USGA’s kindness makes for a fantastic Sunday finish

June 17, 2007 | Drew Forrester

So the United States Golf Association relented…and everyone was better off for it.

U.S. Open officials confirmed the obvious following the completion of 3rd round play on Saturday.  They had watered the greens overnight and then again around 8:00 am Saturday morning in an effort to, as they admitted, “keep things from getting out of hand.”  Often criticized for their hard-stance on playing conditions (the USGA likes championship courses to be fast, firm and dry), this was a rare instance where the USGA simply watched what was going on and responded accordingly.  They saw what we all could see – that Oakmont CC was going to be virtually unplayable by late Saturday and throughout Sunday if they didn’t do something to soften the greens.  And since no rain is in the forecast, they did what they had to do – they put water on the golf course and made it much more playable for round 3.

What you now have is something that once again resembles a golf tournament.  Come Sunday afternoon, there will be birdies to be had and that should make for a great finish.  It’s still going to be extremely tough in the final round.  The average score will be somewhere around 76 or so.  But the leaders will have the opportunity to play some shots into flags they might normally avoid – and that could translate into birdies, lead changes and an exciting, memorable finish.

Give the USGA credit.  They got it right this time.  The course won’t be the story on Monday morning.  The Champion golfer will be the story and that’s the way it should be.

I blogged early Friday that I liked Aaron Baddeley’s chances after watching him play the back nine in round 2 and now here he sits, on top of the leaderboard going into Sunday’s final round.  Tiger obviously had his “A game” today and with any putting luck at all, he would have posted 65 or better and had a comfortable 2-shot lead.  Instead, he finds himself trailing Baddeley by two shots.  The other name to watch on Sunday is Stephen Ames.  He blew away the field in The Players Championship a couple of years ago with an amazing final round 64 and he could shoot 67 tomorrow and win the ’07 U.S. Open.  He’s very capable of that kind of round.

I’m going to stick with Baddeley to win tomorrow.  I don’t think Tiger can follow up that kind of ball striking round with another like that on Sunday.  Look for a Baddeley-Ames-Woods finish.