Monday, June 18, 2012

There's a Story There

I don't watch many sporting events. I can't remember the last time I watched the Super Bowl, and I've never cared for professional basketball. I'll watch baseball a little bit, but only if the team I'm following is doing well. I do enjoy college football, but only when a Texas team is playing. For the most part, I simply don't want to spend much time watching other people doing; I'd rather be doing myself.

But I do enjoy watching professional golf. I'll watch some soccer during the World Cup. And I really enjoy the Olympics. I think what I like about these events is that they develop over a compressed period of time, and as a result, there are lots of stories that come out. At the last summer Olympics, for example, one of the big stories that developed over the course of the games was Michael Phelps and his pursuit of Olympic history.

I just finished watching the U.S. Open Golf Championship, and this thing had lots of stories. The Open is televised almost in its entirety from start to finish. Since I'm retired, I'm able to watch all of it. I'll admit that I did miss some of it on Thursday and Friday, but I watched all of it on the weekend.

This Open was really about youth. The tournament began with the story of Andy Zhang, believed to be the youngest golfer ever to play the open. He is a mere 14 years old. Unfortunately, young Andy did not make the cut, so he did not play on the weekend. Another story of youth was young Beau Hossler, a 17 year old about to begin his senior year in high school. He made the cut and was actually in contention for the tournament until he began giving away strokes on the final round. But for the first 3 rounds, he was exciting to watch.

The ultimate youth story concerns the young man who came from behind to actually win the U.S. Open, young Webb Simpson. Playing professionally since 2008, this 26-year old graduate of Wake Forest played under par the final two rounds to sneak up on and overtake the leaders. He is one of a number of "young guns" who are currently dominating the pro tour.

Other stories surfaced as well. When Tiger Woods played well Thursday and Friday, speculation was that Tiger was back and that he would dominate the field. And although Tiger began to fade early Saturday, he was still the talk of the tournament until he completely dissolved early in the final round. And then there is the story of Jim Furyk, the man who had the championship in his hands, only to let it slip away in the final 3 holes. Normally reliable and cool under pressure, Furyk ended his round with several unforced errors. At 42, this may have been his last opportunity to challenge for the tournament.

The U.S. Open is normally one of the most challenging tests in golf, and this was certainly the case this weekend. And perhaps that was the real story of this tournament. The winner limped away with a 1 over par for the tournament, and every player knew that he had been tested. Many, of course, failed that test, and will spend the next days and weeks assessing their play and how to improve their games.

The real winner was professional golf, for I believe in the days to come, we will see improved play from the survivors of the 2012 U.S. Open Championship.

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