U.S. Open Closes With… a Birdie?

Not really the classic atmosphere you were looking for. Webb Simpson manages to get in one last shot: “enjoy the jail cell pal.”

Costas has to just be wondering: Why all this weird shit happening to me lately?

U.S. Open Online Video for the Weekend: Holes 8 & 18

The U.S. Open website and the U.S. Open apps will be showing up-close coverage of holes 8 and 18 at the Olympic Club during Saturday and Sunday rounds, according to the U.S. Open website.

Unlike Thursday-Friday coverage, which followed “marquee” groups throughout the course, on the weekend the Open is opting to showcase two of the more interesting holes — the stadium-like par-3 No. 8, and the classic finisher, the up-and-down No. 18. This is kind of a fun feature, like the “Amen Corner” cam at Augusta, and a great way to watch all the groups come through.

Live online coverage starts at 1 p.m. Pacific, mirroring the TV coverage on NBC. Enjoy!

Forgive Me, USGA: I Used my Cell Phone on the Golf Course

Forgive me, USGA, for I have sinned. If I could, I would call a penalty on myself for violating one of your rules — though I’m not sure how many strokes it would cost me for using a cell phone on the course during U.S. Open competition.

The truth is, I’m not really repentant. The crime was worth it, and I’d do it again. It’s just too compelling to use a mobile device to get information you can’t get otherwise, and to enrich the experience of watching something live. For many reasons, live golf is a perfect atmosphere for second-screen access and instant communication. There’s lots of downtime in between the action, perfect for catching up on what’s happening on the rest of the course, or for sharing our experience with absent friends. Or for keeping up with work while we’re sneaking away to watch golf.

So it’s you, not me, USGA, who needs to change. Soon. So that all the fans who love golf enough to show up in person can share my secret pleasures from Friday, which included being able to watch play on the 14th hole, live, while sitting alone in the sun on the side of the 17th fairway.

Let it be noted that I committed this crime using the USGA’s own very fine U.S. Open app. And its wonderful live video feature. How can I comply with your rules when your very own programmers have built such a beautiful HD-quality viewing mechanism? It was just too good to resist.

To be clear, as a media member I was authorized to have a cellular device on the grounds — under the stipulation that I use it only in the media tent. Why did I not comply? Basically, because, USGA, you have an information-gap problem. In other sports like baseball, teams are putting in advanced digital access because they are worried about competing with the couch — they don’t want fans to stay home because the experience there will be better than the ballpark.

At the U.S. Open you may not have that problem, since golf’s best test will almost certainly always be a sellout, like it was this week in San Francisco. And I get it that you want to go old-school and not have electronic scoreboards everywhere you look. But the quaint stuff only goes so far. The simple biggest problem I saw out on the course Friday was that many fans — your patrons — had no friggin idea who was in the lead, who was in the hunt, or where particular players were on the course. And that took away from the experience.

Couch potatoes at home or distracted folks at work had much better info at their finger tips or laptop screens — while watching online at home in the morning I was loving the Playtracker scoring feature on the U.S. Open website, which showed in a graphic view of the course who was playing which hole, and what their up-to-date stats were. And the USGA’s Open Twitter feed is fabulous, providing up-to-the-second info and compelling links. At Olympic we were stuck looking at small scoreboards that were hard to see in the setting sun.

At one point, standing alongside the 17th fairway we all had no idea whether Tiger birdied or bogeyed No. 7, and when the scoreboard changed his stats you couldn’t tell if the “1” was red or green because of the way the sunlight was hitting the board. Luckily someone wearing one of those earpiece radios came by and set us all straight. But the future of live golf shouldn’t be a bunch of zombies all listening silently. Give us some easy to understand rules, and let our cell phones be free so that we can view and share information to enrich our on-site experience.

I get it that overzealous picture-taking fans, like those who ticked off Phil at the Memorial, are to be avoided. But why not try some clear, simple rules with clear penalties? Say, anyone who doesn’t turn their ringer sound down and takes an audible picture gets escorted off the grounds — just like belligerent drunks. You don’t let the few over-imbibers keep the rest of us from enjoying a cold beer; don’t let bad cell users keep the rest of us from being able to stay connected to stats and views during the inevitable downtimes between groups.

