Tag: USGA

2022 U.S. Open: Rory Riding High for Battle in Brookline

Rory Hitting Stride for U.S. Open

With his impressive performance at the Canadian Open, it appears that Rory McIlroy is firing on all cylinders in pursuit of his fifth major championship heading into the U.S. Open. Unlike the PGA Championship where he opened with a magnificent 65 and then glided through the second and third rounds with 71 and 74 before finishing with a solid 68 (8th place), Rory kept his foot firmly on the gas from beginning to end last week, with rounds of 66, 68, and 65 before closing with a sizzling 62 (19 under total). Justin Thomas, brimming with confidence in the wake of his second major championship victory at the PGA, refused to make it easy for Rory in the final round, however. Thomas began the day 2 shots back of Rory at 9 under, and after reeling off six straight birdies from 6 through 11 and adding another at 14, he got to 17 under—within a shot of Rory’s lead. When McIlroy fanned his tee shot into the bunker on the par 3 16th and made bogey, they were tied going to the last two holes—and Rory had a downcast look about him as he left the green that’s been all too common in recent years.

By the time he reached the 17th tee Rory had gathered himself and, deciding to let the big dog eat, unleashed a 367-yard bomb that left only a wedge from 127 yards. He then stiffed his approach to 2 feet, and tapped in for birdie. When Thomas faltered with a bogey, Rory carried a 2-shot lead going to the last. At 18 he ripped another 300+ yard drive to the right fairway, once again stiffing his approach (4 feet this time), and tapped in for birdie and his second consecutive Canadian Open Championship.

When Rory kicks it up a notch in the face of a full-on stress test applied by the reigning PGA Champ, it should give the field at The Country Club something to ponder and have golf fans chomping at the bit.

Scottie Scheffler, Justin Thomas and John Rahm

The Contenders

Rory certainly looks to be in full control of his game, and it will be shocking if he is not among the leaders come Sunday. He will have a monumental task ahead though, because the field for the 2022 U.S. Open may be the deepest ever assembled for a golf championship. In addition to the red-hot Thomas, Scottie Scheffler, reigning Masters Champion, is at the top of his game as well—and no doubt casting a keen eye toward backing up his win at Augusta with another major championship. The most dangerous player in the field, however, may be Jon Rham. The career numbers Rham has put up on the PGA Tour thus far are eye-popping, and he is past due for his second major. In 120 starts, Jon has finished in the Top 10 an astounding 49% of the time—the highest of any player in the field. In addition, he’s made the cut in 90% of the events he’s entered—so he’s rarely off his game.

Although Jordan Spieth missed the cut at The Masters, he’s recorded a Top 10 in 3 of his last 5 starts, including a win at The Heritage, a runner-up at the Byron Nelson, and a T7 at the Charles Schwab Challenge. With 3 major championships on his resume, Jordan knows how to close under pressure—and his putter is second to none. Although Collin Morikawa has been treading water while making cuts since his strong finish at the Masters (5th), his driving accuracy and precision iron play is exactly what the USGA looks for in an Open Champ.

Jordan Spieth and Collin Morikawa

Based on his dismal season thus far, one might assume that Brooks Koepka will be lacking confidence when he tees it up at the 2022 U.S. Open today. Don’t count on it. After missing the cut as an amateur back in 2012, Koepka, has played the Open 7 times—recording 2 wins (back-to-back in 2017 and 2018), a runner up (2019), 2 T4’s (2014 and 2021) as well as a T13 in 2016 and a T18 in 2015. Koepka lives for major championship golf, and a win this week would go a long way toward healing the pain of yet another injury-plagued season. Perhaps, Tiger-like, he’ll summon a great performance with sheer will and fortitude.

Based on his uninspired performance at the LIV event in London, and with money no longer an incentive, it will be interesting to see what Dustin Johnson brings to the table at the Open. With so few opportunities to achieve anything meaningful in golf going forward, perhaps Dustin will make a statement. It would seem unlikely, but the talent is still there.

