You know this is a whole different kind of U.S. Open when the golfers are not walking off the course, seeing red, livid about how unfair the course is. You know that things have changed when a player walks off after seeing red on the leader boards, signifying under-par scores, and says, "Nice to see."
That is exactly what Lee Westwood said after he shot 6-under par 65 at Congressional Country Club Saturday to finish the third round of the Open at 5 under. This would be unheard of at most U.S. Opens, but at this one, it is merely tied for third, nine shots out of the lead.
As friendly as the current leadership at the U.S. Golf Association is, the group's heritage is not used to hearing the likes of this, also from Westwood Saturday: "They set the golf course up great. You play well, you shoot good scores, there's no tricks to this one. It's a fair, honest course. It's right there in front of you. And if you play well, you can shoot a low score."
The Open is known for closing the door on aggressive play and low scoring, but Congressional has gone soft after thunderstorms Thursday night and more rain Friday.
Since the 2004 Open at Shinnecock Hills, the USGA has had a more benign approach. Less severe conditions are the new mandate. But a heat wave last week stunted the growth of the rough and the rain this week made greens soft, encouraging players to aim at pins without having to worry about the ball bouncing hard and rolling off.
USGA Executive Director Mike Davis had said on Friday that the rough actually was in good shape, but that it didn't matter because the greens are so receptive. "When you have soft greens, it makes the rough easier," Davis said.
Fredrik Jacobson, who shot 66, said, "It is what it is. If it rains by a bit, you've got to try and make the most out of it."
McDowell, a close friend of leader Rory McIlroy, didn't want to take anything away from his countryman's record-setting performance. Still, he said, "I've been a little disappointed with the golf course the last couple of days. It wasn't as firm and fast as I would like to have seen it. So it's not a true U.S. Open test out there, to be honest."