Ryan Ballengee over at NBC Sports has published an interesting interview with Fred Funk ahead of the 55-year-old’s (Happy Birthday, Fred!) return to the US Open this week. The intimidating prospect of tackling every one of Congressional’s 7,500 yards has, it appears, focused the veteran’s attention on the slow-burning havoc technological ‘progress’ is wreaking on the game.
“I think it’s sad they let the golf ball get out of control…
“[The USGA] is going to argue that it’s pure club head speed and increased athleticism, but I don’t think they can make that argument if you look at the game and how it’s progressed in a little more than a decade. There are guys who are great athletes that have a lot of clubhead speed, but they generate so much carry with the golf ball. There’s more dispersion between the average guy and these guys that are really, really long.”
With a back nine featuring no less than five par-4s over 465 yards in length, Congressional Country Club has evolved into precisely the sort of sprawling, major championship beast the technological imperatives of the modern game seem to demand. Funk, however, believes the USGA has another option when it comes to finalising a course layout.
“You still can defend a course with shot-making and rough conditions. The biggest thing is the holes that guys remember. Like 10 at Riviera. No one says, ‘Boy, what a great hole that 520-yard par-4 is.’,” he said. The 18th hole [at Congressional] plays to a max length of 523 yards.”
Though this might seem like an auspicious moment to launch my annual rant against the USGA’s scoring philosophy, I’m going to keep my powder dry until later in the week.
Funk is speaking a great deal of sense; it’s just slightly unfortunate that comments like his always tend to come from the peripheral players most acutely effected by untrammelled change, rather than the Tour’s current heavy-hitters. To expect otherwise, though, is probably naive. I can dream, can’t I?