Young Guns: Sungjae Im, Joaquin Niemann and Victor Hoveland

The 2022 U.S. Open will also feature a host of mega-talented young stars on the verge of breaking loose at a major—and you can be assured a few will appear on the leaderboard as the championship rolls into the weekend. Will Zalatoris has already recorded 4 Top-10 finishes at major championships in only his second season on Tour, and 24-year-old Victor Hoveland has recorded 3 Tour wins while making the cut in 58 of the 64 events he’s played (91%). Sungjae Im, also 24 years old, has recorded 23 Tour Top-10’s, including 2 wins and a T8 at Augusta in April. Joaquin Niemann, 23 years old, has racked up 21 Top-10’s including 2 wins, and 25-year-old Sam Burns has already notched 4 wins on Tour (3 wins in 2022).

With McIlroy, Thomas, and Scheffler at the top of their game, and so many bright young stars who are poised to burst through at a major, this U.S. Open promises to be memorable indeed—and we are in for a spectacular weekend of golf.

Share this Article:

Understanding Course Rating and Slope

Know the Slope

If you’ve ever been on a golf trip, at some point while sitting down to a nice dinner and drinks with the group, the conversation below has no doubt taken place.

Somebody asks; “Where are we playing tomorrow?”

The trip organizer, sporting a big grin says; “Shiny Bauble—has a Slope of 147.”

Which is immediately met by a universal chorus of approval and excitement, with comments like:

“Wow, 147 Slope–must be a great course,” and “Oh boy, this is going be fun”.

These sentiments may certainly be justified for the low handicap players in the group, but for the 18-handicap golfer—not necessarily so. If Handicap Index alone is used when playing their matches, and not Course Handicap adjusting for the high slope, chances are pretty good that the high handicapper will end up losing a few bucks (and absorb some battle scars as well).

Be prepared

The Slope Myth

Slope Rating is one of the most misunderstood concepts in golf, and figuring out how it’s derived is an even bigger mystery. Most assume the higher the slope, the harder the course—and also that there’s a relationship between slope and quality. There is some truth in both of these assumptions, but a high slope does not mean tougher for everybody, only that average and higher handicap players will have more difficulty shooting the score they are used to than low handicap players.

As for quality, course characteristics that increase slope, such as an abundance of trees and steep faced bunkers, certainly tend to make a course more visually appealing—but also require heavy maintenance, adding a financial strain that may make it difficult for a facility to sustain over-all course conditioning (particularly during tough economic times).

Defining The Slope Rating

One of the things that makes golf so much fun is that regardless of skill level, everyone can compete on an even footing by using their Handicap Index. Handicap Index is derived by comparing the scores you have posted to a course of “Standard” difficulty. The critical element, however, is your Course Handicap. Course Handicap is based on the difficulty of the course you are playing at any given time—so each course is rated by state golf associations to provide that piece of the equation.

Because the characteristics that make a course harder for an “every-day” golfer are not necessarily the same as those that make it difficult for a highly skilled player, the World Rating System provides both a “Course Rating” and a “Bogey Rating.” The Course Rating reflects the projected score that a “scratch” player (0 Handicap) would be expected to shoot, while the Bogey Rating refers to the projected score that an “every-day” golfer (18 handicap) would be expected to shoot—and “Slope Rating” is the difference between the two.

TPC Sawgrass

If the Course Rating System determines that on a course of standard difficulty the scratch player should expect to shoot 72 and 18-handicap golfers should expect to shoot 90, the Course Rating is set at 72.0, the Bogey Rating is set at 90—with a Slope Rating of 113. The Slope rating moves up or down based on the difference between Course Rating and Bogey Rating. If a course includes characteristics that would cause the “every-day” golfer to shoot higher scores, but have less effect on a scratch player, then the Bogey Rating goes up while the Course Rating stays roughly the same—which results in a higher Slope Rating.

