Contrary to my general apathy and burnout about the week-to-week world of men’s professional golf, I’m so unbelievably excited for Pinehurst No. 2 and this week’s U.S. Open.
The reasons for this are mostly obvious and if you're reading this, I’m sure they align with the reasons you are excited. All the players are back together. It’s going to be a world-class execution test at a fascinating venue. The weather looks fantastic. Carnage is potentially looming. Plus, there is no better consistent agent of unpredictable chaos in the golf world than the USGA. Sign me up for all of it. I can’t wait.

D.J. wrote this in last week’s G&T and it was proved prescient, even sans any USGA hijinx. To say we at NLU were excited about last week’s U.S. Open was an understatement - we were downright giddy. And most of the time when that’s the case, we end up being disappointed. While “our” guy didn’t win (more on that below), that somehow only added to how substantive and consequential the entire championship felt. The result edified just how hard it is to win one of these things – to play truly great golf for 68 holes – and then have it ripped away by a momentary loss of focus and a guy who makes Rory’s game look downright old-fashioned. The golf course demonstrated just how brilliant and multi-dimensional golf can be on firm, fiery surfaces and thoughtful greens. That we get to see this place again in ‘29, and then every six years thereafter plus Women’s Opens, gives us all something to look forward to. And in ‘29, the hope is that the game returns in a different place – with equipment somewhat under control and the game back in proportion, which should only make Pinehurst shine that much more.

I tweeted this out about what I'd like to see next time around:

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Upon reflection, most of that still tracks.

Here are some stream-of-consciousness thoughts: I think there are certain spots where there needs to be more wiregrass to maintain the integrity of the hole (5, 18). Speaking of integrity, the regularity with which TIO relief comes into play during major championships remains a laughable occurrence, with the 13th hole on Sunday serving as the finest example in recent memory. Pushing that tee up (in conjunction with the hole location used) made the hole far less interesting for the best players in the field. Rory stepped up and hit driver, knowing he had a backstop with the grandstand long right and a straightforward up and down from there. The previous days we were treated to engaging drama and disaster, with guys making double and triple with wedge in their hands - the challenge as much mental as it was physical (and on both the tee shot and the approach). We got none of that on Sunday, as the longest hitters thoughtlessly bashed it up there. And while Bryson’s 3-wood was brilliant, it didn’t make up for what was lost. If the USGA is hard up for another driveable four, then maybe take a long look at the seventh hole, which would play beautifully. This is all setup/rules stuff. The course itself played beautifully, even if certain greens don’t make as much sense with the current green speeds and the switch to the bermudagrass. If it’s between firmness and speed, let’s pick firmness and slow them down a bit, but keep them rock hard. All for variety and offering up a little bit of different tests and a focus on the integrity of the strike with irons. I imagine the USGA will be using a different seating vendor moving forward ;)

I’ll add two more related things to the list: enhance the focus on pace of play. Whan’s a marketing guy - make enforcement of pace of play in the U.S. Open a shining example of what is a scourge at all levels of the game (and seemingly only getting worse with each passing year). That’s what stewards do. It’s a tough problem, but bring in more officials so there is someone timing on every hole. Be consistent and uncompromising across the board. When they’re setting the golf course up a certain way to avoid pace of play disasters or not finishing a round on one of the longest days of the year, then that’s a compromise that’s being made in the attempt to identify the best player. And the best player is one who also completes the task in the allotted time and without adversely impacting his competitors. That’s part of the equation. Let’s stroke some guys and see what happens!

Speaking of stewardship, Pebble Beach should take a long look at Pinehurst’s philosophy and rebirth over the last decade plus. You want to talk about resting on your laurels (and the Pacific Ocean)...

I offered up some criticism of Rory in the immediate aftermath of the tournament as he packed up and left in the minutes after Bryson’s group (playing immediately behind him) putted out. While “chickenshit” may have been a touch strong (and a term I overuse), it captured the disappointment I felt seeing him slink away and speed off. This thread from Shane Ryan aligns closely with where I’m at on this one.

Here’s 23-year old Grace Kim on Sunday after blowing a five-shot lead and then losing a playoff at the LPGA event in Michigan. Sure, the stakes are different, so how about Adam Scott at Lytham after seven or eight years of close calls in majors? He stood up and accepted the silver salver and congratulated Ernie. Or Phil Mickelson at Winged Foot, after losing notching his fourth runner-up finish in the US Open in especially heartbreaking fashion? He addressed the crowd! Let’s do Greg Norman at Augusta in 1996 - he addressed the media. The all-time greats don’t do it for you? How about van de Velde at Carnoustie, knowing deep down that he’d let his one chance slip away in spectacular fashion and standing there and doing an interview?

