One day, a crevice within the earth opened forth. Light spewed from the depths of everlasting fire, as molten formations bubbled up from beneath the hollow interior of the globe. Pools of flattened land, pockmarked with pits of fine sand, dense reeds, devilish pools of stagnant water, swarmed by gaggles of blasphemous geese and botanical engineering bordering on the profane formed on the surface. As the dust settles and the fields turn an artificial shade of light green, one can almost see the hand of Ol’ Scratch himself positioning steppes, leaving wind breaks in disrepair and poking inconveniently placed holes at regular intervals. One last gasp of bluish smoke puffs up from the inner depths of Hell, and if one were at the wrong place at the wrong time to witness this nefarious signal of doom, one would lay claim to being present at the auspicious birth of the golf course at the Oakmont Country Club, host to this year’s U.S. Open.
The difficulties of playing the great game of golf at Oakmont were pretty much the talk of Pittsburgh this past week. Many a commentator described, in graphic detail, the slaying of such golf giants as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, and Bubba Watson, their bloodied carcasses laid waste by hitting one over par all afternoon. The main reason, of course, that the US Open is so much discussed in Pittsburgh is that it distracts from the fact that it causes yet another reason, besides the biannual repaving of all the roads, to close half of the lanes in a city whose civil engineering was done in a time and an era where it was thought that road layouts should resemble a cross between a drunkenly-spun spiderweb and a placenta.
That’s not to minimize the difficulty of Oakmont. The winner—the winner, mind you—of the tournament was five over par, effectively meaning that the best players in the world couldn’t beat past the course’s inherent difficulty. It’s like not even getting tongue after taking the girl from the cigarette store who gets fuel points down at the clinic to Red Lobster for “dinner.” Par is supposed to represent the target for a reasonably good player, so when you have the cream of the crop in the golf world throwing golf bags into swan nests, you know that the engineering of the place was done with blatantly Luciferian intent.
The surprise winner, of course, was Argentine Angel Cabrera. In such a tightly contested game, Cabrera’s appearance adds a little bit of drama to an otherwise pedestrian event. Cabrera’s golfing prowess, no doubt formed by developing his observational skills during childhood by making sure he wasn’t “disappeared,” was mitigated by those who felt that with a hard-luck course such as Oakmont, chance played a little bit more than its fair share. He is known affectionately on the course as “El Pato,” or, literally, “the sumbitch who lucked out when Tiger Woods kept overshooting his fairway shots, not unlike his prospects for a lengthy marriage to a Swedish nanny.”
Another big story was the homecoming of James Furyk, who tied Woods for second place. Although Furyk hails from the eastern part of Pennsylvania, his family is from the Pittsburgh area, and spent many practice years in the area. Many at Oakmont were cheering for his victory, which almost seemed miraculously assured at certain points. This is somewhat miraculous in and of itself, since Pittsburghers tend to view Philadelphians with a certain level of contempt and irritation that one normally reserves for the unclaimed cards in the Most Wanted Iraqi Deck. Likewise, Philadelphians tend to take a condescending view of Western Pennsylvanians much in the same way that one views a nervous, lost puppy who through generations of social evolution somehow produced Rick Santorum. To see a native of close Philly suburb West Chester be cheered by Pittsburghers is a mellowing sight indeed. It’s almost heartwarming to see such a rare and magnificent sight, right before all the Pittsburghers in the crowd went home and moved to their new jobs in Arizona and North Carolina.
The Big Cranky Wet Blanket Awards goes to one Phil Mickelson, who unceremoniously failed to qualify after the second round. Mickelson has won the PGA Championship and the Masters twice, but has failed to come out on top in the U.S. Open in any given year, always settling for Buffalo Bills-level props. After practicing, he petulantly announced that practicing at Oakmont was about as useful as teeing off with a Titleist, since the course’s difficulty left the players prone to injury. This, of course, is something that seems to have been successfully avoided by approximately 155 other players. His putting was off, he was reluctant to drive hard due a his wrist injury, and he failed to measure up to his otherwise commendable #2 ranking, his only physical accomplishment over the long weekend being his ability to move his hands up to his throat with enough force to choke on the green.
After all of the preparations, all of the drama, and all of the excrementally boring hours of golf footage, everyone walked away from the competition with equal parts satisfaction, anticipation, and the smug sense of satisfaction that someone, somewhere, ponied up $7 million for a bunch of grown men to hit small white balls with metal sticks for four days straight, and that someone wasn’t you.