ORLANDO – It’s water on one side and rough on the other and the dry fairways are firmer than the roof of your courtesy car and about as wide. The sun is out, the wind has picked up and if you can shoot, even if you’ve played golf hard. Arnold Palmer has always wanted a US Open on one of his courses, and on Sunday he got one, three months before Father’s Day.
Sunday, Sunday at Bay Hill Speedway.
Jon Rahm, who won the National Open at Torrey Pines last year, needed three of 16 putts in the final, and when he came off the green he lifted his putter head above his head as if about to smash it into the rear bumper of a parked golf cart.
The tall, tall Spaniard held off that swing, but not the quick kick he delivered to the pole mic next to the left Mastercard tee marker on 18 after his last tee shot ended in the rough gnarled right. You have to love a man who cares, although of course he should have replaced the microphone himself. A tournament staff member did it for him, immediately and quietly.
Rahm signed for 74 and the word was out even before his shirttails were out: Rahm wouldn’t be doing any media that Sunday afternoon. Playing partner Aaron Wise also returned 74, although his had less histrionics.
Pairings are an odd business and there was no sway from the hand of the man who brought together two US Open winners from Northern Ireland for Sunday’s 1pm tee time , Graeme McDowell (2010, Pebble) and Rory McIlroy (2011, Congressional). Both men shot 76 – not too shabby on a day when six players shot 80 or worse – and lived to tell the tale. (Lucas Glover, winner of the 2009 US Open, shot 81.) “I feel drunk, to be honest,” McIlroy said.
If you watched golf on TV this weekend, you probably saw defending Arnold Palmer Invitational winner Bryson DeChambeau, your 2020 US Open winner at Winged Foot. You haven’t seen him on the course this week – he retired as he recovered from who knows what exactly – but he came out of limbo again and again in an intensely rotating TV spot for a manufacturer of innings called LA Golf. If you thought the company made sunglasses, that’s completely understandable.
Tough and tough Gary Woodland and winner of the 2019 US Open at Pebble Beach played a great round of golf on Sunday – for 16 holes. But he closed with 5-5 (double bogey, bogey) for 73, one over par and was sharper than even McIlroy. “I’m glad I left this course,” he said. “I’m happy to have finished.
“The last two weeks is just mental work.”
PGA National, Florida Swing Week I: Water and Wind and Rough.
Bay Hill, Florida Swing Week II: Water and Wind and Rough.
TPC Sawgrass, Florida Swing Week III: Water and Wind and Rough.
Arnold Palmer was born and raised at the US Open, US Opens at Oakmont in Pittsburgh, down the road from his family’s home in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, specifically. He once said that as a golfer he was not the same after winning the 1960 US Open at Cherry Hills, Denver, that he ticked off, at age 30, the greatest professional ambition of his life.
Bay Hill was Palmer’s crowning achievement as an architect. (It’s a Dick Wilson course in club history, but over the years Palmer has shaped every green, every bunker, every tee, every square inch.) He wanted to play the course to play hard for his tournament and he did.
Scottie Scheffler, 25, has now played in five US Opens. He missed the cut in 2016 and 19 but was the minor amateur in 2017, and last year at Torrey he had a T7 finish. Then came his fifth Open start, the 2022 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.
An hour after the win, he was still wearing his match shoes and still had his glove in his back left pocket, but he was now wearing the red Arnold Palmer cardigan awarded to the winner here. Scheffler shot a par 72 on Sunday to win by one shot. As Johnny Miller (winner of the 1973 US Open at Oakmont) said: “The Pars are good at the US Open. They wear white hats.
“Par is a really good score on every hole here,” Scheffler said in the win. “I’m never upset by par.”
Your new US Open winner is lanky, easy-going, unassuming. He doesn’t make things harder than they are, especially when they’re hard enough on their own.
“This course is an all-out fight,” he said.
The US Open II, at the Country Club, begins on June 16.
Michael Bamberger welcomes your feedback at [email protected].