Rory’s going to be fine. I’d argue he’s playing better golf than at any other point in his career, at least he’s better AT golf. He’s cleaned up many of the things that ailed him - distance control with wedges, first-round kerfuffles, and clearly put in the work. Sure, that makes it hurt worse, but he’ll move forward knowing that he thrived on a course that nobody tabbed as a fit for his game. And that’s before you even consider the way the near-term major championship venues suit him (see: 2025 at Quail Hollow.) So much good to take from this.

A lot of the #discourse has been about the fact that he doesn’t owe media anything. Perhaps not. If it were just him skipping a presser or a scrum (as he has a notable reputation for doing after a poor round) then whatever. But he skipped off before he could congratulate Bryson and looked like a poor sport in the process.

Rory’s got a lot going on right now. He’s asked for privacy and he should receive it. His personal life is not our business. But that doesn’t mean his public actions should be off limits from criticism. If he’s so upset with how he played — calling it maybe the hardest day of his career in the notes app apology on Monday — then offer someone else the wheel instead of peeling out of the parking lot. If he can’t close in these tournaments he wants so badly, then maybe it’s time to see if a different caddie might help. If he wants to focus on this career and his legacy, then don’t float it out there that you want back on the board if you’ve already resigned in frustration. No matter how disappointed with yourself you are, you stand there and shake the opponent’s hand and hang around, win or lose.

In other sports, you stand there and shake the opponent’s hand and hang around, win or lose. I think tennis is the closest thing you can find to golf - independent contractors, individual sport, going through a grueling psychological (and FAR more grueling physical) examination alone in an intimate setting, and standing up in front of a stadium full of people afterward accepting the runner up trophy and maybe saying a few words.

The reason we were all drawn to Rory in the first place was because he cared, he felt authentic and he at least wanted to do the right stuff, and let us in. Sure, he’s gotten down in the mud with the LIV stuff and regretted it as it relates to some of the vitriol and jabs at Norman, and been led by his emotions, for better or worse. But when Bryson’s beating you in that last category, it just feels off. Rory’s talked at length about the PGA Tour being an entertainment product. This is squarely that. Meanwhile, the Tour and everyone in its orbit, has tried to double down on “We are the serious, competitive golf product and we do things the right way.” When the high ground is your brand (or at least you want it to be) then you can’t pick and choose when you want to take it.

Speaking of the high ground, I’m not sure it’s possible to forfeit it any more than the PGA Tour has when it comes to sponsor exemptions. I truly cannot believe what we’re seeing with Webb Simpson accepting his fifth sponsor exemption of the season. Webb would be #202 in the FedEx Cup standings without his sponsor invites this year…he currently sits #133 and this week’s venue should suit him better than most of the others. A good friend who is in pro golf texted “opportunities are the most valuable assets in golf. Give any of the top 2,000 or so guys enough chances and most will eventually capitalize.”

Sure, Webb’s had a great career, won some big events, bagged a major, treated people right and been a model citizen and is currently serving on the board. But there are so many stopgaps and safety valves built into the system already that established guys have to play poorly for multiple years to lose their card, and then there are still get-out-of-jail-free cards to cash in with the “cuts made” and “career money list” exemptions. Webb defended his exemptions back in May in the leadup to the Wells Fargo, displaying a staggering lack of tact, shame, and self-awareness. Taking this one just doubles down on that and spits in his peers’ faces and cheapens everything. In the exact moment when the tour needs to be doubling down on being a meritocracy, they’re doing everything in their power to make it a closed shop. Oh, and by the way, they’re not even bothering to top the fields up. The “Play Better” crowd needs to speak up.

Travelers usually crush it with their exemptions: Identifying the right young players, getting them into the field, and then engendering long-term goodwill that results in those guys showing up later on in their careers. While it’s a Signature Event now and that matters less, they still opted to get one young player this year in Michael Thorbjornsen (who finished fourth as an amateur in 2022). Even Horschel is fine - he’s won this year and is playing good golf. Adam Scott’s exemptions are becoming borderline, but still on the right side of the line.

Who would we like to see get in? Min Woo Lee was a SENSATION last year at this event and is someone who resonates with fans. Or if you want to err on the side of making it as objective and fair as possible, just go straight down the standings and either the next guys get in or you go totally off the board with young guys who have done remarkable stuff and could use some early seasoning before they go to Korn Ferry Tour. Neal Shipley springs to mind there - he debuts on the lower level PGA Tour Americas Tour in Canada this week and is finding out quickly that low amateur at BOTH the Masters and U.S. Open doesn’t yield much recognition, while guys who won more on the collegiate level are being showered with opportunities and headstarts.

Random tidbits:

  • On the positive side, I really like TPC River Highlands. It’s such a refreshing change of pace for a PGA Tour event, with driving accuracy and approach play at a premium, which yields a more level playing field for a wider swath of the field.

