Poll: To Water During The Round Or Not To Water During The Round?

As we watch the 2018 U.S. Open final round play out, I keep coming back to one issue from Saturday's play: when it became apparently some holes that were working in the morning were not longer function in the afternoon, why not hit the the greens with water? The lesson of 2004 was: more water fixed the problems, rolling in the middle of the night or not. 

Philosophically, people do not like to see the course tampered once play has begun. But in a baseball game, infield crews freshen up the field as the day goes and repair the mound to ensure the best and safest conditions. 

So I'm curious what you think would be better: yesterday's outcome or a little water?

Should the USGA have brought out the hoses and hit the greens with water mid-round?
 
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Deja Vu All Over Again Files: Shinnecock 2018, Where To Begin?

Well in case you hadn't heard, the 2004 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills didn't go so well

The 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock had been going well, until Saturday when things spilled over the top. 

I've already shared my thoughts on Phil Mickelson's behavior today at Golfweek

A Golfweek column is now up related to the course setup. And many more have weighed in, including this fine one from Joel Beall. Honestly, beyond that I'm not even sure where to begin other than the incredible parallels with the Open 14 years ago.

Of course, I'd love to hear any and all thoughts as I head back to home sweet home, Jake's 58 before we do it all over again Sunday at Shinnecock.

What Would Mike Davis (Or Any 4 Handicap) Shoot At Shinnecock?

I eavesdropped on Saturday setup and came away just astounded at the difficulty of Shinnecock Hills under tournament conditions. The difference in speed and firmness from a week ago is pretty profound, with more dryness and difficult days ahead.

So if you're wondering how you'd handle this monster of a course, you'll enjoy Eamon Lynch's premise of asking players what a 4.3 Index like USGA CEO Mike Davis would shoot on the course he's preparing with Jeff Hall

Davis's answer might be the best:

“90 plus,” he shot back with the good humor of a man who knows this course is designed to test the best, not the rest. “Assuming I did not run out of balls.”

 

When Is More Sound Too Much Sound On A Golf Telecast?

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Fox didn't have the best of technical days during round two of the 2018 U.S. Open, with about 7-8 minutes of no audio that fell while key players were on the course. If the Golf Gods were decent, the technical issues would have landed during a painful Fox synergy play featuring a Bill Hemmer interview. Perhaps if you're a regular viewer it was exciting to learn how life in the Hamptons works for the Fox News anchor, but for most it was an agonizing way to transition between announce teams while plugging a network show.

For every fan annoyed by the sound of balls hitting the bottom of the cup, the telecast featured several reminders of how much on-green dialogue we get to hear thanks to Fox's aggressive placement of microphones and other efforts to push the technology envelope.

But as the Sporting News' Michael McCarthy writes, Shinnecock is proving to be a tough place for Fox's 200-plus microphones given the, uh, style of New York fan energy projected toward players.

On Thursday, viewers didn't get many revealing nuggets between opposing players or between players and their caddies. Instead, they heard a lot from a loud and proud New York crowd. It was like listening to the soused, rowdy crew at the notorious 16th hole of the Phoenix Open. Technology giveth, and it taketh away.

 

On Friday, it got worse. As Timothy Burke of Deadspin noted, the increased audio led to a particularly raunchy fan conversation being picked up as Patrick Reed was playing a shot.

I'm all for Fox pushing the boundaries and trying to pick up the sound, even if the collateral damage is a bit rough at times.

Trying To Make Sense Of Another Buzzkiller Of A Shinnecock Hills Day

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That whole history repeated itself thing happened at Shinnecock HIlls. Again. 

Old fogies recall Jack Nicklaus coming off his epic 1986 Masters win at the same Shinnecock where lanky amateur Tiger Woods arrived on the scene nine years later.  Nicklaus lost a ball on 10 and Woods hurt his wrist playing out of the native grasses, killing their chances at special weeks.  And we won't revisit 2004 again.

Thursday’s bizarro opening round at the 2018 U.S. Open dropped another buzzkill-bomb when the world top ten averaged 75.2. Woods started out with an unforced error triple bogey and even the best player and day one co-leader, Dustin Johnson, only hit nine greens en route to a 69.

The top 10 amateurs were only 12 shots back of the top ten in the world. (For more strange stats from a strange day check out this post).

