U.S. Open stock report: Ranking stocks up (Rickie!) and down (commercials) from L.A.
LOS ANGELES — In the great airport of life, the Monday after a major championship proves a telling touchpoint.
Some of us arrive in the penthouse. Precheck and Clear. Breakfast at the lounge. A first-class ticket. Ample overhead space for even our most egregiously oversized carry-on. Life is good. Wyndham Clark did on Monday morning. He arrived at LAX with U.S. Open trophy in hand and a head full of steam. His wildest dreams have been realized, and with $7 million added to the bank account since the beginning of last month, it’s likely he doesn’t mind the $11 Fiji water, either.
On the Monday morning after a major championship, though, some of us arrive in the poorhouse. A 5 a.m. wakeup. A late boarding group. A middle seat. A lengthy security line. Seat 49D of a 50-row aircraft … behind a reclining Los Angelenan with little regard for his fellow passengers. On U.S. Open Monday, that person was literally me, but metaphorically a host of pros in this year’s field, from stunning WD recipient Max Homa to heartbreaking runner-up Rory McIlroy.
As the golf world flies back to the east coast Monday morning ahead of this week’s Travelers Championship, let’s take stock of where things stand following the national championship with a post-U.S. Open Golfer Index. Let’s start, naturally, with the man in Seat 1A: Wyndham Clark.
U.S. Open stock report
Wyndham Clark’s tears: Stock UP
One can only hope the good folks at Kleenex were watching Wyndham as his final, U.S. Open-clinching putt rolled into the bottom of the cup at Los Angeles Country Club. If they were, it should be only a matter of hours until Clark’s newest ambassadorship is announced.
The tears that followed were all too real for the journeyman pro, whose path to major championship glory was far from straight-and-narrow. Clark has long worn his heart on his sleeve — his sports psychologist followed nearby on Sunday afternoon — and his game showed it. He wavered there down the stretch, but made just enough shots when it counted to claim a big-time victory. His life will never be the same.
Rory McIlroy’s scriptwriters: Stock DOWN
I mean, seriously, couldn’t you guys have repurposed a slightly more original story? The one we saw on Sunday at LACC was a mirror image of the one we saw 11 months ago at St. Andrews. Sunday in contention. No mistakes, but no makes either. An eventual soul-crushing loss in a tournament that was his to win. Another major heartbreak.
There were a million mini-moments you could point to from this week: the whiffed chip; the shoved three-footer for birdie on Sunday; the ugly bogey after miracle embedded-ball bailout; the 18 holes without a significant made-putt. Rory just looks to be gripping the club a bit too tight right now.
Rickie Fowler: Stock UP
It ended in heartbreak, yes, but Rickie’s performance all week at the U.S. Open was nothing short of inspired. It’s remarkable to see how far he’s climbed since he failed to qualify for last year’s national championship altogether. He needs a victory before we can fully call him back, but Sunday at LACC felt like vintage Rickie.
Stuffy clubs: Stock DOWN
If a fan attends a golf tournament and nobody hears them, did they really attend? That’s the philosophical question a few-thousand LA socialites will have to answer themselves on this Monday morning.
Up until the mob scene surrounding the 18th green on Sunday, the vibe around LACC could be charitably called underwhelming. It turns out much of that had to do with the club’s decision to severely restrict ticket sales outside of the member tickets and corporate hospitality.
Ultimately the club got what it asked for: an ultra-exclusive, near-members-only experience. It earned the ire of the rest of the sports world for doing so, with many calling on the USGA to ditch the club in favor of a more egalitarian U.S. Open venue in 2039, when it is scheduled to return.
Hope it was worth the press!
The Golf Course: Stock NEUTRAL
This year seemed to strike a new balance for the USGA under second-year CEO Mike Whan, which has abandoned its old battle with par in favor of a more player-friendly approach.
Fairness was emphasized above all at LACC, which did not once threaten being “too tough” for the game’s best players. Not everyone loved the course, but most had positive things to say about the setup. The winning score was 10 under, which feels just about right for an Open held at such a wide-open venue.
