Will Open course play easy or tough?

Shin­necock Hills ex­pected to pro­vide a ‘marvelous test’

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - GOLF -

SOUTHAMP­TON, N.Y. — The U.S. Open wants to be the ul­ti­mate test in golf, and some­times that leads to a series of trick ques­tions.

One of them was 14 years ago at Shin­necock Hills.

A year after Jim Furyk tied the U.S. Open scor­ing record at Olympia Fields, the week­end of the 2004 U.S. Open was so bone dry and light­ning fast that only three play­ers broke par on the week­end, none on Sun­day.

Fans hav­ing to move to the side be­cause of a golf ball rolling to­ward them is not un­usual, ex­cept when the player hit the shot with his put­ter from the green.

Tee shots that landed on the sev­enth green rolled off the putting sur­face and into a bunker.

One year after Rory McIl­roy broke the U.S. Open scor­ing at Con­gres­sional, no one broke par at Olympic Club in 2012 when Webb Simp­son won.

Mo­ments like this lead to crit­i­cism that the USGA over­re­acts. Justin Rose sees it an­other way.

“When ev­ery­thing is in bal­ance, it’s kind of bor­ing,” he said.

“And I think in life, the closer you get to the edges, that’s where the ex­cite­ment is. So I would say the USGA is not re­ac­tionary. It’s coun­ter­bal­anc­ing.

“So if you go too far one way, you’ve got to come back the other way. You don’t want to fall off the edge.”

That’s the ques­tion go­ing into the 118th U.S. Open that starts Thurs­day.

Might the USGA lean to­ward go­ing easy on play­ers be­cause of what hap­pened the last time at Shin­necock Hills? Or will it make it tougher on them be­cause of the record scor­ing last year at Erin Hills? Brooks Koepka tied the record to par at 16 un­der, and six other play­ers fin­ished at least 10 un­der.

“We’re con­fi­dent this should be a marvelous test,” said Mike Davis, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of the USGA who has been in charge of set­ting up the cour­ses for the U.S. Open since 2006.

Davis be­lieves Shin­necock Hills is right where the USGA wants it, even with a light, steady rain on the fi­nal day of prac­tice.

McIl­roy is among those who likes what he sees. But it’s not a U.S. Open if play­ers are not com­plain­ing, and it’s been a quiet three days ahead of com­pe­ti­tion.

The big­gest ques­tion is whether the fair­ways are nar­row enough.

They are tighter than last year at Erin Hills, for sure, and an av­er­age of 15 yards wider than in 2004.

“Hon­estly, I think they’ve got it right,” McIl­roy said. “It presents guys with op­tions off the tee. You have to make a de­ci­sion ba­si­cally on every tee box what you’re go­ing to do.”

Rain is ex­pected to yield to plenty of sun dur­ing the next four days, with the strong­est wind on Thurs­day.

What makes a good cham­pi­onship in­side the ropes?

The qual­ity of the win­ner? Dif­fer­ent play­ers have won the past 15 U.S. Opens, the long­est stretch of the four ma­jors.

The mar­gin? The last play­off was 10 years ago when Tiger Woods won at Tor­rey Pines. Three of the past four U.S. Opens have been de­cided by three shots or more.

Five play­ers have a chance to re­place Dustin John­son at No. 1 in the world this week.




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