Why Jordan Spieth’s killer Travelers Championship hole-out is a problem for the USGA

Jordan Spieth’s dramatic hole-out from the bunker for a playoff victory at the Travelers Championship was damn exciting. But before the sand had settled players and commentators were making comparisons to another tournament.

That tournament, of course, was the one held the week immediately prior to the Travelers: the U.S. Open. At Erin Hills, a venue nearly 1,000 yards longer, more players were under par and the winning score (-16) was four strokes higher than Spieth’s winning tally in Cromwell.

This, and the fact that the conclusion to the Travelers Championship was about 10 times more exciting than the U.S. Open (apologies, Brooks Koepka). Two young stars, Jordan Spieth and Brooks Koepka doing what needed to be done to set up a tournament-deciding playoff while others made runs. Then, there was the finish.

In case you’ve forgotten.

Now, the comparisons can’t be merely centered around Jordan Spieth”s final shot. That was, ultimately, good fortune topped off by a legendary victory celebration. But it seems the well of ire runs deeper. Let’s take a look at the chatter.

Jason Sobel of ESPN

Rich Lerner of Golf Channel

Luke Donald

Jason Dufner

The real takeaway here is that prominent voices continue to hammer the USGA. If you thought a week after the U.S. Open the governing body would get a break, we’re experiencing quite the opposite.

The USGA may have signed its own death warrant by setting up Erin Hills to allow for low scores. The challenge of scoring under par used to the be U.S. Open’s thing. However, the things they’ve had to do in recent years to protect par (cement-like greens, knee-high rough just off the fairway, 7,800-yard courses) have garnered criticism.

A situation where the best the USGA can produce is trumped the next week by a shorter venue that proves more difficult AND more entertaining makes Mike Davis and company look rather useless. If we add this to the growing opinion that the organization is useless and meddling when it comes to the rules of the game, the folks in Far Hills could have a big problem on their hands.

It’s just not a good look. And we may be seeing a situation where the USGA’s hand is forced and it has to trick out the next Open venue. If players rebel at the setup, we could see a situation where, basically, nobody wants to play or watch a “traditional” U.S. Open, and the organization looks to be lacking the expertise to choose a venue and set up for both challenge and excitement.

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