No 6 Players Shinne-cooked on Sunday


2004 Stories of the YearEditor's note: We are counting down the top 10 stories in golf for the 2004 season. This is Story No. 6.
It was to be for better, not worse. But it was for worse. For far, far worse. And it all went to hell in a golf bucket in just one day.
Shinnecock Hills Golf Club and the United States Golf Association joined hands to enter into a week-long commitment in the middle of June to host the U.S. Open.
They seemed like the perfect couple, seeing as the two had twice before entered into this agreement over the past two decades, with glowing success.
Early in the week, things again appeared to be going quite lovely. In fact, Wednesday was a big ole lovefest between the players and the links-style course and the organization running things.
I don't think you're going to talk to many people in this field that have anything bad to say about the golf course. It's a fantastic course. It's in unbelievable condition, said defending U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk.
It feels like England out here, said two-time U.S. Open champion Ernie Els. It's such a great layout. It's great to be back.
The course looks fabulous, said reigning Masters champion Phil Mickelson. Im very pleased with the way the course sets up.
This is going to be a fantastic tournament with the golf course the way it is, the way it's set up. I mean, it's one of the best setups I've ever seen, said two-time winner Tiger Woods.
For the first three days of the tournament, the reviews were still pretty much the same; though, players could see a storm brewing in Saturdays sugar skies.
Prior to the final round, the field seemed primarily troubled with one hole ' the 189-yard, par-3 seventh. It was a hole that ran from front-to-back and was designed to be played into the wind ' not a crosswind, which was what the players were dealing with. Its landing area was also quite unreceptive.
Now, every hole seemed a concern. The wind was to blow a little harder on Sunday, and the greens were already desert dry. And, with third-round leader Retief Goosen five strokes below their precious par, the USGA had no intentions of going out of their way to give the players a bit of a break.
It's going to be interesting to see what's out for us tomorrow, Goosen said.
Interesting like sleeping-in-a-haunted-house interesting.
J.J. Henry and Kevin Stadler were the first group out on Sunday. Henry, who shot 86 in Round 3, played his first six holes in 5 over. Then came the seventh. After hitting his tee shot into the left greenside bunker, Henry left himself 15 feet for par. He missed the par save ' and the green. His putt rolled off the severely baked-out surface and back into the left bunker. He went through the same routine and eventually two-putted for a triple-bogey 6.
Stadler, too, made a 6 on the hole, when his short par putt also ran off the green.
After the second twosome came through, and still no one had made better than bogey, the USGA decided to syringe the green ' a fancy way of saying that they sprinkled a little water onto the putting surface in between some of the groups.
The seventh wasnt the only farcical ' or syringed ' hole on Sunday. And there were more tales of golfing horror in the wake of Henry and Stadler.
Tom Kite, a veteran of 33 Opens and the 1992 winner at Pebble Beach, made four double bogeys and a triple bogey in a stretch of seven holes.
I cant remember doing that when I was 6 years old, he said after his 84.
Joakim Haeggman twice putted his ball off the 10th green on his way to a quintuple-bogey 9 and a round of 83. Billy Mayfair made a bogey putt at 18 to break 90 by a stroke. Ernie Els and Sergio Garcia both shot 80. No one broke par.
Overall, 28 players in a weekend field of 66 failed to break 80 on this Shinne-cooked Sunday. The field scoring average was 78.73. Robert Allenbys even-par 70 was the low round of the day.
It was the highest final-round scoring average at an Open since 1972 at Pebble Beach, when the field combined for a 78.80 average.
But that Sunday, the winds, upwards of 35 mph, were much stronger than the ones experienced this time at Shinnecock.
The winds may have been a contributing factor, but when players walked ' or staggered ' off the course, they groused about the greens, and the fact that the USGA did very little to keep them true ' or even alive.
Ive never seen greens like this, said Furyk, who had a 79.
Any sane person can be the judge of how the greens played and realize that it's a little ridiculous, said Jeff Maggert, who shot 72.
(The USGA) lost control of the golf course, Woods said after his 76.
This is not the superintendents fault. Its the USGAs fault, and it is every year, said Jerry Kelly, who shot 81. Theyre ruining the game. The organization is not respecting the game; theyre not respecting this golf course.
If they were smart, theyd realize they look really stupid.
Walter Driver, the chairman of the USGA championship committee, pleaded his organizations case after the carnage concluded.
We start setting courses up for championships four and five years in advance, said Driver, and you cannot change an Open course setup in 12 hours. It's not possible.
So we went from having lots of compliments for what we did for three days, and then the wind blew harder and in a different direction than we anticipated, and you simply can't go redo the greens in 12 hours.
Driver even invoked the words of former USGA president Sandy Tatum, saying: We werent trying to humiliate the best players in the world; we were trying to identify them.
Asked if he thought the course presented a stern, but fair challenge on Sunday, runner-up Mickelson said:
I hit some of the best shots, I putted better than I probably ever have putted, and I still couldnt shoot par. So you tell me.
Related Links:
  • 2004 Year in Review
  • Full Coverage - 2004 U.S. Open