Waiting for the call
CHICAGO - Call it ironic. The title sponsor for the Cialis Western Open is the name of one of those drugs men use to treat erectile dysfunction. A popular pill made to give men, what one would politely call more vigor, more gusto, and a big dose of macho. It's ironic because a big dose of Cialis is exactly what the Western Open course, Cog Hill's Dubsdread, needs. "Dubs" better think about downing a big jar of those potent little pills if it ever wants to be manly enough to host a U.S.
It's no secret the owners of Cog Hill, the Jemsek family, want very much to be chosen as a U.S. Open host. Last summer, just a week after the U.S. Open at Chicago's Olympia Fields, Frank Jemsek, the very hands-on boss at Cog Hill, sent a letter to the United States Golf Association inviting the organization to bring a U.S. Open to Dubsdread, the No. 4 course at Cog. And this year, the Jemseks are still hoping there will be a day when the USGA gives the nod to their golf course.
Even before the formal letter to the USGA's executive director David Fay, Jemsek had been making strong suggestions that his facility, with plenty of parking, spacious grounds for merchandising and hospitality tents, nearby hotels and the big city of Chicago, had everything the USGA would want in a U.S. Open spot. After all, the USGA brought the 1997 U.S. Amateur to Cog Hill and in 2002 Bethpage Black in New York proved that a modern day Open could be held at a public facility with great success. Dubsdread has been the host of the Western Open for 14 years, and Jemsek has reportedly been able to get the WGA to agree to move the Western for a year if Cog won an Open Championship.
But so far the USGA is not biting. When Torrey Pines was chosen for the 2008 U.S. Open, those vying for Cog Hill were disappointed. It was believed Dubsdread was in the running, albeit far back in the pack. Then, Bethpage Black got it again for the 2009 U.S. Open and that was a blow. It appeared the USGA had turned its back on Cog Hill.
There's a simple reason Cog has not been picked and will never be picked - Dubsdread is just not tough enough.
Let's get real.
What was the winning score at Shinnecock this year? Retief Goosen finished the championship at 4-under. The only other player under par after completing the four days of play was Phil Mickelson. Just the way the USGA likes it. It always wants to protect par. At Bethpage, Tiger took the trophy and was the only player to finish the championship under par. Get the idea? This is what the USGA wants.
Now, contrast this with the scores from Tiger's win at last year's Western Open. Woods shot a record-tying 63 in the opening round. He finished on Sunday at 21-under. Sound like a U.S. Open course to you?
I know what you're thinking. The PGA Tour set up Dubsdread for the Western and they are never as nasty as the USGA. Correct. But you still have to have an already tough golf course to be able to doctor-up things and get it to those wicked U.S. Open conditions. Yes, you can grow the rough to 3 feet, let the greens get ballroom dance floor hard, even narrow the fairways to hallways. But will that cut 15 strokes off the course? Eighteen? Twenty?
This year's Western is a little more challenging. The Tour and the WGA converted the 525-yard fifth hole to a 480-yard par-4 and lengthened the par-5 ninth from 562 yards to 600 yards. They're also using the old par-3 second hole instead of the new one. But what's the best these changes can do? Add 2 strokes, maybe?
Plus, what would it take to get the greens harder and faster at Dubsdread? That's been one of the criticisms; "Dubs" greens are too soft. On at least three greens the Jemseks have had a SubAir system installed to suck moisture out. But this would be needed on all the greens. Big investment, and it's not necessarily a guaranteed result.
Frank Jemsek has implied he would do whatever is needed to get a U.S. Open. But by satisfying the USGA, he might be alarming the Western Golf Association.
Even Tiger Woods most recently as last year said Dubsdread is not currently at the level of an Open caliber course.
"If they redesign the golf course and make it more difficult, yes, then if could (be a U.S. Open course)," said Tiger. But can't you say that about a dozen other courses on the PGA Tour? Got to add more yardage, more bunkers, and make for more challenging greens. It's part of the drill.
At the core of the debate stands the true test Dubsdread has to offer, and that's not a tough enough test for the best players in the world. Despite the legacy of the Jemsek family and their commitment and dedication to public golf, despite the great facilities at Cog Hill, despite being just 30 miles from Chicago, despite Cog's good history with the USGA, Dubsdread is simply not Open material. And although that may disappoint the Jemseks and others, even enrage some journalists who have been promoting Cog Hill as a U.S. Open venue, it is only reality. "Dubs" is a really good golf course, but it's nothing more than that. Enjoy it for what it is, celebrate it, and forget about the U.S. Open.
June 30, 2004