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. 

Shinnecock's 7th: When Is A Redan Not A Redan?

 Dom Furore's Golf Digest image of the Redan makes it easier to visualize how much better the hole would play from the left.

Dom Furore's Golf Digest image of the Redan makes it easier to visualize how much better the hole would play from the left.

Since the last U.S. Open here, the Redan has become a household name. A brand.  The children of North Berwick's original and still very much alive 15th hole has developed a cult following. There are even reverse Redans. 

Labeled a Redan, Shinnecock Hills' 7th is a step-child at best. The hole shares almost none of the attributes making the original or the offshoots so much fun to play. (Ron Whitten does a nice job in this piece for GolfDigest.com getting into the Redan's background, its history at Shinnecock and the ideal playability. An accompanying Dom Furore photo also beautifully shows how some faults of the Redan could be remedied by a move of the tee toward the left.)

It's been some time since I've seen the 7th and while it's probably great fun to play at certain green speeds or for late afternoon giggles, the controversial par-3 just doesn't quite match the rest of this stupendously sound work of architecture.

Since the 2004 U.S. Open, more short grass has been installed around the putting surface, which was also expanded by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. Yet walking around the green again and getting reacquainted, I find it difficult to see how the hole is a good test of skill or a fun one to play. 

I raise all of this on the U.S. Open eve not to call out the hole in advance apology for the inevitable shenanigans, but to make sure after this week we are not lumping all other Redans in with the problem child. 

Tiger: Traffic Woes Might Mean Tee Times Are Missed

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There's one you don't hear every day at a major!

The Forecaddie with Tiger's remarks and his lodging efforts to stay closer to the course, with his yacht moving---fill in nautical term of your choice here because I sure won't dare--to Sag Harbor. He'll have to settle for his incredible yacht. Well, we hear it's incredible. 

I was on the Golf Channel desk listening and not able to ask any questions. But I'm fairly certain I could have done better than some he got in his pre-2018 U.S. Open press conference. 

Highlights I could find. 

TIGER WOODS: Yeah. I've missed playing the U.S. Open. It's our nation's title. It's meant so much to me and my career and, obviously, the USGA, what it has done for golf.

This was, you know, the biggest event you could win growing up, win a USGA event. To have won it nine times is pretty special. So I'm looking forward to playing this week. I've really missed playing U.S. Opens, and this will be another fun test.

On the golf course...

THE MODERATOR: We're certainly glad to have you back here at Shinnecock this week. Can you talk about what it means to be back and your impressions of the course so far this week?

TIGER WOODS: It has changed a lot. From the two times I've played it previously, it's a lot longer. The fairways seem to be about twice as wide. It's a very different -- very different test, very different look. So many of the trees are gone.

The greens aren't quite up to probably speed yet, but they're right where they want them. And as the golf course dries out, this golf course is going to be another great U.S. Open test.

And on the putter, probably the key to his week.

Q. Tiger, by any chance, besides reps, have you done anything specifically to address your putting? And by any chance did Stricks take a look last night?
TIGER WOODS: No, Stricks didn't take a look at it. I worked on it pretty hard this past week. Just had to hit a lot of putts, just put in the legwork, and I was able to do that.

My stroke feels good, and we're back on old bumpy poa. So hopefully hit good solid putts and see what happens.

Houston Open Moves To Fall, Drops Houston Golf Association Ties

Tournament saved, but without mention of the Houston Golf Association's involvement, there is more than a tinge of sadness to this U.S. Open week announcement. 

Astros Foundation and PGA TOUR announce five-year partnership for the Houston Open

HOUSTON and PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – The PGA TOUR, the Astros Foundation and its Board of Directors, led by Astros Owner & Chairman Jim Crane, announced a five-year partnership for the Houston Open beginning with the 2019 event. The Astros Foundation will operate the event and serve as the host organization.

The commitment to the Houston Open from the Astros Foundation, with the support of a consortium of local sponsors, is in place through 2023. The 2019 tournament will be conducted at the Golf Club of Houston during the fall portion of the PGA TOUR’s 2019-20 FedExCup Season with a $7.5 million purse and 500 FedExCup points awarded to the winner.

“Our team is committed to the continued growth of the Houston Open and making a positive impact in the city of Houston,” said Astros owner and Chairman Jim Crane. “The Astros Foundation has always committed to giving back to our community. The funds raised through this tournament will allow us to continue our commitment to serving the people within our county and city and help improve our parks.”

“The PGA TOUR has a rich history in Houston dating back to 1946, and we’re thrilled to share this great news today regarding the Houston Open,” said PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan. “The event has always made a significant charitable impact by virtue of tremendous partners and outstanding community support, and thanks to the Astros Foundation and Jim Crane, these works including support of The First Tee of Greater Houston will continue.”

The Houston Open was first played in 1946, with the inaugural event captured by Byron Nelson at River Oaks Country Club. Winners in the 72-year history of the event include World Golf Hall of Fame members Nelson, Arnold Palmer, Jack Burke, Jr., Bobby Locke, Cary Middlecoff, Gary Player, Curtis Strange, Payne Stewart, Fred Couples, Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson. One of Houston’s premier sporting events, the tournament has also made significant contributions to the Houston community, raising nearly $69 million (through 2017) for charitable causes.

Ian Poulter won the 2018 Houston Open at the Golf Club of Houston, the tournament’s home since 2003.

ShackHouse 66: U.S. Open Preview And (Some) Picks

House is reserving the right to hear out player press conferences and to see how the course evolves. Given the huge leaps in firmness and speed since Saturday that I've seen, a wise call.

Still, we recount (briefly!) our weekend golf, the Southampton scene and preview the 2018 U.S. Open from Shinnecock Hills. As always, thanks to our friends at Callaway, Ogio and Odyssey for the support and this week's 40% off code for a sweet Ogio laptop backpack! 

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.