That's another reason I'm writing you, on account of it seemed like you were everywhere this week. Your picture was all over the place from your win in 1951, including on a plaque on this rock behind the 1st tee with plaques of the winners of the other majors that Oakland Hills has hosted. Then there was a rumor that you were in town until the guy spreading it said, "Hell, yeah, he was in a wheelchair, and I met his son too!" That, of course, would've been a nice trick since you've got no kids.
But if you were here, I'm not sure you would have recognized the place. The USGA has this funny habit of taking classic Donald Ross courses like this, courses with roller-coaster greens that were meant to be putted on at nothing more than, say, a 5 on the stimpmeter and turning them into 10 and 11, which makes things kind of preposterous. Oakland Hills became home of the 15-foot putt with a 20-foot break.
To make things even gorier, the USGA took two holes—the 8th and the 18th—that look like par-5s, are built like par-5s and are par-5s, and made them par-4s, so that the landing areas made no sense and guys were hitting three-woods into greens that were built to handle wedge shots. I mean, if you're gonna admire the Mona Lisa, admire it, don't redo the eyes and change the shadowing and try a new frame. Right?
If you want to know the truth, Mr. Hogan, the Open has become more the trophy of attrition than a championship. What they do is peel away players one by one until there's one guy left, sort of huddled and shivering, and they give him the trophy and call it a week. Jones is the fifth consecutive Open champion who never won a major before—Tom Kite in 1992, Lee Janzen in 1993, Ernie Els in 1994, Corey Pavin in 1995—and none of them has won a major since. If this is what the guys at the USGA are after, then I guess they're doing things just right.
"Hell, I'm not even hittin' balls this week," is what John Daly said one day. "How you gonna work on luck?"
The leader boards sort of told you what he meant. Each day it looked as if somebody had brought in fresh ones from another tournament. Thursday was Woody Austin and Payne Stewart Day. Friday was Greg Norman Day. Saturday had Lehman in the lead, Jones one back and a guy named John Morse two back. You get the feeling they could've played this thing for 10 days and had 10 different names at or near the top of the leader board.
Anyway, this Sunday pairing of Lehman and Jones was nothing like you would remember from the good ol' days. First, Jones was weak-kneed and white-knuckled. "When they call my name on the 1st tee," he said on Sunday morning, "I think I'm going to throw up." Then, first thing both he and Lehman do is up and introduce themselves to Chip, the standard-bearer boy. You introduce yourself to many standard-bearers over the years, Mr. Hogan?
Mostly, that was the Open: Chip and these two Simon the Likables at the center of the golf world, though Love crowbarred into the picture, tying for the lead with a birdie at the 15th, but then bogeying the last two, including the 18th when he gagged a tiddler that would've tied him with Jones. But I'm sure he doesn't want to hear about three-putting from 20 feet on the 72nd hole of a major when he was tied for the lead.
This Jones, who is a big, smiling, cocky 37-year-old-going-on-18 kind of a guy, got rolling with birdies at 9 and 10 to tie Lehman and then took a two-shot lead at the par-5 12th when Lehman bogeyed out of the back trap and he birdied out of a front trap.
Lehman had his chance to catch up, though trying to catch up on the last five holes at Oakland Hills is like trying to lose weight at a Häagen-Dasz factory. But if he could've just gotten his birdie putt at 16 to drop instead of having it spin out, we might've had a different finish.