The field wracked up bogey after bogey in nearly historic fashion by modern day standards, and all without fertilizer in the rough:

Here’s the zany part: Shinnecock was put on full restraint mode by the USGA. Greens were slower, most hole locations were pretty safe—though Jordan Spieth felt a few hole locations were dicey and Bryson DeChambeau barked out something about clown golf.

The course had been watered to keep it from drying out on what turned out to be a windy day as forecast, though not quite as brutal as the worst case scenario suggested as a possibility.

Generally when the world’s best get course conditioning this sound, greens holding and those 41.6 yard wide fairways USGA traditionalists abhor, someone is still going to post a 67.  Especially when the course is an architectural masterpiece where we elitists assume great play will be separated from the rest.

I floated a few other theories on a ShackHouse first round pop-up, including the brightness of the day and the exposed nature of the new-look Shinnecock making it tougher for players who love their tree-lined golf. 

But this all overlooks one key and well-known theory: golf is a very strange sport. Goofy things happen no matter how many stats tell us to expect the expected.

Scott Gregory Shoots 92, Still Talks To The Press

 Scott Gregory's 2018 U.S. Open first round card

Scott Gregory's 2018 U.S. Open first round card

Former Amateur Champion, Walker Cupper and European Challenge Tour player Scott Gregory posted a first round 92 at Shinnecock Hills featuring just three pars. Unlike, eh em, some big names, the lad still answered questions after the disaster.

From Will Gray's GolfChannel.com report.

“I mean, everyone has bad days. Even people, you look at Rory, Tiger and all those. They all struggle occasionally,” Gregory said. “I qualified last week, so I can’t be that bad. Just got to go out and try to find something.”

And he does have this highlight from the week.

High Winds Forecast: USGA Calls Audible On Thursday's Course Setup

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As I write for Golfweek.com, the USGA setup team has deviated from their original plans more than they can ever recall to accommodate potentially high winds during Thursday's 2018 U.S. Open first round.

Winds will be mostly out of the west, making some very long holes shorter, but also difficult to hold uphill second shots to greens like the 9th and 10th.

The Wednesday rains also should favor morning players who will get to the course before the afternoon bakes out Shinnecock Hills. Though the forecast suggests a good steady breeze all day. Peak gusts are expected around 2-3 pm.

We discussed on Live From The U.S. Open today.

Rory McIlroy On Playing Golf For Fun

This has little to do with the U.S. Open, or maybe it will, but of late there has been a sense some of today's best players rarely get to play their sport for fun. Or seem to have fun.

From his 2018 U.S. Open press conference:

Q. Rory, most professionals don't like to play fun golf. You talk to them, they don't know anything about Friar's Head or National or any place else.

Can you talk about your what impetus is, meaning how do you approach a fun golf round versus a professional round? And the fun golf you played this week, does that put you in a different mindset for this week?

RORY McILROY: It does. Alex, I would say for maybe five or six years, I never played fun golf. It was all to do with getting ready to play tournaments, and this is -- you know, I didn't understand people that went out and played a lot.

But basically, it's been since my dad became a member at Seminole, and I was able to go over and play a lot of golf with him, that I really started to enjoy fun golf again and playing these different courses.

And it's a real treat to be able to show up at any golf course in the country or the world and get out and play it and have a bit of fun.

And I think it does put you in a different frame of mind. You're relaxed out there, and maybe that sort of bleeds into your mindset whenever you're here in a big championship. It's no different. I think that's the thing. If I've got a shot that I need to execute under pressure here this week, it's no different than playing that shot when I'm out there playing with my dad or my buddies or whatever it is.

So obviously, there is a separation of the two, but the more you can get into that mindset of being relaxed and enjoying it, the better you're going to play.

Spieth, Thomas Just Now Learning Of New 2-Hole U.S. Open Playoff!?

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Announced in February, the lads revealed that Tuesday at the U.S. Open was the first time they learned of the new system. My Golfweek item here.

No big deal since it's not like they found out Sunday as they were about to go home to rest up for a Monday 18-hole round. But given their attention to detail, it does speak to a certain level of focus and insular protection from the golf news world that is...fascinating. Layered. 

