USGA hopes U.S. Open not too tricky for play­ers

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY DOUG FERGUSON

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 10 un­der or lower.

“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 at Winged Foot, when the win­ning score was 5 over.

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

Wed­nes­day is never the mea­sure of how a golf course presents it­self.

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. I’m ob­vi­ously not that old, but when I watched U.S. Opens on TV and saw these long, nar­row cor­ri­dors of fair­ways and thick rough, that’s what I was used to at a U.S. Open . ... If you look at the venues that are com­ing up, they’re very tra­di­tional venues like Oak­mont, Winged Foot, Peb­ble Beach.

“Maybe you’ll see more of what we per­ceive as a tra­di­tional U.S. Open setup.”

Rain was ex­pected to yield to plenty of sun over the next four days, with the strong­est wind on Thurs­day. Davis said he al­ready has called sev­eral au­di­bles on the orig­i­nal plan of where to put the pins on the greens, an ex­am­ple of the USGA not want­ing the course to get on the wild side.


Rory McIl­roy thinks the fair­ways at this year’s U.S. Open are nar­row enough to the play­ers’ lik­ing. The U.S. Open starts Thurs­day in Southamp­ton, New York.

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