Gumbel says it: USGA ‘sold out’ U.S. Open with easier course in the absence of Tiger

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HBO sends forward the closing commentary that Bryant Gumbel will present in the latest episode of “Real Sports” (tonight, 10 p.m.):

“Finally tonight, the U.S. Golf Association should be ashamed of itself.

“The same folks who like to claim they’re the caretakers of the game took a national championship that has always been revered, and this past weekend, made a mockery of it. Instead of setting up a U.S. Open course, as they always have, to identify the best player. They seem to have sought only to identify the most viewers.

“Yes, the course they laid out was nominally long, but as even those who regularly shill from the game noted, they played the tees up, they thinned the rough, and they placed many of the pins in bowls that allowed many balls that were hit to a green to simply funnel to the hole from all directions.

“In no way does this discredit the impressive and likeable Open winner, Rory McIlroy. That he finished with a score of 16-under par is remarkable, but that so many made it look like a local pitch-and-putt is an embarrassment. On Sunday, 20 golfers finished this U.S. Open under par. Twenty! That’s as many golfers that have finished under par in the last 12 Opens combined.

“Look, as a rule, I don’t buy conspiracy theories. I don’t subscribe to suspicions about Roswell, the grassy knoll, and fake lunar landings. But I do believe USGA honchos sold out this weekend. Knowing the absence of Tiger Woods would cost them audience, I believe they decided to try to make up for it by enabling anyone who teed it up to go low in the hopes that lots of birdies would mean lots of viewers. That their Open plan instead generated lousy TV ratings that were down 26 percent, suggests that karma’s alive and well in the world of golf.”

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