I had the pleasure of working as a volunteer at The Barclays held on the Black Course at the Bethpage State Park. Getting up at 3:30am to assist set-up man" extraordinaire, Rich Roble, now with two US Opens and a FedEx Playoff under his belt.
Set-up at this level is a lesson in precision. Cut a level cup to the exact depth and replace the plug so that when passed over by a mower set at 0.085 it is neither high nor low. Any misstep and or inconsistency and you have provided the professional tour player with an excuse why they might perform less than perfect at a game that can NEVER be perfected - it's a set-up.
Anyone who paid attention to the tournament this week saw the progression of commentary by golfers. It began with a course record -7 set on Thursday with gentle mutterings of how "soft" the course played to be followed by another -6 on Friday morning. Leaders went into the weekend at -8 and the talk was that a dozen or more players would be double digit under par. Conditions were perfect for scoring for two days with little wind, friendly pins, 12 foot greens with mid 0.3s on the USGA Firmmeter, by any standard a firm and fast track.
With no rain in the forecast for the weekend, moisture meter in hand the course was brought to similar moisture and firmness. Instead of clouds we had a high dry sky, and contrary to Sir Nick Faldo's ridiculous commentary, firmness on some greens made it into the high 0.2s and most greens were in the 13 foot range, hardly beyond what most have played on an average tour course.
Sir Nick makes comments like "must be 17-18 feet on the Stimp", "this is reminding me of Shinnecock in '04, "Tiger this and Tiger that" and then I just want to run in the booth and take a three-wood to his head. I don't mind informed criticism but Sir Dufus in his snooty British accent never once spoke to anyone with the Tour or on the Grounds Crew. He was so bad, and I can't believe I am saying this, I was praying for some Johnny Miller "grain-talk".
Beyond Sir Nick the whining golfers like Ian Poulter decrying, also in a British accent, the inconsistency from day to day led me to conclude that we are victims of our own success. We set ourselves up for this by delivering conditions in a game played outdoors as if it were played in a dome. It's our fault. The whining that our golfers do at our own courses is because we have given them too much — it's one big set-up!
It is a great analogy that I have been part of the "set-up" crew in the golf turf industry for most of my adult life. As a part of a team that delivered tournament quality conditions for a weekend at the end of August in the New York City area I felt the sting of what many of you feel every weekend at your course. I am here to tell you it doesn't sound any better with an English accent. Whining is whining.