Mickelson Returns To Shinnecock, Before Heading Out Until Thursday

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It took him to get rolling thanks to some loud sounds and the usual ebb and flow of conversation. But Phil Mickelson's Monday press conference ultimately yielded all sorts of fun stuff. The runner up here in 2004 is a favorite again this week.

I summarize the session's key moments here for Golfweek, including his plans to go off property until Thursday.

Mickelson is not making changes to his bag that are course specific, notes David Dusek. 

Eamon Lynch with the age old question for Phil and the U.S. Open, which Lefty answered well Monday.

There were two answers in full I thought were worth your time. The first came in response to a question I asked about the course since he was last year. Check out what he says about his notes for the course and what he documents. 

PHIL MICKELSON: So the notes that I had in 2004 are all accurate. In fact, they were 100 percent the same from 2004 as they are today. But the notes that I took weren't precise, like this putt breaks X amount. The notes were that you must stay here for this pin, you must go here for this pin, the odds of getting up and down from this spot are 50 percent, 10 percent.

So it just guided me on where I need to be for different pin placements and how I want to attack the hole, and that stayed the same from 2004.

Odds!

The other answer involved the 2004 setup. This about says it all and should be noted for those who struggle with the USGA's direction. There are tournaments not fitting the setup idea of some, and there are tournaments where the outcome is tainted. In answer to ESPN's Tom Rinaldi asking about the value of protecting par.

I think it's a very fine line, and it's not a job I would want. And I know that the USGA is doing the best they can to find that line, and a lot of times they do, and sometimes they cross over it, but it's not an easy job. It's easy for all of us to criticize.

The difficulty is, when you dream of a championship as a child -- whether it's U.S. Open or the Masters, whatever event -- and you dream of winning these tournaments as a child and you work hours and hours and you fly in days and days and do all this prep work, and then you are left to chance the outcome, as opposed to skill, that's a problem. That's the problem that I have with it.

For instance, Saturday in 2004, the barometer for watering the 7th green was did anybody make double or triple? So if nobody double or triple bogeyed in the group in front of you, the green did not get water. If your group made a double or triple, the green got water for the group behind you.

That type of chance is -- it bothers me, given that we put so much into this tournament and the dreams and the hopes. And to have it left to something like that is disappointing. But I don't mean to discount anything, because I know what a tough job it is to find that fine line.

"USGA and Shinnecock Nation to Build Oscar Bunn Golf Facility"

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We have an agreement! Details are sketchy still but interesting and fun to see the USGA getting in the golf course creation business.

USGA and Shinnecock Nation to Build Oscar Bunn Golf Facility

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. (June 11, 2018) -  The USGA and the Shinnecock Nation have released a joint public statement today, confirming their shared commitment to a successful U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club this week. 

The statement is as follows:
 
The USGA and the Shinnecock Nation share a long history that began in 1896 with the start of our relationship and will again be celebrated during the 2018 U.S. Open. 

The leadership of both organizations has worked together for several months to identify opportunities to recognize the Shinnecock Nation’s contributions to the golf course, honor its heritage and engage its members in the championship. 

The USGA will not only engage the Shinnecock Nation in various ways during the championship but will also provide a lasting tribute with the development of the Oscar Bunn Golf Facility, which will offer a place for Shinnecock golf enthusiasts and juniors to learn to play the game and enjoy it for a lifetime. 


“We sincerely appreciate the USGA’s efforts to work with the Shinnecock Nation with this year’s U.S. Open. We are very proud of the history we share and are excited to welcome the championship this week,” the Shinnecock Nation Tribal Council said in a statement today. 

 “It is our hope that this effort binds the community in a meaningful way, honoring the past while providing opportunity for future generations to connect with the game we all love. We share a mutual respect for the game of golf, the U.S. Open and its impact to the community since 1896,” said Craig Annis, USGA head of communications.

In addition, the Shinnecock Nation will offer parking opportunities to fans wishing to park on their territory and will provide a shuttle back and forth from the parking lot to the U.S. Open. Fans can enter the lots off Montauk Highway by the Shinnecock Museum using West Gate Road, Southampton, NY.  Parking intake hours are 5:30am – 2:00pm Monday through Wednesday, with shuttles running until 9:00pm for return car pick up.  Thursday through Sunday parking intake hours are 5:30am – 4:00pm and shuttle buses will run back to the parking lots until 9:00pm.  