  • Massive week on tap for my Cleeks in Nashville. Coming off an upset win in Houston and looking to keep the momentum going. Blandy and Samooja spent the week out on the Island playing some top shelf choices, so their tanks should be full and The Grove is one of the stronger venues on the entire LIV schedule. I’m even tempted to take a red-eye from LA to Nashville and pop in on Sunday.

The next GHIN from me will be far more focused on golf travel, as well as looking at my favorite driving ranges in the world (spurred by last week’s brilliant setup on The Cradle.) I flew out to San Diego yesterday for driver/fairway wood fitting at TPI yesterday and then scooted up to LA for a member/guest the rest of the week. Coming in as a 2 handicap with a low ceiling and making a ton of pars is not a great recipe!


Speaking of travel, I had an interesting day yesterday. Flew United from JAX to DEN to SAN, with an 80-minute connection in Denver. Tight but nothing to be too concerned about. First flight is on an Airbus A320 (Randy’s favorite) and the captain informs us pretty early during the boarding process that there’s an issue with a sensor on the hot water line to the aft galley and lavatory and that it shouldn’t be a big issue as they’re just going to shut that off and the paperwork will be more of a hassle than the actual process of working around it. We’re delayed about 25 minutes, no biggie. We taxi out to the runway and then all of a sudden turn back to the gate. Captain comes on and says we have to drop a passenger back off. There’s a collective groan in the cabin. We taxi back, have to wait for a few minutes on the tug and then a few more on the jetway operator for this unexpected detour, then everyone starts craning their necks to see who is going to get off this plane. A young lady, probably late 20s or early 30s, gets up and walks up from the back of the plane and basically jogs to the front, and it sounded like it was anxiety/fear of flying related, and the mechanical issue with the HOT WATER SENSOR sent her over the edge (keep in mind this isn’t even a Boeing.) All told, we were 102 minutes late into Denver and at least half the plane missed their connections. While I try to be sensitive and empathetic to this stuff, there’s a point where once you made the decision to board that airplane you’re locked in. No turning back. And a hundred-ish people’s day got a lot more complicated because of one person.

No worries, roll with it and keep going. Got on the next flight to San Diego about two hours later (which allowed me to go to Steve’s Snappin’ Dogs in DEN!) and hopped in an Uber (to avoid the rental car fiasco which is a stain on an otherwise world-class airport, at least in the non-Southwest Airlines concourses) and headed up to Oceanside. Wrapped in Oceanside and then hopped in another Uber up to Santa Monica. Love that drive and it was a warm, hazy sunset and a perfect night. We’re rolling through Camp Pendleton on Interstate 5 when the driver pulls over and we’ve got a flat tire immediately next to the closed nuclear plant south of San Clemente.

We got it changed, but I thought for sure we were going to get a visit from a security guard from the Nuclear Commission. Tire got changed and I was on my way to LA in time to get a quick bite at Esters, which is one of my favorites. What a day!

Quick hits:

  • I’m not a big Reddit guy but I’ll peruse it from time to time on various topics to get a general sense of the temperature when it comes to NLU. Someone sent me this thread and I’ve been cackling at some of the replies and theories in there. Will dig into specifics during my next turn with G&T.

  • Doing a lot of trip planning at the moment - Scandinavia and then Scotland in July. More to come there, too. If you have any recs, for Copenhagen, send them my way!

  • Having two young kids and a business that’s mostly online has me thinking about the impact of phones, technology and social media a lot. After big major weeks, I’m particularly drained, as I acutely feel the impact of being too online for a week, whether it’s psychological or the physical toll on sleep and dopamine, etc. I’ve read a number of thoughtful pieces on the subject lately, but this one continues to stick with me and I want to unpack it with Randy on an upcoming Chop Session and then hopefully detox a good bit in July.

  • Speaking of the TrapDraw, I recorded a really fun episode with Jordan and my good buddy (and one of Neil’s best friends from growing up) “Magic Jeff” about the YSL trial. Be on the lookout for it.

  • Lastly, some recent recs based on consumption:
    • Grillo’s Pickle De Gallo - I love this stuff. It’s versatile and can spice up virtually anything (recommend both the mild and the hot, as there are different applications).
  • I buy a lot of Van Leeuwen Ice Cream, especially in the summer. It’s a guilty pleasure (not cheap!) but I feel it bridges the gap between the way too cluttered flavors of Jeni’s and some of the other brands, but is still interesting and different enough, not to mention it’s just great quality. Favorite flavors are Lemon Poppy Seed Muffin and Malted Cookie Dough Shake. I’ll mix it up beyond those (big old fashioned Strawberry or Vanilla Bean guy, too) and just scooped the Coffee Affogato flavor. Will report back!
  • Been messing around with some of the recipes in this one the last few weeks (same listener who sent “Dishoom” from a previous G&T also sent this one) and I’m really digging it. Cool blend of deep flavors with lighter, coastal ingredients.

Will see you in a few weeks!