Nobody cared that I was transgressing Friday, probably because I was discreet and know the simple trick of turning my volume to vibrate. I have faith that most other golf fans will similarly comply — hell, several people in the group I was around on 17 even turned around to stop a USGA cart that was loudly headed up the path while Tiger was trying to make birdie. Real golf fans get it, that players want quiet to do their thing. So why not try tricks like a ban on cell-phone pictures around tees and greens? And set up some “Tweet tents” or Wi-Fi zones far away from sensitive action areas? Not only will that keep sad, unconnected fans happy, but I smell a Starbucks sponsorship. Make this something where everyone wins.

If you need some help, I am happy to volunteer to be part of a research committee to determine what fans want to do, and how the experience can work for everyone. It was heartening to talk to USGA officials this week and hear that they understand that people want to use their digital devices while at competitions. Let’s hope this happens sooner rather than later, so my days of crime can come to an end.

TaylorMade the Big Hitter in Social Media at U.S. Open

The U.S. Open, refreshingly void of title sponsorships in its logo or direct marketing, still has plenty of affiliated brands, some of which have strong social media activities at the event, some of which do not.

CallawayGolf and adidas reference the tournament with their respective apparel lines and contracted athletes.

The shirts Sergio Garcia and Dustin Johnson have chosen to wear in each of championship rounds, are featured on the adidas site presuming, of course, the golfers will play in all of the rounds.

CallawayGolf company’s Facebook page also features a post and link to the hole-in-one made by Alvaro Quiros during Wednesday’s practice round on the 288-yard par 4 seventh. It’s only 30 seconds and doesn’t show the shot, but rather the golfer’s reaction.

But it’s TaylorMade that likely has the biggest social media presence among the manufacturers represented at the U.S. Open.

Twenty-two golfers in the field — Retief Goosen to D.A. Points and Tim Herron to Martin Kaymer — all sponsored by the company, have direct Twitter links listed on the right-hand side of the company’s home page.

And on the left-hand flank is a steady stream of Twitter posts from tournament fans. The feed was active from the first pairing of the opening round Thursday morning and continue throughout the day with a new post at least every few seconds.

James Raia is a California-based journalist who writes about sports and leisure. Visit his golf site at golftribune.com

Watching Golf this Week: Many Ways to Watch the U.S. Open

Why is this post a little late in delivery? Because I’ve been spending the morning watching the U.S. Open live, on a window that’s open just to the left of the one I’m typing on. I could go over to the couch and watch ESPN’s live coverage, which starts at 9 a.m. Pacific time today and Friday. But I like the online focus, which today is following the Tiger-Phil-Bubba group from start to finish.

Unlike the Masters online coverage — where you had choices of different groups or different holes — the US Open online video is one group at one time. But there are so many ways to get U.S. Open coverage, from the ESPN overload on Thursday and Friday — which is sandwiched around a couple hours of NBC coverage Thursday and Friday — that you won’t go lacking.

Since this is the first U.S. Open we’ve been able to cover live, it’s been an incredible learning experience to see a course like Olympic up close and personal. Check out our previous links for info that will help you with your viewing. We’re also big fans of the U.S. Open site itself, since it has a plethora of info (live scoring, archived video interviews, and a new feature called “Playtracker” which shows a live view of the groups on the course, with stats for each player in each group. (This would be cooler if it had a live view of where the players were on each hole, like a visual Shot Tracker. Maybe next year?)

So far, we haven’t seen many glitches with the live online video — like the Masters coverage there are intermittent stops and stalls but we’ve found that when that happens, it’s easy to just close the old window and re-open a new one. Since I had to stay home this morning for work and family reasons I wasn’t able to use my press pass to watch the golf up close and personal — but I bet I have a better seat than most press folks there, because the blanket coverage of the marquee group has been phenomenal, and I can sip coffee and sit in my comfy office chair while watching. Enjoy the great weekend of San Francisco golf!

