By Steve Czaban Special to Published Jun 20, 2001 at 6:36 AM

"We are not trying to embarrass the best golfers in the world, we are trying to identify them."

- Long standing USGA quote defending the difficulty of U.S. Open course layouts

If you believe that quote, then you must believe that Retief Goosen is going to win more major championships in the near future. After all (thanks to USGA wisdom) they have identified him as one of the world's best golfers, right?

Personally, I am betting the "under" on that proposition. Sure, I hope Mr. Goosen takes his U.S. Open victory and does something special with his career. But chances are, he's yet another "fluke" winner of the so-called "best test of championship golf" on the planet.

Retief, say hello to Andy North.

And Scott Simpson, Steve Jones, Corey Pavin, Orville Moody and Jack Fleck.

Combined "other" majors between these U.S. Open champs? Zero.

In fact, since 1987, only two U.S. Open winners (Payne Stewart and Tiger Woods) had won another major besides the Open. That compares to seven Masters winners in that span who were able to win a different major, seven British Open winners, and eight PGA Championship winners.

If you want a tournament to take a flyer on a nobody, or a par-shooting plugger, the U.S. Open is your place. It's not a place for particularly exciting golf. And the utterly boring group of starch-shirt-wearing, bow-tie-sporting blue bloods at the USGA doesn't seem to care.

Every year, I look forward with great anticipation to the U.S. Open. Not only does it fall in June, when golf season is in full gear, but it is also played on some of the most revered and mythical courses in America. Sadly, every year, I leave the U.S. Open feeling cheated and annoyed.

Cheated because the event is so often a four-day roll of the dice. Good shots are supposed to be rewarded and bad shots punished. Not the way the USGA trims these layouts. Fairways are turned into runways, greens into ice skating rinks, and roughs grown to dog-swallowing depth.

A guy pipes a drive down the middle, and then sees his ball skitter off the fairway by four feet into a clump of grass that would stall your lawnmower. And this is fair? Another guy has a putt from above the hole that he touches as lightly as a brain surgeon and it goes rocketing 30 feet past the hole. And this is a proper test of golf? At most U.S. Opens, a missed fairway is an automatic one-shot penalty because of the rough. Why not just save the trouble, and border the fairways with red stakes instead?

This of course, elicits the popular response from casual golfers along the lines of "Good, it's about time we saw these PGA Tour prima donnas scramble for par like the rest of us hackers. Make it hard, make it super-duper hard, make these guys sweat!"

People who subscribe to this line of thinking are the same morons who think Johnny Miller is the greatest TV golf analyst to ever live because he'll say the word "choke" on the air.

Thank God I don't run with that crowd.

Personally, I want to see the best players in the world have a chance to make birdies. I want them to be able to get hot and "go low" as they say on tour. I don't want Bob Hope Classic pitch and putt scores of 28 under to win the thing. But being 10 to 15 under par for the tournament wouldn't kill anybody, would it?

Nobody makes great charges at the U.S. Open. Usually, it's a demolition derby of guys in full reverse. It's a war of attrition, not one of epic duels. Come from behind to win the Open? Oh, it's happened. Like a real long time ago. Palmer at Cherry Hills in 1960. Or Miller at Oakmont in '73.

Perhaps the biggest farce in Open history was Pebble in '92, the year Tom Kite won. The course was so hard and baked, with the rough out of control, that when the wind blew on Sunday (gee, we never thought that might happen) the leader board began to collapse like a soufflé. It looked for a while that Colin Montgomery would win the thing while having sat in the clubhouse for the final two hours of the round. And even though last year's runaway win at Pebble by Tiger Woods was impressive, you have to be skeptical when the other 155 golfers ALL FAILED TO BREAK PAR!

Is it unfair of me to mention the resumes of some of these "fluke" winners?

Scott Simpson has all of seven tour wins in 24 years. And he almost won three U.S. Opens, including an 18-hole playoff loss to Payne Stewart at Hazeltine in 1991.

Orville Moody won the U.S. Open as a qualifier, and never won another PGA Tour event ever!

Steve Jones has eight tour wins, never more than one in a single season.

Andy North takes the cake. Three tour victories, two of them U.S. Opens. The "best test of championship golf" as they say? I doubt it, judging by those names. Hell, the guys who almost won the Open are almost as scary as those who did. Do the names "Mike Donald" and "T.C. Chen" ring a bell? Shudder.

Sunday's finale at Southern Hills was hardly "must see TV." The big names were going down in flames, while Goosen and Mark Brooks hung on for dear life. The USGA wasn't doing a very good job at that point of identifying the best players in the world. They did however manage to find the two guys who were having perhaps the best week of their life.

Brooks' game has been so AWOL since winning the PGA four years ago, you probably have seen pictures of it on the back of your milk carton at breakfast. Goosen meanwhile, is 32 years old with just four European Tour victories to his credit.

At the very least, the USGA could treat us to a compelling sudden death playoff in case of a tie. That way, after Goosen had missed his dinky putt, he wouldn't have had the luxury of going back to his hotel to slam a fistful of sleeping pills and pull the curtains shut. He would have had to stick it in the dirt again five minutes later. That would have been pretty compelling. The antiquated practice of 18-hole playoffs is not.

How can the USGA justify cheating the paying public, the TV audience, and the rest of the golf world, out of a timely and dramatic conclusion on Sunday? It's one of the great outrages in sports today. Not only did we invest several hours of our father's day in this event, but most of us also work on Monday, and can't take the day off to watch the playoff. Not that they are ever really worth watching. Go ahead, tell me a dramatic moment from any of the U.S. Open playoffs in the last 20 years. Thought so.

Unfortunately, the USGA is embarrassingly stuck on itself and its own ideas of proper golf "tradition" and "practice." This means don't hold your breath waiting for them to stop making a joke of their own event every year. The courses will be set up as "sadistic" rather than challenging, and there will be a good chance that we'll have more Retief Goosen's in the winner's circle. The 18-hole playoff was fine back in the Eisenhower administration when the event wasn't on live TV. It's not fine now, so let's get with the 21st century.

This is not 1954 anymore. And you guys at the USGA are not working on a cure for cancer.

It's a golf tournament. Lighten up, and stop being so ridiculous.

Steve Czaban Special to

Steve is a native Washingtonian and has worked in sports talk radio for the last 11 years. He worked at WTEM in 1993 anchoring Team Tickers before he took a full time job with national radio network One-on-One Sports.

A graduate of UC Santa Barbara, Steve has worked for WFNZ in Charlotte where his afternoon show was named "Best Radio Show." Steve continues to serve as a sports personality for WLZR in Milwaukee and does fill-in hosting for Fox Sports Radio.