The carnage began with Dustin Johnson and quickly spread like a virus throughout the entire field.
Not to sound overly harsh, but what we witnessed on Sunday evening was nothing short of the worst collective display of golf we will ever see from some of the best players on the face of the planet.
After 54-hole leader Dustin Johnson had hemorrhaged six strokes to the field by the fourth hole, The 110th U.S. Open was about as wide open as it was at 7:30 a.m. on Thursday morning.
30-year-old Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell held the lead with the likes of Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, and Ernie Els breathing down his neck.
So, we did what we'd do right before a Mayweather/Pacquiao fight—we grabbed a bag of popcorn and settled in for what we thought would be an epic battle.
We had three of this generation’s biggest stars—Woods, Mickelson, and Els—in the hunt, with a supporting cast of Graeme McDowell, unknown Frenchman Gregory Havret, and the possibility of Johnson making an unprecedented return from the depths of the biggest major championship meltdown since Mickelson's run-in with the hospitality tent at Winged Foot.
But it was not to be.
Our popcorn began tasting stale as we watched one horrific golf shot after another.
We nearly chocked when we saw Els hit not one but two golf balls over the cliffs at the par-four 10th.
We felt like turning the television off altogether after watching Els, Mickelson, and Woods all miss the 16th green with wedges in their hands from inside of 105 yards.
When McDowell got to the 17th tee—the site of Nicklaus’ one-iron in 1972 and Watson’s chip-in in 1982—we were just hoping for something...anything that would serve as this U.S. Open’s memorable moment. Instead, McDowell hit his tee shot about 20 yards left of the green and was actually lucky to find the bunker.
Now, one cannot completely overlook the fact that this was U.S. Open Sunday and conditions were tough.
The pin locations were difficult and the greens became increasingly unpredictable as the poa annua began to grow into what one player described as broccoli.
But this horrendous display of golf went way beyond just unpredictable greens.
The greens had nothing to do with Mickelson slashing his tee shots all over the Monterey Penninsula.
The greens had nothing to Els knocking not one, but two golf balls over the cliffs lining the right side of the par-four 10th.
The greens had nothing to do with Woods' inability to hit an approach shot anywhere in the vicinity of the hole all day.
And the greens had nothing to do with 12 player's ability to shoot par or better, and four players ability to post rounds of 68 on Sunday (Matt Kuchar, Ben Curtis, Jim Herman and Bo Van Pelt).
Just to put the depth of this massacre into perspective:
• Els could have played the back-nine in two over par and tied for the lead. Instead, he carded a four-over-par 40.
• Mickelson could have played the back-nine in even par and he would have tied for the lead. Instead, he recorded bogeys at the 10th, 14th, and 16th on his way to a three-over-par 39.
• A day after he blistered Pebble Beach with a 66, which included five birdies on the back-nine, an even par round of 71 would have won Woods his fourth U.S. Open title. Instead, Woods bogeyed three out of his first six holes and posted a four-over-par round of 75.
• Davis Love III came within two strokes of the lead before recording two bogeys and a double bogey over his final seven holes.
• Dustin Johnson could have carded a 77 and forced a Monday playoff with McDowell. Instead, he limped home with a pitiful 82…better than U.S. Open Challenge winner Mark Wahlberg to be fair, but not much.
Graeme McDowell won the 110th U.S. Open with a final round 74, which could be considered solid when taking into account that three of this generation’s best players failed to tame Pebble Beach on Sunday, or could be considered a gift when taking into account that the rest of the field, including Woods, Els, and Mickelson looked as if they should have been playing in the U.S. Open Challenge alongside Drew Brees, Mark Walberg, Wayne Gretzky and Peggy Ference rather than in the final three pairings on Sunday afternoon.
The USGA had to give the trophy to someone, and McDowell just happened to have a couple of extra strokes in reserve that the other victims didn’t have at the start of the day.
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