BETHESDA, Md. – Shinnecock Hills Golf Club played host to one of the U.S. Open’s most controversially difficult championships seven years ago.
Apparently, the wounds have all healed with the U.S. Golf Association announcing Wednesday that the U.S. Open will return to the venue in 2018. The historic golf course in the town of Southampton on Long Island in New York will host the championship for the fifth time.
Shinnecock Hills last hosted the U.S. Open in 2004, when Retief Goosen survived a brutal test marred by the fury of angry players critical of the difficult setup. Nobody broke par in that final round, the first time that had happened in 41 U.S. Opens. The final-round scoring average of 78.72 was the highest in 31 years. Twenty-eight players failed to break 80.
USGA Executive Director Mike Davis acknowledged Wednesday that the return to Shinnecock Hills is a chance to trump those ’04 memories.
“When we think of Shinnecock, we think of one of the great, great golf courses in the world,” Davis said. “There is a reason it's ranked in everybody's top 10 in the so called best golf courses in the world. We think it is, and we think it's a great championship course as well as a great architectural golf course.
“It's one of our five founding clubs, so it's near and dear to the USGA. So I think for a lot of us, we wanted to get back to Shinnecock in the worst way and kind of get back on the horse, if you will, and prove what a great, great venue it is. What happened in '04 was simply an error in judgment in terms of water management on how we set the golf course up. This one is going to be very special for that reason, as well as just how great Shinnecock is as a golf course. Any time we can play a U.S. Open on a sand-based, sandy-loamed soil is a great thing, and then you add the wind to it, I think it'll be fabulous.”
The player backlash in that ’04 U.S. Open was focused on the nature of the greens, with complaints that the USGA lost control of them creating brick-hard surfaces that rolled to absurd speeds. Kevin Stadler watched his 3-foot putt at the seventh green roll off the green in the final round. Bo Van Pelt needed six putts to hole out at the fourth green. Chris Riley putted off the first green.
Players fumed afterward.
“I just wanted to walk off the course,” Stadler said back then.
Jerry Kelly spoke for a lot of players after he shot 81.
“They’re ruining the game,” Kelly said. “It’s a little comical. If they were smart, they’d realize they look really stupid.”
The problems endured in that U.S. Open led the USGA to publish a 14-point system governing their championship setup philosophy. It should be noted that Davis took control of championship setups in '06 and has garnered rave reviews among players.
Goosen held off a Phil Mickelson charge to win that ‘04 U.S. Open. James Foulis won the U.S. Open when it was first played at Shinnecock in 1896. Raymond Floyd won it there in 1986, Corey Pavin in 1995.