There's a moment in the film "Tin Cup" when Don Johnson's character speaks of the U.S. Open for a moment to Roy McAvoy before hitting an iron down a road to beat him at his own challenge. He says, quite poetically, "We'll just call this Roy's mental preparation for the U.S. Open, where the rough is deep, the greens slick, and the nerves shattered."
In just a few scripted words, one that knows nothing about America's championship would quickly understand just how tough it must be to play in this event, the one time per year when course management gets thrown out the windows and everything but the windmills are brought in.
But, is that fun for fans to watch? Is watching professionals at a sport struggle like they're a weekend hacker exciting, or boring?
Some might argue it's tough to enjoy. Pars are the number you're firing for, not birdies, and the par-5s are as reachable in two as the Moon. At every golf course, there are let-up holes that allow you a chance to make up a shot or two, but not at this Open, and not at these golf courses. The USGA goes into surgery with a knife and scalpel, tears apart the insides of whatever they see, and leaves the rest to be maneuvered as best you can, fairness be damned.
Others argue that this type of television is exciting, mainly because nobody really knows what to expect. During the round, you could be cruising along, a shot away from immortality, and then all of a sudden you slice your drive, hit a tree, miss the green and then three-putt, a double-bogey away from a championship. The next you could be on the green with a putt for birdie, and all of sudden be down a valley on your way to a 10.
Personally, I prefer the Masters or the British to this major championship because I have ties to both (my heart to Augusta, my past to the Open), but I can understand the thrill that comes with watching par become king. Our cohort Dan Levy always melts when this tournament comes around, saying, "[The U.S. Open is] narrow fairways with insanely deep rough that will punish errant tee shots and make the best in the world look like weekend hacks. It's greens that never stop rolling or twisting or turning. It's always hot ... even when the temperature doesn't say so. Every year, no matter what the course, it's always the same grind. And every year, no matter who is at the top of the leaderboard, it's always great theater," and he's right, it is great theater. Everyone remembers Winged Foot or David Duval from 2009. It will take people a long time to forget the struggles on the 17th back in 2007 to allow Angel Cabrera to claim his first U.S. Open trophy.
So, yes, I think the U.S. Open is fun for fans. I think that seeing players do things you're used to doing is somewhat reassuring in a way, and it makes you appreciate just how tough the game can be, and just how good these guys are when it isn't playing at a 10 out of 10. I think the struggles add to the thrills, and when a par on the 18th is good enough to win, like with Payne Stewart at that incredible U.S. Open in 1999, it just adds to the excitement and the history of this tournament.
So get ready for a tough week for the players, but a cool week for the fans.
(And yes, I spent that whole story not even mentioning the name Tiger Woods. I think you all owe me a dollar.)