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San Francisco: All This And Golf, Too

SAN FRANCISCO l When you get tired walking around San Francisco, someone said, you can always lean against it. Ah yes, the city of hills, thrills and three-putt greens.
Baghdad by the Bay, it was called by the late prose laureate Herb Caen, although for the past week more accurately it was Bogeys by the Bay, a place where Irish Coffee was perfected – if not invented – narcissism is always in fashion and little cable cars really don’t climb halfway to the stars, but we’ll go with the exaggeration.
The politics are liberal, the bridge toll charges are painful, and it was almost as hard to break par at The Olympic Club as it was to get into Boulevard or Gary Danko, two of the top restaurants, although presumably the Open competitors dined where they wished.
They didn’t play as they wished. Not even close. “I think we all knew the USGA was going to come out firing,” said Nick Watney.
Just as it should be in the old, wild west.
U.S. Opens in San Francisco are as quirky and surprising as the town itself. Didn’t Fleck beat Hogan and Casper beat Arnie? Didn’t Luke Donald this year barely break 80? Didn’t Phil Mickelson say Olympic is a “wonderful test of golf and so many great things happen over the years here?”
If you don’t include Bubba Watson’s two rounds in the 2012 Open.
San Francisco, the Bay Area, loves its sports. It has six pro teams, the Giants, A’s, 49ers, Raiders, Warriors, Sharks, and two major universities, Cal and Stanford. There was a World Series two years ago, a U.S. Open at Olympic, for a fifth time, this year.
The morning fog may fill the air – although the weather for the Open was beautiful, speaking of surprises – but we don’t care. It almost never rains in the summer, meaning, to the delight of the USGA, Olympic was dry, fast and as tough as a waitress in a dockside café.
Rory McIlroy showed up Open week, put on a Giants baseball jersey and – for anyone, Northern Irish or middle American – threw a very accurate ceremonial first pitch before a game against the Astros.
The fans that Tuesday night of the Open received a McIlroy bobblehead doll. A collector’s item, unlike Rory’s scorecards. The defending champion missed the cut. Welcome to San Francisco.
On Wednesday, Matt Cain threw a ton of accurate pitches, first, last and in between, recording the Giants’ first perfect game in the history of the franchise, more than 130 years.
There’s a statue of Willie Mays in front of AT&T Park, which shows how much the situation in The City – San Franciscans are pretentious – has changed in half a century.
When the Giants in 1958 moved from New York to San Francisco, the city where Joe DiMaggio, Joltin’ Joe, grew up and was an icon did not take readily to Mays. Meanwhile, attending a UN session here in 1959, Soviet premier Nikita Khruschev received huge ovations.
“What a town,’’ wrote Frank Coniff, an editor for Hearst. “They boo Willie Mays and cheer Khruschev,’’
Now they cheer everyone, other than individuals wearing a Dodger uniform. The chant “Beat L.A.’’ seems never to end.
San Francisco is where in the mid 19th century Joshua Abraham Norton declared himself “Emperor of these United States.’’
Where in the mid-20th century, NBC television declared Ben Hogan winner of the 1955 Open.
Where in the early 21st century a diva with a skyscraper on her hat sang “God Bless America’’ during the Giants’ National League playoffs.
We accept the unusual, such as the reverse camber fairways at Olympic where holes that dogleg left slant to the right and holes that dogleg right slant left.
We’re not too supportive of environmentalists trying to shut down Sharp Park golf course, the Alister MacKenzie design, to save frogs and snakes, as if they deserved tee times.
We are as concerned with how the cabernet grapes in Napa are ripening as who will be playing outside linebacker for the Niners.
We worry when the big one will hit – hey, the most famous earthquake fault in the world, the San Andreas, runs under Olympic’s first and second fairways – but we wouldn’t move away.
Mark Twain lived for a while in San Francisco and even was a member of Olympic, if before the club, known for athletics, purchased the golf course in the 1920s. Twain proclaimed golf a good walk spoiled and numerous entrants in the Open will second the motion.
No one is certain whether Twain actually said the coldest winter he ever spent was a summer in San Francisco, but during the Open the weather was beautiful, disproving all theories about everything and everyone.
“I was married once – in San Francisco,’’ said the comedian W.C. Fields. “I haven’t seen her for many years. The great earthquake and fire in 1906 destroyed the marriage certificate. Which proves that earthquakes aren’t all bad.’’
But U.S. Opens in San Francisco are all good. Fore!


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