Video: Shinnecock Hills 16th, 17th And 18th Holes

Here it is, the big finishing stretch and also two playoff holes should we get that far.

The par-5 16th has been lengthened by 74 yards due to climate change and maybe the optimization of launch conditions. At 616 yards this beautifully bunkered three-shotter features one of Shinnecock's most confounding greens. 

The 180-yard 17th features a light-bulb shaped green pleasing to a right-to-left shot, offset by prevailing winds from the left. There is a juicy new back left hole location since the last time the US Open visited here.

The closing hole is 485 yards with and uphill approach shot. Take a close look at the flyover when it pauses at the 18th green and you can see a small circle showing the previous green dimensions.

Golf Journal Is Back! USGA Takes On The Shinnecock 7th Issue

I'm not sure what's more fascinating here, the Golf Journal (RIP) brand revival or the USGA taking on the 7th hole and overall moisture level issues from 2004 at Shinnecock. 

We at Golf Channel will be doing our own feature to air in prime time pre-tournament and I wrote this item for Golfweek's June issue should you wish to relive the events. 

Here is Golf Journal (RIP)'s take:

It's Complicated: Wanting The U.S. Open To Get Its Identity Back

As I wrote for the June Golfweek in recapping the events of 2004, the USGA just hasn't been the same since they lost control of Shinnecock Hills and injected themselves into the outcome.

They were coming off low scoring at Olympia Fields and folks wanted them to get their identity back to being the toughest test of golf. We all know how that turned out (we'll be examining this in greater detail Tuesday night on Golf Channel's Live From The U.S. Open in a feature produced by Dominic Dastoli and reported on by yours truly). 

Fast forward to 2017 and the USGA wisely takes a cautious approach to Erin Hills where the wind can blow and the ground can dry out quickly. Mother Nature didn't cooperate, the course played wide and players hit the ball obscene distances. 

Now everyone wants the USGA to get back to its old self, minus the gaffes.

Jack Nicklaus wants the old USGA back according to the Forecaddie.

So do all of Golf Channel's analysts who miss the strategy of having to hit down a very narrow fairway and pitch out of rough.

The topic even came up with Mike Tirico on Morning Drive Friday.

I have bad news: the old identity is not coming back nor should it in the way so many hope.

The identiy question stems from three different gripes folks have with the USGA.

--Venue Selection Division. The identity was lost with Erin Hills and Chambers Bay for many. Even though Shinnecock Hills is links-like in appearance, the designs of the aforementioned and their setup opened the USGA up to criticism. Yet both produced worthy champions and unlike 2004, there will never be a question about whether the outcome was tainted.

--Anti-progressive Setup Set. It's hard to believe folks are clamoring for the days or chip out rough 3 yards off the fairway while the drive 30 yards wayward finds matted down rough. Nor can I fathom how anyone wants to go to some of the game's greatest places only to smother out the best design features to match the U.S. Open setup "identity." As long as the players can carry a ball 300 yards or more and use wedges to hack out of rough, the old ideal isn't coming back.

--Mike Davis Disdain Marching And Chowder Society. If you do not fall into one of the first categories, chances are your desire to see the U.S. Open return to its old ways stems from simply not liking the role Davis has played in trying to move the U.S. Open into the new century while retaining some of the old identity.  This group is generally made up of players and old guard USGA types who have magically forgotten the prominent course setup and rules role played by Joe Dey and Tom Meeks.

 

Golfweek's Best Ranking Of All U.S. Open Host Venues

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Shinnecock Hills lands in the top spot and poor Northwood brings up the rear, though the votes are based on the course prior to a recent rejuvenation.

More fascinating is how kind the panel is to Chambers Bay and Erin Hills given how much those two are criticized as U.S. Open venues. But the panel's job is to rate architecture, not tournament venue success.

Check out the list here.

Jenkins On Revising U.S. Open History With 2-Hole Playoffs In Mind

It's still difficult to reconcile the new 2-hole U.S. Open playoff concept given the years of condescending lectures and reasonable logic behind 18-holes to decide a champion. Of course no one wants to return on Monday but 2 holes is such a puny number in contrast to the past or even the other majors and their three or four hole aggregates.,

As Dan Jenkins writes in the June Golf Digest, 15 of 33 playoffs would have seen different outcomes. 

