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How the US Open challenges the minds of golfers

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BROOKLINE, Mass. – Now on to golf, in which a band of perfectionists will play an event long proud of its unequaled punishment of imperfection so that the perfectionists must make some kind of peace with their imperfections.

What a concept, the US Open.

As its 122nd edition hits the Country Club, where the US Open only occasionally stops – 1913, 1963, 1988, 2022 – men’s golf finds itself with four lions holding all four major titles. And he ends up with four lions who can attest to navigating their own heads hard and how the best navigator should win here.

Defending US Open champion Jon Rahm of Spain and Arizona State, still 27, can talk about the weirdness of watching a video and seeing a different round of golf than the one you thought he was playing at the time. He shot that closing 67 last June at Torrey Pines in San Diego, and he made those two closing birdie putts from 24 and 18 feet, and he thought he could have fashioned something almost immaculate.

Key lesson: He hadn’t, quite.

“It’s easy to think you have to play perfect golf,” he said here on Tuesday, “and I remember watching my best Sunday moments last year, and I thought I played one of best parts of my life, and I kept thinking [when watching], “I can’t believe how many fairway bunkers I hit that day, how many greens I missed and how many putts I missed.” You know, it’s golf, and that’s how it is. You really don’t have to play perfectly, and that’s, I think, the best lesson I can take from that.

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Defending British Open champion Collin Morikawa of California and the University of California, Berkeley, still 25, can talk about recent rounds in which he almost doesn’t recognize Collin Morikawa. His scorecards also failed to recognize the two-time major winner.

From a final 67 to finish fifth at the Masters, the bright light from suburban Los Angeles went on a bust spree by his standards (but a boon to many): tied for 26th, tied for 29th, at tied for 55th at the PGA Championship, tied for 40th, cut at the Memorial.

“There have been a few rides in the last two months that I just kind of stopped [caddie J.J. Jakovac] and just hit my shot, do whatever pops into my head,” Morikawa said here on Tuesday. “That’s not me. I think I’m normally a pretty happy golfer. I like to smile out there. Yeah, it definitely affects your mood, and it’s frustrating because I want to be consistent. It doesn’t isn’t what I’m thinking. I think it’s because I felt like my preparation was good, and it didn’t turn out that way. Sometimes when you think you’re going to do everything right , it just doesn’t happen.

He says everyone talks about little things, but in fact, it’s really about little things.

“Acceptance,” he says. “We are the best golfers in the world and we set ourselves high standards. Sometimes when you don’t play the way you want you can get upset. It can be frustrating. It’s like that recently. You just have to accept that you’re going to hit some bad shots.

When you watch golf, imagine a giant pile of little things in confused minds.

“There are so many little things that aren’t said or heard or that no one but yourself would know about, but that’s the problem,” Morikawa said. “It’s the little things that really make the difference. You always hear that, but that’s what really happens – that’s what it takes to win majors.

Defending Masters champion Scottie Scheffler of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and the University of Texas, still 25, speaks with something that sounded an awful lot like the perfection lodged in his recent memory. Between February 13 and April 10, he won four of the six events he entered. Golf has never really tolerated such things over the months, with the exception of Tiger Woods on several occasions.

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Scheffler had the anti-perfectionist common sense to laugh at his own final double bogey at the Masters, but then became the fifth golfer in the past four years to miss the cut in the next major after a major title.

It speaks from a perch of knowing that all is not so drastic.

“I’m not going to sit here and be like, ‘Oh my God, how did this happen? How could I miss a cut? What’s going on?’ “, he said on Tuesday. “Just to sit and watch: ‘Well, I could have approached this differently. Mentally, I could have been a little different approaching that shot” – and it’s more stuff like that compared to, “I missed the cut; what am I doing here? I have all these things to work on. It was more just to sit down and say, “You know, I could have been better mentally here and there, and other than that, it could have changed the tournament for me.” Just small changes. It’s nothing big.

Defending PGA Championship champion Justin Thomas of Louisville and the University of Alabama, still 29, speaks shortly after faltering eight strokes behind to win this PGA last month in Oklahoma and shortly after time after dueling Rory McIlroy last weekend at the Canadian Open. Thomas recounts the very struggle that will determine the winner on the demanding fairways and in the harsh trials here in the old shadows of Boston.

“It’s when things start to go south or maybe you have a few bad breaks or you have gusts of wind, whatever it is, where you just get thrown around in adversity, and it’s like, ‘How are you going to handle this?’ “, he said here Monday. “It’s at times like these, especially in a major, that I learned that I get a little impatient. I almost try to force it sometimes. end of the day or end of the week in a major tournament, that’s how a lot of guys are going to end up losing the tournament, I’m trying to get to a point where I don’t do that anymore.

“I wish it were so easy to be able to say, ‘I’m going to stay perfectly in the present and in the moment, and I won’t let anything affect me’ – but it’s not that easy. So, you have to somehow make room for everything you have.