One For The Books

The long awaited, much anticipated U.S. Open is now in the books. For me, covering a national championship is both a privilege and an honor. For the opportunity to cover a U.S. Open in your backyard, especially when it is your fourth time dating back to 1986, my anticipation was at an all-time high.

My workload for the latest 2018 version was increased significantly when we agreed to provide coverage on WLNG a week early, with shows originating from the merchandise tent. We’re taking full credit for kicking off its selling week, which turned out to be a tremendous success story.

As the U.S. Open week commenced, the feelings were similar to what I experienced as a youngster both at Thanksgiving and Christmas. The wait, the preparation, and the anticipation were agonizing, but exciting, only to be followed by what seemed like a blink, and it was all over.

I’m sure you all know by now that with my deep roots in the East End area and Sag Harbor, in particular, I was proud to take on extra work in hopes of showcasing my special corner of the world. I’m pleased to report that the request for coverage around the world exceeded even my expectations, beginning with the local Sag Harbor radio station, 92.1 WLNG FM.

Of course, when the reports and coverage go into the UK and Europe as well as around the world, the time zones can get a little tricky. Our main client, talkSPORT Radio, based in London, known as the world’s largest sports radio station, wanted me on its “breakfast show,” which meant a 2 AM local time report from me, while the other U.S.-based stations kept me busy until 8 or 9 PM each night.

I guess you can just call it a sleepless week for me, which meant I was fighting exhaustion as hard as the players were fighting the tough conditions at Shinnecock.

Now on to the actual completion itself.

First, huge congratulations to Brooks Koepka, the 2018 U.S. Open Champion. He prevailed through all the weather, the complained about conditions, and the competition to successfully defend his national championship.

There were many storylines along the way last week and it certainly would have been better had there been more competing and less complaining from the players. That’s not to say the USGA, golf’s ruling body, did not provide ample reasons to fan the flames of concern by the players.

I am sure the talent here at the Indy will cover that in far greater detail, but to break down in the simplest of explanations, the USGA got the setup wrong. The third round on Saturday was set way unfairly difficult for the course and weather conditions. Compounding the problem, and most likely in response to the critics, the course set up for the fourth round was far too easy.

Setting up a championship course for the most elite players in the world is a delicate situation at best . . . a little like working with a complex recipe that will most certainly need tweaking — a little here, a little there. If it isn’t just perfect, all kinds of havoc follow.

There is no way I can conclude my U.S. Open thoughts without mentioning the bizarre antics of Phil Mickelson. Phil came into this U.S. Open full of confidence. His game was in good shape and he was ready to challenge for the only Major title not on his resumé, the U.S. Open Championship.

The stakes were high for Phil, having finished second a record six times in the U.S. Open.

Under tough conditions on Saturday, in the third round, on the 13th hole at Shinnecock, Phil intentionally hit his golf ball as it was in motion, which resulted in a two-shot penalty. Many observers felt this lack of etiquette warranted being disqualified. The USGA said “no,” while golf fans everywhere said “yes.” But a rule is a rule, and he gladly took the two-shot penalty and moved on.

In Phil’s defense, he made a call to the CEO of the USGA, Mike Davis, offering to withdraw. Davis informed him that the ruling did not warrant withdrawal. So, Phil did the right thing and proceeded to sign autographs with his fans. Luckily, my daughter Robin was one of those, and managed to get an autograph and a selfie with Phil, to her delight.

In the end, the best player this week was identified. Brooks Koepka is now a two-time U.S. Open Champion. The last time we had a back-to-back winner was in 1988 and 1989, and Curtis Strange was the winner.

In case you missed it, the U.S. Open will again be played at Shinnecock in 2026. I can’t wait.

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