Let’s do this again. Not that anyone has asked or anyone has offered, but considering the way the first PGA Tour event ever held at Glen Oaks Club turned out, it is only right that they should schedule another as soon as they can.
The course was at least a co-star, alongside Dustin Johnson, the champion. It was as tough as it was beautiful. The fact that it resulted in Johnson, officially ranked No. 1 in the world, in a playoff duel against Jordan Spieth, the consensus best player in the sport right now, speaks volumes about the venue for the Northern Trust. The greatest tracks bring out the best in the greatest players, and reveal the flaws in everyone else.
“This was a fantastic golf course, in unbelievable condition,” Johnson said after making birdie to beat Spieth on No. 18, the first extra hole, after an intense back-and-forth struggle down the stretch. “Obviously, as the week went on, it got tougher and tougher.”
You think that was tough, you should have tried imagining something like this happening at Glen Oaks seven years ago. The club hired superintendent Craig Currier away from Bethpage State Park as part of a total renovation and revitalization of the vast 27-hole property. He and his staff and architect Joel Weiman did such a good job that word got around in high places, especially after the layout hosted the Met PGA Championship.
With Liberty National, the intended site for this year’s FedEx Cup playoff opener, having been named to host the Presidents Cup, the PGA Tour needed a replacement — fast. It picked the course in Old Westbury and held its breath until its golfers got on the grounds this week and began raving about it.
“I don’t think Glen Oaks was ever known for a championship caliber golf course but for these guys to come out and say what they said, it was unbelievable. Mother Nature helped this week, too,” Currier said on the 18th green as tournament officials set up for Johnson’s victory ceremony.
His workers were holding their own impromptu celebration.
“We’ve been working hard. It has been a couple years of getting ready and seven years, basically, of redoing this golf course,” Currier said. “For me, that was like a dream come true. The two best golfers in the world coming down the stretch, making birdies, tying, then going to a playoff, that was awesome. Just awesome.”
Jordan Ziegler, club vice president and tournament co-chairman, said, “If you wrote this script for Hollywood, no one would believe it. But this is real life, at Glen Oaks Club. We’re so proud to have this, it’s unbelievable.”
Take it from this observer, who witnessed both first-hand: Glen Oaks was much tougher and a ton more interesting than Erin Hills was during the U.S. Open. The course is just too good to never be seen again.
Kudos to the membership for daring to be different. While the rest of the world has been going with the fescue-strewn style, Glen Oaks went with wall-to-wall bright green grass.
A tip of the hat to the PGA Tour for allowing Currier to make the rough thick and gnarly (to borrow the phrase Johnson had used Wednesday). The tour generally likes to see players make birdies, but it saw this week that seeing them challenged is pure entertainment. The rough was in players’ heads all week, down to the very last moment. Johnson chose to lay up on the final regulation hole — and had to scramble for par — because he had such a bad lie.
“I just think it makes our members feel it was all worth it,” said Howard Smith, Ziegler’s co-chairman.
The Northern Trust is booked through 2022 (and again in 2027 at Bethpage). But wouldn’t it be fun to try again?
“Sure,” Smith said.
“Absolutely,” Currier said.
Ziegler added, “I go back to the first quote I had two years ago: If the PGA Tour comes knocking, how can you say no?”
Anyone who loves golf would appreciate it very much if the tour came knocking, real soon.