Accusations of cheating are tossed around as casually as wedding confetti in most sports, whether it’s Tom Brady’s flaccid ball or Neymar’s roll playing. Not in golf, though. The PGA Tour markets itself as a roving Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, in which upright citizens conduct themselves with probity while helping bestow charitable riches in towns across America.
That image isn’t entirely contrived. The overwhelming majority of Tour pros are honest competitors, and public claims of unscrupulous on-course behavior are rare. Sure, not everyone meets the loftiest standards of conduct, but you can appreciate why the Tour’s old motto sacrificed awkward accuracy — “99 Percent of These Guys Are Good” – for comforting sentiment.
When the Rules of Golf make news, it’s almost always due to unwitting infractions or witless enforcement. Seldom because of an alleged deliberate violation. That’s what made the recent episode between Joel Dahmen and Sung Kang at the Quicken Loans National so extraordinary.
Rich Beem knows a little something about what U.S. Open course setups can do to a man. The 2002 PGA Championship winner has played seven of them.
“My record is six missed cuts, one made cut, finished DFL,” he said with a laugh. “I know a thing or two about getting my head bashed in by U.S. Open golf courses.”
It was Sunday at Shinnecock Hills, but most of the conversation was still about Saturday and Phil Mickelson’s slapshot stunt on the 13th green. Beem gazed out on the first fairway and talked about how brutal U.S. Open beatdowns can be. He hasn’t forgotten the frustration that comes with playing greens so hard and fast they seem better suited to hosting a Stanley Cup than a golf tournament.
By lunchtime Friday at the Players Championship, the normally fearsome TPC Sawgrass was looking almost toothless, with the scoring average hovering around 71 and the cut likely to fall under par for only the third time in the last 20 years.
The low scoring has surprised a lot of veterans who have endured tougher times at this Pete Dye brute, not least two-time winner Tiger Woods.
“It’s in perfect shape, it’s just playing really short. It’s so hot out here, the ball’s flying. We’re probably playing close to a club less than we normally do,” he said after a second round 71. “The cut right now is under par, which is unheard of around here.”
The course may be playing relatively easy for the best, but how about for the rest?