Sure, the hole sequences might have been different, but as His Ownself presents in grand fashion, some of the biggest wins in golf history would have been replaced by...wins.

So take your Ouimet in 1913, Jones at Winged Foot and your Hy Peskin-Hogan at Merion and put them in the trash bin! 

Narrowing: The Story Behind Shinnecock's September 2017 Adjustment

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Check out Guy Yocom's Golf Digest feature on how we are arriving at Shinnecock Hills with a restored golf course, narrowed in response to Erin Hills and the importance for the USGA to get this right.

The piece in print or online is accompanied by some incredible Dom Furore images and some very rich details on the evolution of Shinnecock since 2004 when it last hosted the U.S. Open. 

Most fascinating to learn was Ray Floyd's role in suggesting the course was too wide after watching the proceedings at Erin HIls.

"I said, 'Mike, we need to have a chat,' " recalls Floyd, at age 75 retired but still an influential voice."I asked him, 'Were you happy with the [fairway widths] at Erin Hills? I don't think you were.' Mike told me he absolutely was not. I said, 'Well, it's going to be on steroids at Shinnecock, because it doesn't move and flow as much. You've got it dead wide, and we've had three really good U.S. Opens here with it tight and narrow.' "

The alert from Floyd, combined with conversations Davis had with smart people in golf, must have set off internal alarms. His reaction, expressed in action more than words, was almost immediate. Within weeks, the USGA undertook dramatic alterations to Shinnecock Hills.

Of course historians will recall that the last time Shinnecock hosted, the USGA was coming off a record-scoring U.S. Open. Let's hope the re-narrowing is as far as things go. As Yocum details in a number of way, it does seem very unlikely the course will ever be allowed to spill over the top this time.

Video: Shinnecock Hills's 10th, 11th And 12th Holes

 The beautiful 11th

The beautiful 11th

Three of my favorite holes in golf, we pick up the flyover pace as the U.S. Open nears its return to the great Shinnecock Hills.

The 10th features a tee shot that is difficult visually and one that once enjoyed some strategy. It's hard to imagine today's players laying up 220 yards or so for a better view instead of taking the turbo boost down a slope to the leave a flip sand-wedge for most. Even if the lie is in the first cut of rough.

This was P.J. Boatwright's theory in 1986 before players started doing their Crossfit

Although it's not an especially short hole, we anticipate that players will lay up off the tee so that they'll play into the green from a relatively level lie rather than play a shorter iron from a downhill lie. The pretty and small green sits up on a knob. An approach shot which lands just short of the green will likely roll down the steep slow and leave the player with a tough pitch shot. The green is likely to be firm, so a well-struck iron shot is essential.

The 10th was famously a difficult green in 2004 when it dried out too much. Players expecting this and the exposed, elevated 11th green to be the same speed and firmness of the others should probably book flights out on Friday night.

The 10th hole was 409 yards for that first U.S. Open, now it's 415 in 2018. (If only Stanford White hadn't put that pretty clubhouse in the way of more back tees! No vision!)

The flyover:

One of my favorite par-3s on the planet is, like most of the best one-shotters, uphill.

I wrote about this phenomenon a few years ago for Golf World (sadly no link), and Shinnecock's 11th certainly ranks with the most admired par-3s anywhere. Why? Usually the wind blows left to right, for a left to right shot shape so the golfer does not feel like the architect is fighting you. The beautifully situated green is pleasing to the eye and since it sits above you, feels like it's at eye level.

Finally, the left bunker cut up into the slope--a William Flynn favorite move--is really not in play for most of this year's contestants but does something to give the 11th an extra bit of life.

At 159 yards this year, the hole plays the same yardage as it did in previous Opens here and poses a very simple but difficult challenge: keep it below the hole. The infinity green is very receptive to the right shot, very penalizing to those who are long or short. 

After some finesse golf, the 12 presents a masterfully bunkered tee shot where only the far right hazard is in play. The hole is 469 yards, actually three yards shorter than 1986. 

First player to hit a ball on to the road 370 or so yards away is blamed for inevitable bifurcation.