It’s often difficult to know what major championship golf teaches us – if anything – about the game.
The hype around the big four men’s tournaments each year is off the charts (though the world’s best women have embarrassingly less coverage) and in the digital age the sheer amount of content available is almost too much to bear.
So in a world full of Twitter ‘hot takes’ and other associated commentary, what remains important about championship golf at the highest level?
As a golf fan and lover of the game it can be easy to make too big a deal of the majors. After all, there is an entire industry encouraging us to do exactly that.
But at the same time, it would be wrong to downplay the role of big-time professional golf in the overall health and well-being of the game.
Without Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman and Tiger Woods, it’s hard to believe there would be as many people enjoying everything golf has to offer in 2019.
And so to Pebble Beach, the 119th US Open and how it fits in the seething mass of industry and recreation that is the game of golf.
Most importantly, golf at the highest level is entertainment and events at Pebble Beach this past week ticked that box for most.
While it has become an annual sport to pile on the USGA and its handling of America’s national championship, there was little to criticise in 2019.
The course setup had the tick of approval from the players and there were enough birdies and bogeys made to hold the attention of the masses.
Pebble Beach as a venue is always spectacular and it is a better course than its critics acknowledge, a fact borne out by standings come Sunday morning.
“While it has become an annual sport to pile on the USGA and its handling of America’s national championship, there was little to criticise in 2019.”
Interesting storylines abounded at the beginning of the final round with some of the biggest names in the game – McIlroy, Rose and Koepka – pitted against some of its next tier players in the likes of Woodland, Schauffele and Rahm.
It wasn’t quite ‘David v Goliath’ but it had elements of such and set the stage for an enthralling final 18 holes.
The players did their bit thanks to Koepka’s early charge and Woodland’s stubborn refusal to wilt – the latter’s eventual victory proving a surprisingly compelling story.
Acknowledged as a first-rate ball striker but noted underachiever, 35-year-old Woodland was in danger of being relegated to ‘journeyman’ status before this epic victory.
With immense hitting talent but just three PGA Tour victories on his resume, he could easily have become a player known for making a nice living at the game but never reaching his full potential.
Clearly, though, he thought differently. With the help of top coach Pete Cowen he put in the work to rebuild a frankly suspect short game to the point it was good enough to hold up under the intense Sunday pressure at Pebble Beach.
It was a victory for perseverance and tenacity and they are among the most important lessons golf has to teach us all.
Woodland ultimately looked more at home clutching the trophy than one might have imagined at the start of the day and that, too, sent another important message: it’s not only the biggest stars that can win at golf.
Yes, there was much to like about the 2019 US Open. It was four days of first-class play on a world-class course that left everyone feeling good about themselves and the game.
And in the end, isn’t that the main job of professional golf?
Rod morri is founder of the TalkinGolf Podcast Network, home of the State of the Game, iSeekGolf, TalkinGolf History and Feed The Ball podcasts.
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