The Pepper Mill

July 15, 2007

NEVER ON MONDAY The U.S. Open should get with the rest of major-championship golf and do everything possible to ditch the 18-hole Monday playoff. Among majors, the men's U.S. Open is the final holdout, as this year the Women's Open had a three-hole playoff in place similar to the one used by the Senior Open. In my opinion, three or four holes of aggregate scoring is plenty fair to decide a champion, and much better than fluky sudden death. Holes 15 to 18 at Oakmont or 10, 11, 12 and 18 at Winged Foot a year ago would've been a complete test on their own. Plus, a Sunday finish better captures the emotion, momentum and feel of the championship week, while 18 on Monday is a total buzz kill. The players don't want to be there, fans are at their desks and not in front of their TVs, volunteers are tough to come by, and the logistics are a nightmare. This year Tiger Woods was almost forced to choose between a playoff and the birth of his child. It's time to make this move. Give us a Sunday champ, not a Monday hangover.

NIFTY CRISTIE Cristie Kerr, the American most overlooked as a major contender, has finally risen to the top. At Pine Needles she holed crucial putts down the stretch and walked away as the U.S. Women's Open champ. Her victory struck a chord with me because Cristie reminds me of my younger self, when the pursuit of victory drowned out the joy of winning, my responsibilities as a major champion sometimes seemed like a chore, and I was consumed by the feeling that I had to prove myself. I hope Cristie doesn't make the mistakes I did. She should embrace this time, let her guard down enough to say yes to the opportunities that will come her way and let people get to know her. I didn't really like myself early in my career, and it took me a long time to figure out who I was. I get the sense that Cristie wasn't a big fan of herself early on, either, but if she could have the benefit of my experience, she would use this time to let the world see her heart, grit and desire, and above all to grow as a person.

PHOTODAVID WALBERG (PEPPER) PHOTOROBERT BECK (WOODS)
PHOTOSTREETER LECKA/GETTY IMAGES (KERR)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)