'Our objective is not to humiliate the best players in the world,' Sandy Tatum said. 'It's to identify them.'
On Saturday afternoon, with Shinnecock Hills baking in the Long Island sun, the U.S. Golf Association came dangerously close to doing both.
The best players in the world watched in varying stages of disbelief as putts rolled off greens, balls bounded into bunkers and downhill 3-footers quickly became 10-foot comeback putts.
USGA officials were watching, too, presumably with devilish delight.
You see, the people who run the U.S. Open have trouble with the concept of par. They cringe when it's broken, as if it were an affront to the game they're charged with protecting.
To make sure it isn't, they turn par-5s into par-4s, trim fairways to tiny strips of green ribbon and grow ankle deep rough everywhere they can.
When all else fails - as it did during the first two rounds of the Open- they simply stop watering the greens.
'They were probably losing sleep last night with all the guys under par,' Jeff Maggert said.
True to its charge, the USGA finally found the right recipe Saturday for its annual examination of the world's best golfers. If this was an exam, though, it was one without a lot of answers.
The wind that usually protects Shinnecock barely blew until late in the day, but the greens were slicker than oiled lanes at the local bowling alley. In a field of 66 players, only three broke par, and only one of them was in contention.
'The Masters was hard, but it was nothing like this,' amateur Casey Wittenberg said.
Under their breath, players muttered about the USGA. They cursed the conditions that got even more absurd as the day went on.
Those running the Open insist they heard none of it, of course, and wonder what the fuss is all about. Protecting par is a hard business, after all, on a course that measures a dinosaur-like 6,996 yards from the back tees.
'We've had nothing but positive feedback through 54 holes on 53 of them,' said Walter Driver, chairman of the USGA championship committee.
Ah yes, the 54th. That would be No. 7 on the scorecard, No. 1 in the hearts of anyone who likes to see players tortured.
The seventh was rapidly turning into the joke of this Open even before the wind shifted and workers mistakenly ran a roller over it Friday night. That combination led to a lot of mini dramas that drew huge throngs of people.
They groaned in unison as balls headed toward the hole rolled off the green. They moaned in sympathy when their favorite, Phil Mickelson, imploded there.
Think this game is tough? Try having to aim into a greenside bunker to make par on a par-3.
'When you have to hit it in the bunker to make par it's not a very good hole,' said Maggert, who did just that. 'Really, that was my plan off the tee.'
The hole almost wiped away the goofy grin Mickelson constantly wears when he hit a shot that was nearly perfect - only to watch it roll off the back of the shaved green. It got worse when Mickelson got a little bold with his chip, knocking it about 8 feet past the hole.
While Mickelson waited to putt, Shigeki Maruyama rolled his birdie putt off the back of the green into a swale, giving him a taste of what was to come.
Mickelson barely touched the putt, then followed it as it rolled slowly past the hole. In an almost comical scene, Maruyama's caddie ran to his bag to get it out of the way as the ball rolled to the edge of the green.
By the time it was over, Mickelson had a double bogey and was out of the lead.
'I really do love it,' Mickelson insisted, referring to the course. 'It's just that one hole today that was just a little bit ...'
What the USGA would have done to have a hole like that last year when Jim Furyk tied an Open record by shooting 8-under 272 at Olympia Fields outside Chicago. When Hale Irwin won at Winged Foot in 1974, he was 7-over-par, the kind of score that made USGA types feel like winners, too.
Furyk's Open record appeared in jeopardy after the first two rounds when greens softened by rain and a lack of wind allowed Mickelson and Maruyama to share the lead at 6 under.
That changed quickly on a course where par on Saturday became a cause for celebration.
'On a scale of one to 10, it's an 11,' Ernie Els said.
Things don't figure to get much better on Sunday, though many of the toughest pin positions have already been used.
If the wind blows even a bit, it could get downright scary.
'It's going to be fun to watch,' Fred Funk said. 'It's going to be a bunch of car wrecks. It's going to be like there's oil on the track at Daytona.'
For the national championship, the USGA wouldn't have it any other way.
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