Like anyone else who cares even a little about golf, I’ve not been able to stop thinking about the final round of the U.S. Open at Pinehurst. I’ve reflected on what I saw and felt while scampering around the back nine. I’ve gone over my own notes. I’ve read the articles. I’ve listened to the podcasts. I’ve pored over the photographs. I rewatched it on Golf Channel on Monday night. I’ve tried to use the time since to reassess any bold proclamations I might have made as a prisoner of the moment. But I keep coming back to an unqualified “that’s the best it has ever been.” There were stars, a great stage, drama, excellence, failure, victory, and incredible pain. And all of it was turned up to max volume.

Through all of that, there’s one word I keep coming back to: consequence. So much of professional golf the last few years has felt like a vacuous distribution of ever-increasing amounts of money with minimal consequence attached. There are new products, improvements, losses, innovations, and turnover. But despite the massive money involved, all of it seems low-stakes.

Sunday stands out because every second felt consequential. There was obviously great consequence for the winner. Bryson DeChambeau has another major on his resume, a rocket-fuel boost to his image makeover machine, and a golf game that now seems capable of confronting every kind of test. It’s a massive leap forward.

This was also as consequential a day for Rory McIlroy’s career since his last major win. It’s unclear in what direction it’ll go from here, and those making declarations about what comes next know no more than the rest of us. Does he ever recover from this? Does he embark on a revenge tour, winning everything in sight? This was more than some close call or another yellow box on his Wikipedia page signaling major championship contention. There was great consequence in every shot, and painful fallout from the failure. When was the last time a single round mattered so much to such an accomplished superstar, perhaps the greatest player of his generation?

Even just on the course, there were real, actual consequences for bad shots and good shots. Pinehurst No. 2 (and the USGA’s setup choices) made the actual golf matter more from moment to moment than it would have otherwise, even with the same trophy on the line. That is not something we get every week in “regular” professional golf, and even some (*cough Valhalla cough*) majors. There were consequences for Pinehurst as a venue, and the U.S. Open, too, as they enter into a long-term anchor-site marriage. The day could not have gone any better for that partnership. There were palpable consequences for every shot fans watched. This was a deep-sea dive with a limited amount of oxygen, each breath taken mattering more than the last. Nonstop, for three hours.

It was highly consequential for the majors, as a whole, and their continued separation from everything else. In recent years, the U.S. Open has been delivering these banner days for competitive golf. Two years ago after Brookline, I wrote, “It’s not bad to want something more for pro golf, so long as you realize what we have now, at the most significant moments, is already quite good.”

This was not just good. It was the best.

This piece originally appeared in the Fried Egg Golf newsletter. Subscribe for free and receive golf news and insight every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.