USGA gets brunt of player unrest

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. -- Jerry Kelly looked at his scorecard. 81. He looked at the scoreboard. He had plenty of company -- 17 scores were worse than his, or about to be.

He looked over and, in a nod to United States Golf Association officials, said: "When are they going to grow a head? I have no idea."

Kelly was the most vocal spokesman -- but by no means the only one -- for a U.S. Open field brought to its knees by the course setup at Shinnecock Hills. Dry fairways, even drier greens and a steady breeze sent scores and tempers soaring Sunday.

"They've done it again," said Kelly, still seething at the USGA. "I think they've topped themselves this year."

"If they play well, they deserve to be under par, but not like this," said Tiger Woods, who shot 76. "This is not the way it's supposed to be played."

The average score Sunday was 78.72 at Shinnecock Hills. Nobody broke par. Nearly half the field -- 28 of 66 players -- couldn't break 80.

Robert Allenby shot an even-par 70. He went from a tie for 34th to a tie for seventh place. Els shot 80 and didn't fall out of the top 10.

Par meant about as much as Jessica Simpson's IQ. In truth, it may well have been higher.

"Veey, what'd you shoot," Kelly hollered over to Vijay Singh as they crossed paths behind the 18th green. He was told 78.

"78 ... par," Kelly said.

To a player, none blamed Shinnecock Hills. In fact, to a man they'd love to come back for a fourth U.S. Open at the venerable venue, one of five founding members of the USGA.

Instead, the venom went straight to the USGA brass.

"I think they're ruining the game," said Kelly. "They're ruining the tournament. This isn't golf. Period."

Kirk Triplett finished up his 77 and put his thumb in his ears and wiggled his fingers, as if to mock the golf gods (or, more likely, USGA championship committee officials). Jeff Maggert made par at the seventh hole, which had to be watered between groups just to keep balls from sliding off it, and fired his ball into the crowd as though he'd won the championship.

"It's a shame when they push the golf course to the limit as much as they have in this particular case," said Tom Kite, who won the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in 1992 in a nasty wind.

Sunday, the 10th hole -- a par-4 -- played like a par-5 (it averaged 5.030). The seventh hole got all the attention because the USGA had to water the green to keep balls from trickling off it, but it wasn't even among the three hardest holes on the course.

Players hit less than half the fairways Sunday. They hit about a third of the greens in regulation. The highest final-round scoring average ever was 78.8 at Pebble Beach in 1972. It was less than 1/10th of a point lower than that at Shinnecock Hills.

"Do you guys like us looking like a bunch of idiots out there?" asked Cliff Kresge, who shot 82 and finished 24 over. "It's not fun to hit a ball and watch it go back to your feet. I don't know how much people enjoy this."

Amateur Bill Haas said the greens were so slick, "I couldn't even lean on my putter. It would slide out from under me. It was like glass."

There were few complaints on Thursday and Friday, when scores averaged around 73 (73.4 on in Round 1; 73.0 in Rounds 2). Rain overnight Thursday may have given a false sense that the course was moist. It wasn't.

"The first two days were tough, yes, but they were fair," Woods said. "And there's nothing wrong with a golf course being tough, as long as it's fair. We had a few guys under par. That's the way it should be."

Mark Calcavecchia shot 75. He jokingly asked what time play started on Sunday morning and was told 9:40 a.m. ET.

"Well, 9:40, the greens were lost," Calcavecchia said. "They were dead from the start. It's the USGA"s fault. They're trying to throw a little water on them to make it look like they're doing something, but it's not doing any good whatsoever. It's not the first time they've done this, and it won't be the last.

"And on that note, I need a beer."

He wasn't alone.