It’s been a recurring theme since now USGA Executive Director Mike Davis took over responsibility for course set-ups at America’s national championship back in 2005.
In the 13 years since we have seen everything from ‘old school’ US Opens – narrow fairways lined by thick rough (Winged Foot 2006 and Merion 2013) – to bold innovation (Chambers Bay’s 18th switching between a par-5 and a par-4 in 2015) and at every turn, Davis has been criticised and harangued.
While not everything he has experimented with has worked Davis has at least shown – a la the European Tour’s Keith Pelley – an appetite for experimentation and change, two things desperately needed in the game both at the US Open and more broadly.
At this week’s 118th US Open Davis might finally get his due for what is shaping as perhaps the perfect US Open.
The star of the show will be the Shinnecock Hills course, one of America’s most revered and architecturally one of its five best, and for its fifth hosting of the tournament it looks like it will finally get to shine.
A renovation/restoration by the game’s best architects, Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, has seen fairways widened to create strategic playing angles while greens have been reinstated to previously much larger dimensions to allow for more pin positions.
What it all adds up to, hopefully, is a test that will satisfy the distinctly opposing camps of those who liked the ‘old’ US Open and those who want to see a more exciting examination.
In Shinnecock Hills the USGA has a course that appears, before a ball is struck, to tick all the boxes for both camps.
It is wide (not Erin Hills wide) but demands tee shots be placed correctly to ensure an angle to the flag.
Away from the cut surfaces the rough could be inducted into the Long Grass Hall Of Fame.
And around the greens players will need to show creativity, skill and courage as short grass abounds and offer almost endless options.
It will be a complete test and the player who hoists the trophy at the end of the week will have earned it with an exceptional display of golf.
There will be no repeat of the debacle that beset the last US Open played here in 2004 when the USGA famously lost control of the course and it became borderline unplayable.
In fact, it seems quite likely that exactly the opposite will happen and the reputation of both the tournament, and the governing body, will be restored.
Seve Ballesteros once said: “The U.S. Open has never been exciting to watch. It has always been a sad tournament. There is no excitement, no enjoyment. It is all defensive golf, from the first tee to the last putt.”
That was a damning indictment of one of the game’s most important tournaments.
This week it seems traffic getting to and from the course is the major complaint and hopefully it stays that way for what might be the most important US Open of the past decade.
2018 US OPEN PREVIEW:
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