Here’s where to follow the action:


(all times Eastern)


Thursday, June 14 — ESPN, 12 p.m. — 3 p.m.; 5 p.m. — 7 p.m. NBC, 3 p.m. — 5 p.m.
Friday, June 15 — ESPN, 12 p.m. — 3 p.m.; 5 p.m. — 7 p.m. NBC, 3 p.m. — 5 p.m.
Saturday, June 16 — NBC, 1 p.m. — 7 p.m.
Sunday, June 17 — NBC, 1 p.m. — 7 p.m.

Radio this week is via the U.S. Open app, or the U.S. Open website.
1 p.m. — 7 p.m., Thursday-Sunday

See above. Live online at USOpen.com, Thursday and Friday, following a “marquee group” in the morning and afternoon. Morning tee times around 7:30 a.m., afternoon tee times around 1

No shot tracker this week — hard to believe, but true.

The USGA is doing a great job with its Facebook page. Like.

US Open — The official Twitter feed for the championship is active and great, with lots of links, live info. Add it to your feed now.
Geoff Shackelford — well known golf writer — go back in his timeline this week for some great videos showing the holes on the Olympic course. Maybe the top golf Twitterer out there, especially when it comes to analysis/insight.
Golf Channel — official Golf Channel feed
@PGATOUR — official PGA Twitter feed
@StephanieWei — great golf writer who is a Twitter fiend. Works hard and long every day, and also has great insider views, via Instagrams.

If you haven’t had your fill of Olympic info, you’ve been on another planet. So far the overall view we like best was the Sunday special in the San Francisco Chronicle, where beat writer Ron Kroichick interviewed Ken Venturi for a hole-by-hole breakdown of the course. The official Open website also has an extensive hole by hole page with flyby views, etc. etc.

Rory McIlroy, the boy wonder.

The columnists and writers at the San Franciso Chronicle do golf right.

1. Jason Dufner, 1,735 points
2. Hunter Mahan, 1,477 points
3. Tiger Woods, 1,404
4. Zach Johnson, 1,386
5. Bubba Watson, 1,372

See the full standings for the FedEx Cup points list.

1. Luke Donald; 2. Rory McIlroy; 3. Lee Westwood; 4. Tiger Woods; 5. Bubba Watson.
See the official World Golf Ranking list.

Tiger Doesn’t Like Fans With Cell Phones, Either

Tiger Woods offered an unsolicited opinion on fans with cellular phones, telling ESPN reporter Tom Rinaldi that if the Tiger-Phil-Bubba pairing was done in a regular tour event — where fans are allowed to have cell phones this year — “it would have been brutal.”

Rinaldi, who we think interviewed Tiger after his mass press conference Tuesday (we saw Rinaldi waiting for Tiger outside the press tent, and Tiger is in the blue sweater/blue shirt he wore to that press conferece), asks Tiger about the marquee pairing of himself, Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson, a trio certain to attract the balance of the gallery at the Olympic Club during Thursday and Friday rounds.

If you watch the video (which is under the USGA auspice, and not ESPN even though ESPN’s Rinaldi is doing the interview) Tiger says the pairing should be “fun, a lot of fun,” and then adds the caveat which is a non-subtle dig at the PGA’s cell-phone friendly policy.

“It’s something I don’t think we all would enjoy that much in a regular tour event, with the new camera policy,” Woods said. “It would have been brutal. But here they’re not allowed in, so this will be a fun pairing.”

After overzealous cell-phone fans bothered Mickelson at the recent Memorial tour stop, the issue has come to the forefront — with even the USGA saying they are looking at allowing cell phones on course during tournament days, though not this week. Perhaps the PGA and the USGA need to look overseas to the British Open, where there is a clear, smart and civil list of guidelines that should probably eliminate 99 percent of problems.

For us colonists, it might help to have really big signs near tee boxes and greens, saying “turn your damn phone off” or something to help people remember. And in the meantime, the pros who are playing a game for millions of dollars of other peoples’ money should remember that it is the fans, and the sponsors who want to reach golf fans, who line their pockets — so maybe the golfers, who text like madmen on the course when they are practicing, can cut normal folks some slack.