The golf course did not rule the week, but it also did not ruin the week. For the USGA, that feels like a major win. Speaking of…
The USGA: Stock NEUTRAL
While the governing body certainly deserves some criticism for the way it handled LACC’s bend toward exclusivity, I thought it was a good week for the USGA, which entered LA under prickly circumstances considering the whole [gestures vaguely at professional golf].
In the early week, USGA leaders spoke earnestly about the state of golf and the governing body’s role in it. They accepted accountability for the highly contentious golf ball rollback. They spoke earnestly about improving diversity of both ethnicity and perspective in the sport.
Easy as they sometimes are to criticize, the USGA has done more for improving golf’s accessibility and inclusion in the last five years than any major organization in the sport. There’s always room for improvement, and it’s incumbent on golf fans to hold the USGA to that standard, but we’ve come a long way from the days of yore.
Home games: Stock DOWN
Three big-name favorites — Fowler, Collin Morikawa and Max Homa — entered the week with dreams of major championship glory in their home city. Only one finished within seven shots of the lead on Sunday.
It was a painful weekend for all three golfers, but particularly so for Homa, who made three doubles on Friday to miss the cut altogether.
The three SoCal kids will be back at the majors again soon (as soon as next month’s Open Championship), but any perceived home-field advantage at such a little-known course quickly proved irrelevant.
Reusable water bottles: Stock UP
Between Rickie Fowler’s emotional support water bottle (s/o GOLF social media whiz Claire Rogers for the comparison), the U.S. Open’s YETI-themed media gift and the general anger elicited by those forced to open the week’s SmartWater aluminum single-use bottles, it was a huge week for the reusable water bottle world. Next step: evangelizing pro golf for the church of Owala.
Commercials: Stock DOWN
The week started on such a high when USGA CEO Mike Whan and NBC announced the two parties had worked together to drastically cut the number of commercials shown during the U.S. Open weekend broadcast.
It ended considerably lower than that, when Thursday and Friday’s non-ad-reduced broadcasts brought about the pure rage of the golf world. The simple reality is that NBC needs to recoup the majority of the value of its USGA TV rights deal during U.S. Open week. That means it has to sell a ton of advertisements.
It sucks, of course, for those excited to watch the action from home. But the economics don’t make for a good situation. The hope for golf fans should be that when the next rights deal is signed, it provides an avenue to better entertainment.
Ratings: Stock WAY UP
There’s a reason networks love West-Coast majors: they deliver big primetime ratings. This U.S. Open was no different — up 25 percent from 2021 at Torrey Pines.
At least someone’s watching the commercials.
Tommy Fleetwood’s 3-wood: Stock UP
Mr. Flo nearly charged himself smack-dab into the middle of the conversation with a Sunday 63 at LACC, the low round of the day. His pair of eagles displayed particularly impressive form. One of these days he’s going to break through on U.S. soil. One of these damn days.
Michael Block: Stock DOWN
The people have grown tired of Michael’s cinderella story, it seems. Even his sons. On Saturday, we ran into Mike at a Dewar’s activation, where he shared his Father’s Day plans with the GOLF.com gang.
Apparently, those plans included a Sunday grudge match with his two teenage sons, a +5 and +6 handicap, respectively, who enjoy taking bragging rights off their Dad, and even more now that he’s reached international fame.
“The older one beats me about half the time,” he told me with a grin. “I can usually clip the younger one, but he’s getting better now too.”
Michael will fly to Scotland in the coming weeks in an attempt to qualify for the Open Championship. He says he’s feeling good. Good enough for another dream run at Hoylake?
Seen and Heard: Stock UP
The GOLF gang has been working hard to bring you closer to the action than ever before a new YouTube series we’re calling Seen and Heard. The goal is to show you a behind-the-scenes look at the people and stories that make golf’s biggest events special. This week, we were at it again at the U.S. Open, I hope you’ll check out the video toward the top of this post.
Redeyes: Stock UP
Please remind me to think better next time I decide to book a 7 a.m. flight out the morning after a major championship.