Rozner: Olympia Fields has earned another BMW, U.S. Open

  • Rory McIlroy ponders his options Saturday during the BMW Championship at Olympia Fields. Stuck behind a tree after he pulled it left off the 10th tee, McIlroy eventually chose to hit the ball left-handed and managed to get it back into the fairway.

      Rory McIlroy ponders his options Saturday during the BMW Championship at Olympia Fields. Stuck behind a tree after he pulled it left off the 10th tee, McIlroy eventually chose to hit the ball left-handed and managed to get it back into the fairway. Barry Rozner | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 8/31/2020 3:34 PM

An extraordinary week at Olympia Fields ended appropriately with an extraordinary finish.

Jon Rahm's thrilling playoff victory over Dustin Johnson was worth $1.7 million Sunday, and bigger still because winning the BMW Championship -- the penultimate event in FedExCup Playoffs -- sets up the victor with a large chance to land on top in Atlanta this week and pocket $15 million.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

But just as big a winner this week at Olympia Fields was the PGA Tour. It was golf the way professional golf should be played and full credit to PGA Tour rules officials who took a great course and set it up fairly, while making players hit shots, take chances and make choices.

After the embarrassment the week before -- when Johnson destroyed TPC Boston -- and even Medinah a year ago at the BMW -- the fault not of Medinah but of the Tour itself -- officials did not make the same mistake at Olympia Fields.

With baked out greens and fairways, brutal pin positions and wind howling the first three days, only two players were under par after three rounds, and only five finished the week better than par, the winner at 4-under.

Golf shouldn't be a 360-yard drive and a gap wedge to a soft green with gettable pins. It should be narrow fairways and deep rough and a penalty for missing the short grass.

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Unlike the USGA, which off often tricks up the greens, making them too fast with impossible pins, PGA Tour rules officials made it a fair, but difficult test of golf.

That's the way it should be every week on the PGA Tour.

There weren't complaints from the players because they knew the examination was tough but reasonable.

Not only has Olympia Fields -- which hosted the 2003 U.S. Open -- earned another BMW Championship, but the USGA ought to be thinking about Olympia Fields for another U.S. Open, with courses currently booked through 2027 for the National Championship.

The BMW is in Baltimore next year, but the rumor making the rounds Sunday was that Olympia Fields would get the 2022 BMW Championship.

"I didn't play the U.S. Open in '03, but I think that went pretty well," said Rory McIlroy, who finished 3-over and T-12. "I think what the (USGA) could do is hire the Western Golf Association to set their courses up. This is great. This would be a wonderful test for a U.S. Open."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

It's not about wanting to see players suffer. Not at all.

But they should be forced to hit fairways or pay a price. They should be forced to hit greens or pay a price. They should be forced to miss in the right spots or risk double. They should be forced to navigate fast greens.

They should be forced to adjust to conditions or the weak-willed will put up some big numbers.

The PGA Tour has become overwhelmingly a bomb-and-gouge league where the goal is to hit it as far as possible and have wedges out of the rough if the players miss the fairway.

That's really not very entertaining.

The average sports fan -- even if not an avid golfer -- wants to see the best play under difficult circumstances.

"It's such a demanding golf course that you just have to think over every shot," McIlroy said. "You can't have a lapse of concentration."

Tiger Woods played the week in 11-over par and a T-51, but rather than complain, Woods admired the set up and the conditions.

"The rough is up, 6 or 7 inches in spots. You'd better hit the ball in the fairway," Woods said. "The greens are baked out, but they're hand watering the greens, trying to keep them alive and keep them right on the edge, right where they should be."

Speaking with caddies and players all week, not a one was upset with Olympia Fields. Instead, they were excited about a true test of golf, albeit exhausted when it was over.

The message to all of golf's governing bodies is 20-under or 30-under par isn't all that interesting for them, either. They want to be challenged and they want the entire field to have a chance.

You can't control the weather, but you can grow the rough and narrow the fairways, while placing pins in areas that put the players to a choice.

That's golf the way it should be played.

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