot 110 and not go home a very happy man.
“We have to make golf quicker and more enjoyable. We are going about it the wrong way. They are building these crazy courses as a defence against the ball going too far. We have to cut the ball back.
“You have got to give the architect the blame. It’s impossible to play these golf courses. Did you see how these pros were three putting one after the other? Sergio (Garcia) three-putted the 18th to make the cut.
“I tell you, there have never been so many people to miss the cut that are so happy to go home.”
In response, Jay Blasi – one of the design team behind Chambers Bay – wrote on Twitter: “Greatly respect @garyplayer and agree with many of his goals for golf but he is uninformed as it relates to @ChambersBayGolf #studyfirst.”
Chambers Bay played to 7,695 yards in the second round, making it the longest course in US Open history. The front nine on Friday measured 4,020 yards, another record, although 16 players were under par after 36 holes, the most since 2011 at Congressional.
Colin Montgomerie, Ian Poulter and Garcia were among the 15 players to survive for the weekend when amateur Nick Hardy bogeyed his final hole on Friday to move the cut to five over, with Montgomerie carding a third round of 72, Garcia shooting 70 and Poulter level par with three holes to play.
Westwood, who began his round with two bogeys to lie four over, said his main criticism was the altering of par on the first and 18th, adding on Sky Sports 4: “I don’t see the reason for jiggling it around.
“This is the first time I have ever known them change par fours into par fives.
“The 18th is a great par five and the first is a great par four, so today’s set-up is how the golf course should be played.
“Most players are too afraid to say what they think. We are living in a PC (politically correct) world and you can’t possess an opinion, but if you put a camera in the locker room you would hear a few things you are not hearing in public.”