U.S. Open 2019: West Coast U.S. Opens are underrated, and we need more of them
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — I was lucky enough to be on the grounds at the 2019 U.S. Open, and looking out the beautiful, glistening Pacific Ocean on Sunday afternoon, I began wondering: Why don’t we host more majors out here?
Admittedly, I’ve been on this train for a while, but for good reason. Just think about what transpired this week.
In a year where Gary Woodland, a relative no-name for sports fans who aren’t intently focused on the PGA Tour, unspectacularly converted his 54 hole lead into a U.S. Open trophy, with Tiger Woods non-existent during the final round, the tournament clocked it’s highest TV ratings in six years.
That, of course, was partly result of the time difference pushing the broadcast into prime time viewing, but that in itself is a positive. It puts golf in front of more people, and the diehard fans don’t have to sacrifice their entire weekend to watch golf. They can go play beforehand first, and then watch golf!
Nobody complained about the course all week. There wasn’t even the slightest whiff of a weather delay. The potential of darkness halting play should there be a playoff was a laughable idea. Crowds were great. Logistics were great. And we got it all on the serene cliffs of Pebble Beach.
Think about what a stark contrast all that is when the U.S. Open — or any major, for that matter — is contested on the east coast. The championship courses, as iconic as they are, almost always cause headaches one way or the other. The humidity during the summer means storms, making weather delays a constant threat. Darkness, too, because the leaders tee off so late in a desperate attempt to almost-but-not-really push them into prime time.
Many of the courses are so old that they often need to be tricked-up in order to provide the test the USGA wants. Think Shinnecock last year, or Merion before that (yes, Chambers Bay faced the same criticisms, but I’m giving it a pass because it was the USGA’s first time hosting a major there, and the tournament itself was thrilling).
And because these tracks were built so long ago, the logistics aren’t always the best for fans.
Yet for some reason, golf fans seem to have a collective urge to justify every one West Coast U.S. Open with a handful of east coast ones. It goes to Torrey, but it’s at Winged Foot and the Country Club on either side of it. We get to experiment with Los Angeles Country Club, and we go right back to Pinehurst, Oakmont, and Shinnecock.
This is obviously nothing against those courses. They’re all brilliant tracks that deserve to host U.S. Opens. Oakmont is, in my mind, the quintessential U.S. Open track, and a stout test that has stood the test of time. It wouldn’t feel like a U.S. Open if it didn’t visit that legendary course on a regular basis. The ratios just need to be flipped around. For every Oakmont and Pinehurst, we get the Olympic, Torrey, and Pebble rota.
In this day and age, it’s what makes the most sense. The U.S. Open is more than just a golf course. It’s an entire infrastructure, and the West Coast is the most suited place to host it.
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