Herrmann has covered the Mets and Yankees since 1988, and has been Newsday’s national golf writer since 2002.
PINEHURST, N.C. - It always has been said that the U.S. Open is the most painful, grueling test in golf, and so it was again this week. For anyone who tried to watch, it was simply excruciating.
This is not a commentary on, or criticism of, Martin Kaymer's wire-to-wire dominance. Blowouts happen in sports. Full marks to anyone who can accomplish them. When Tiger Woods used to do it, no one called it boring, they considered it awe inspiring. So here's to you, Martin.
The trouble this week was that on the restored Pinehurst No. 2, there never was any real chance that Kaymer could face disaster. The new rough-less look of the venerable course was a fine idea and noble effort. It just didn't work.
Consider the pivotal moment of the tournament, Kaymer's fifth hole Saturday. He had just bogeyed after hooking his drive on No. 4, then hooked another on the very next hole. Only this time, he made eagle and never was seriously challenged. That is not supposed to happen at a U.S. Open.
Yes, we understand that the asparagus-dense rough got to be a cliche over the years. But the USGA went too far the other way. The waste areas and native vegetation didn't penalize bad tee shots. Truth be told, the only one who got in serious trouble for his driving this week was the guy behind the wheel of NBC announcer Roger Maltbie's cart, who was arrested and charged with four criminal counts for allegedly running over the foot of a state trooper.
So we are 0-for-2 in having dramatic majors this year. The Masters fizzled because Augusta National made the greens so hard and slick that everybody was reduced to playing defense. The U.S. Open was a snoozer because it never had the feel of a U.S. Open. Eleven golfers shot in the 60s Sunday, including Daniel Berger and Cody Gribble.
At least the Masters looked pretty on TV. Pinehurst No. 2 had a brown, scorched-earth look. In the end, what USGA executive director Mike Davis had praised as "rustic'' appeared just scruffy.
We get it. Davis and his association were making an admirable case for conservation. He warned that water supplies eventually will be the greatest challenge to the game of golf. The thinking was that this would be an incentive for courses all over the country to get over the "Augusta syndrome,'' to show that not everything has to be plush and pristine.
But let's face it. If you were a member of a nice, private club on Long Island, having paid a half-million dollars to join, would you want your fairways to be as crusty as Pinehurst's? If you were running a public course in Nassau or Suffolk, knowing you need to attract outings just to stay afloat, would you be confident that people who run the outings would want to hold them on a parched course? Not likely.
Something is wrong when someone says, as Phil Mickelson did Sunday, "It feels like the British Open, as brown as the fairways are, as dry as they are, as much as the ball is running.''
Who wants that? Who wants the U.S. Open to look like the British Open?
What a way for NBC to end its 20-year run of U.S. Open telecasts. It was poignant when Johnny Miller said: "I always believe there's a time and a season for everything. There were a lot of great moments, a lot of great memories. I've had my share.''
This week just wasn't one of them. You have to hope that, by the time the U.S. Open returns to Shinnecock Hills in 2018, the USGA renews its zest for good, healthy grass.
And you have to believe that Fox, which paid $1.1 billion for the rights to cover this huge event, wants a tougher test and better visuals. The true color of golf, after all, is green.