For example, a course may have a 340-yard Par 4 where the tee shot needs to fly at least 240 yards to clear a water hazard before reaching the fairway (“forced carry”). The scratch player’s tee shot will generally clear the water with ease and leave a short approach, so it’s a pretty easy hole. On the other hand, a high handicap golfer might hit a bucket of balls and never get his tee shot over the water—so for him it’s a nightmare. A hole like this may cause the Course Rating to actually decrease, while pushing the Bogey Rating way up—increasing the spread between them, and making the Slope Rating go higher.

If you don’t Adjust for Slope

Leveling The Field

The purpose of Slope Rating is to adjust the handicap of any golfer who is not a “scratch” (0 Handicap) player, and thus level the field–not as a measure of over-all course difficulty. If Handicap Index is used alone, without adjusting for Course Handicap, the lower handicap golfer will almost always gain an advantage—and the higher the Slope, the bigger that advantage will be. To adjust your Handicap Index for Course Handicap, you can use the formula below–or visit the USGA website and go to the “Handicap Calculator” (in addition, the Course Rating and Slope Database now includes the ability to enter your Handicap Index and see your Course Handicap for the particular course you are playing).  

Course Handicap = Handicap Index × (Slope Rating ÷113) + (Course Rating-Par)

If you have a Handicap Index of 18, playing against a scratch player on a track with a Course Rating of 72 and a Slope Rating of 147, your Course handicap will adjust to 23, while the scratch player’s handicap remains at 0. If you use only Handicap Index, and not Course Handicap, your opponent will gain a 5 shot advantage—and it’s likely you’ll be forking over some cash.

The World Handicap System was implemented to even up the playing field for golfers of all skill levels, so be sure to use your Course Handicap when playing a match. And don’t count on the wily low handicap golfer to volunteer the adjustment—he’s looking forward to settling up at the 19th hole.

Share this Article:

2020 U.S. Amateur Championship

Bandon Dunes Golf Resort was the site of the 2020 U.S. Amateur Championship
Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, OR

The 2020 U.S Amateur, one of the most memorable in history, was staged at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Bandon, Oregon. Twenty-two-year old Tyler Strafaci, a senior at Georgia Tech narrowly defeated nineteen-year-old Charles “Ollie” Osborne, a sophomore at Southern Methodist University. Although I consider myself a golf fanatic (I follow both the PGA Tour as well as the Champions Tour pretty closely), the Amateur events never really piqued my interest—until now. In fact, I had never even watched a U.S. Amateur before, other than a highlight or two on golf channel. I know what you must be thinking–how can I call this one of the most memorable U.S. Amateurs in history, if it was the first one I’ve ever seen. Well, that would be a fair point, but I’ve watched the final round of nearly every major professional golf championship, whether it be live or on tape, and the final match of this U.S. Amateur was one of the most exciting displays of quality golf I have ever seen. My dad, who has seen many U.S. Amateurs, shared the same view. With the exception of perhaps the Stenson/Mickelson duel at Troon during the 2016 Open Championship, I’d say the final match at this year’s U.S. Amateur would be hard to beat.

The Format

The U.S. Amateur begins with 36 holes of stoke play on Monday and Tuesday and then moves to match play from Wednesday through Sunday. Normally, non-professionals with a handicap index of 2.4 or better qualify for the tournament at a variety of venues around the country to fill out a field of 312 players, but this year COVID-19 forced the USGA to cancel qualifying and instead use the World Amateur Golf Rankings to determine a field of 264 players. The stroke play portion is similar to what you see every week on the PGA tour, where players tee it up and try to make the lowest score they can. Once the stroke play portion of the tournament is completed, the 64 players with lowest score are seeded based on score and advance to match play. Match play is where the excitement begins to build, with players going head to head in a format where if you lose your match, you go home. In match play, each hole stands alone and you either win it or lose it, regardless of the score you make. The first day includes 32 matches with the winners moving on to the next round on Thursday. The field is cut in half each day until two players remain to compete in the final on Sunday, a 36-hole pressure packed head to head battle of wills where grit and determination is more important than talent alone.

