Posts Tagged ‘U.S. Open’

Dan Jenkins; for whom I'm still convinced Twitter was invented for.

Freshly inducted World Golf Hall of Fame member Dan Jenkins is keen on many things: Authoring golf novels that overflow with glowingly hilarious dialogue, his playing days in Forth Worth with Hogan, covering over 200 major golf championships in his career, to name a few.

And there’s no denying that Jenkins is my favorite scribe of all-time.  By far.

But there are some things that irk Dan more than the mistresses in his books.  Most notably, Bethpage Black.

It’s a strong course but not a great course,” Jenkins said in his 2002 U.S. Open story.  “It offers no memorable stretch of holes.  Many of them look the same: a hole ringed by bunkers with old-timey round greens that look as if a squadron of flying saucers have glided in from another galaxy and gone splat.  There’s no out of bounds and only one water hazard, the  small pond at the par-three eighth that would only terrorize your partner in the Member-Guest.”

Right or wrong, I’m willing to give Dan a mulligan.  After all, he’s been the source of some of the most dynamic laughs of my lifetime.

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Bethpage is in part of Long Island that no tourist had ever seen.  By my count it was at least four traffic jams from Manhattan, five from the Hamptons, and six form a view of the ocean.”

-Dan Jenkins said in his account of the ’02 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black

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Shinnecock Hills has officially been acquitted of all manslaughter charges.

For seven agonizing years, the East Coast’s oldest and most storied course sat on major championship death row. It was ready to join the ancient Indian burial mounds and whiskey bottles it was built upon. Combine its sentence to the wrap Bethpage Black received in 2009, and we’re looking at two of America’s most unwanted.  It spelled apocalypse for Long Island golf.

It was nearly an unforgivable sin, that fateful June Sunday in 2004.

The greens the USGA (United States Golf Association) purposely setup to roll as fast as racecar wheels erroneously morphed into a racetrack.  Tap-in putts weren’t falling into cups, they were falling into adjacent bunkers.  Silky-struck approach shots heading for the flag bounced off greens like they were hitting a trampoline.

There’s no denying the carnage that day; 28 players shot 80 or worse. No player was able to break par. For crying out loud, Phil Mickelson three-putted from five-feet on his 71st hole with a lead (oh wait, that’s normal).

But the folks at the USGA found vindicating evidence. They delved into the country’s history books on golf and rediscovered Shinnecock’s glowing presence within them. They scrolled to the line where it explained the Southampton club hosted the second national championship ever, in 1896, and was one of the five founding clubs of the USGA.

They presented convincing parallels the venue draws to St. Andrew’s in Scotland.  The fact it’s the birthplace of championship golf in America, stretching back when three-shotters (today’s par-5s) and mashies (mid-iron) were in. The unique links-style features it so obviously dons; conflicting winds gusting from the north, the Great Peconic Bay and from the south, the Atlantic; gnarly fescue and prickling blueberry bushes posing off fairways; jagged sand dunes unshaped by human hands.

Or maybe they simply made the case that Shinnecock is indeed the mecca of U.S. Open courses. After all, Stanford White, the architect responsible for the original Madison Square Garden, designed the clubhouse (which is said to be the country’s oldest).

Shinnecock Hills deserved a mulligan and that’s exactly what the USGA gave it on Wednesday. One ugly afternoon doesn’t tell a story that’s more than 100 years rich.  You can’t look at the three most recent championships hosted there (1986, 1995, 2004) and deny the greatness of the victors. Despite the conditions in 2004, the tournament was still decided on the last few holes. Isn’t that what you want in an Open?

Giving Shinnecock the lethal injection would’ve meant terminating one of the most fertile golf landscapes in the world.  The USGA doesn’t owe Long Islanders anything.  But it owes golf a whole lot. We can just pray the same mistake isn’t made.

We can pray someone turns on the sprinklers.

Editor’s Note: Story also appears on Patch.com

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Credit: Hamptons.com

The USGA made rumors official Wednesday morning when they announced that the U.S. Open will return to Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in 2018.

The announcement, which came a day before the start of the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club, awards the storied Southampton club it’s fifth U.S. Open. Shinnecock Hills’ first, in 1896, was the second Open ever played.

USGA President Jim Hyler said Wednesday they were thrilled to return the national championship to one of the “countries most-storied venues.”

“We are confident that Shinnecock Hills will provide a true challenge for the world’s premier players, as it has for more than a century,” he said.

However, the return to Shinnecock didn’t come without debate.  The course received heavy criticism —by both the players and public —the last time it hosted a U.S. Open in 2004, which was won by South Africa’s Retief Goosen. Many players said the USGA’s setup was unfair and that the greens were nearly unplayable. The lack of rain and water made the conditions rock solid, which prevented incoming approach shots from holding the greens.

Hyler admitted the USGA let the course get away from them on the final round and said they used that as a “wholesome learning experience.”

The 2018 Open will be the eighth USGA championship played at Shinnecock and it’s the only club to host U.S. Opens in three different centuries.

“The only thing that’s going to be done at Shinnecock Hills are some new teeing grounds,” said USGA Executive Director Mike Davis. “And the whole reason for that is to try to, in our opinion, bring the wonderful William Flynn designs back into play.”

Editor’s note: Story also appears on Patch.com

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Follow me (@ajvoelpel) on twitter all week for some fun facts of the U.S. Open and its history.

— Long Island? Yeah, we’ve only produced Open winners by the likes of Tiger Woods, Bobby Jones, Gene Sarazen, Raymond Floyd and Corey Pavin.

— Speaking of Bobby Jones, he won the first major championship of his career on Long Island: The 1923 U.S. Open at Inwood CC.

— In 1960 Hogan, Arnie & Jack dueled @Cherry Hills. Afterward, Hogan said young Jack “could’ve won by 10 shots if he’d known what he was doin.”

— 60 years ago, Hogan won his 4th Open title at Oakland Hills. He fired a stunning final round 67 when the scoring avg for the round was 78.

— Phil the best to never win the Open? Get real. Slammin’ Sammy went 0-28 (4 2nd place finishes), primarily because of a guy in the 50s named Ben Hogan.

— To think, w/ a par on the 18th at ’06 US Open, Phil would’ve been a British Open away from a Tiger Slam (won ’05 PGA, ’06 Masters)

Editor’s note: This page will be updated regularly throughout Open week.

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