The Highlights

There were plenty of high points throughout the tournament, but one particular moment stands out, demonstrating the pressure of the U.S. Amateur and the heartbreak that it can include. It came during the third round between Tyler Strafaci and Segundo Oliva Pinto, in a match that was closely contested throughout. They came to the par 5 eighteenth hole with the match all square, and Pinto put his third shot into the green side bunker. Strafaci was just short of the green, looking at a lengthy birdy opportunity, so it was critical that Pinto make a good bunker shot and save his par—no easy task with many of the damp, windswept bunkers at Bandon Dunes. Caught up in the moment, and in an effort to go the extra mile for his player, Pinto’s caddie jumped down into the bunker and tested the sand with his fingers so he could give him an idea of how firm it was. Unfortunately, touching the sand is a rules infraction and the penalty is loss of hole, and in this case loss of match as well because it was the last hole of an even match.

Another memorable moment came in Tyler Strafaci’s semi-final match against Aman Gupta. Entering the field as an alternate, Gupta came into the week as a long shot–but boy did he put on a helluva show. After qualifying for the match play portion as the number 5 seed and knocking off three opponents to reach the semi-final, he found himself 4 down to Strafaci through 12 holes and it appeared the match was over. Refusing to quit, Gupta proceeded to win 4 out of the next 5 holes and clawed himself back to even going to the par 5 eighteenth hole. Bandon Dunes is a tricky, links style course, where an aggressive play and unlucky bounce can land you in a world of trouble—which is exactly what happened to Gupta when his tee shot found a fairway bunker. Strafaci was in good shape with a solid chance to reach the par 5 in two, and Gupta chose an aggressive play over the steep face of the bunker in an effort to get as close to the green as possible. Unfortunately, his week ended when the shot failed to clear the face of the bunker and ended up back at his feet (as did his next attempt). It was a tough way to lose, but he can certainly hold his head high after displaying so much grit and determination (not to mention a great many quality golf shots).

After so many great matches, I wondered if the final between Strafaci and Charles (“Ollie”) Osborne could possibly measure up, and to my amazement, it certainly did—and then some. The long-hitting, and quite imposing, Osborne took a big early lead over Strafaci at 5 up through 12 holes. And even though the final is a 36-hole match, that’s a big deficit to overcome. Strafaci fought hard though, as he did in every match throughout the week, winning 4 of the next 5 holes to get within one, and then squaring it with a win on the 20th hole. The match remained even until Stafaci took a one up lead by winning the 25th hole, and held it for the next five. Osborne squared the match with a win on the 31st hole, and the final 5 holes included some of the best golf you could ever see as each player traded shot for shot. Strafaci won the 32nd and 33rd holes to go 2 up, and then Osborne won the 34th and 35th holes to square it up again. It all came down to the par 5 final hole, where Osborne pounded his drive right down the middle and Strefaci responded with a beauty of his own. Strefaci was away, as he had been many times throughout the match, and promptly striped a laser-like 3 iron to 15 feet, putting the pressure right back on Osborne. Ollie finally cracked when he pushed his approach to the right of the green, and was unable to get up and down for birdie. Strafaci two putted for the victory, capping off a terrific final match.

Summing Up

This win was particularly emotional for Strafaci, as his family has deep ties to amateur golf. His late grandfather, Frank Strafaci, was something of a legend among serious amateur golfers, having won the 1935 U.S. Amateur Public Links championship as well as winning the North and South Amateur twice (an accomplishment that Tyler matched in 2019.) It was also fitting that Tyler’s father; Frank Jr. was on his bag to share the moment as the family legacy was carried forward. It will be interesting to see if Tyler will try his hand on the PGA tour, or maintain his amateur status and add to his accomplishments (either way, it is certain we have not seen the last of Tyler Stefaci). Ollie Osborne, at nineteen years old, looks like a shoe-in for the Tour at some point—but the field at 2021 U. S. Amateur will have to play some serious golf if anyone hopes to stop him again.

Learn more about the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort with GolfDay.

Share this Article: