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Beautiful, isnt it? Almost gives me chills.

Those (chills) will certainly be in abundance Thursday afternoon around 1:47 EST, when Tiger Woods tees off the 1st tee. But more on him later.

The Course

Yes, the US Open returns to famed Shinnecock Hills Golf Club: a 7440 yard, Par-70 track, for the fifth time in its storied history, and the first since a memorable US Open in 2004. On that weekend, a battle between Phil Mickelson and Retief Goosen down the stretch would steal headlines, but the event itself, is probably remembered most for the carnage that took place over four days that June. When all was said and done, only two players remained under par: Phil Mickelson, at 2-under, and the victor, Retief Goosen, at 4-under. In the eyes of many, the course won that week.

In the years since, the USGA has been forced to look inward. In the past decade or so, fans and players have seen a visible drop in the difficulty of US Open setups. I, for one, hope this is the week we get back to making par a good score in a US Open.

And there are reasons to think why that will happen, and why it wont.

There are much more reasons to think it will– the rough, the greens, the length, the slope, the bunkers, likely tucked pins, etc etc. There’s really only one thing pointing to the possibility of 10-under or lower being attainable, and that’s the fairways.

The last time the pros teed it up here, the fairways averaged 26 yards in width. Not exactly a lot of room to work with, especially when fescue and deep rough greet players just steps off the fairway. The course has since gone through a restoration project to widen the fairways to about 65 yards though, and restore the angles and shot values the architect intended. So that doesn’t bode well for good scores.

Hold on though! After last year’s low scores at Erin Hills, where seven players finished at 10-under or better, the USGA decided to replace some 200,000 square feet of short grass with fescue to bring the fairways in to about 40 yards. Still not the 26 it was, but 40 can be pretty tight when you’re dealing with wind and a dry, sloped surface on fairways that will be hard to hold.

As for the holes themselves. The breakdown is as follows:

Par-3’s

  • Four total (#2, #7, #11, #17)
  • Shortest — 161-yard 11th hole
  • Longest — 254-yard 2nd hole
2nd
2nd Hole

Par-4’s

  • Twelve Total
  • Shortest — 373-yard 13th hole
  • Longest — 520-yard 14th hole
13th
13th Hole

Par-5’s

  • Two total (#5 and #16)
  • Shortest — 587-yard 5th hole
  • Longest — 613-yard 16th hole

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Add in the New York area fans, and we’re in for a doozy of a week. Just think back to Winged Foot or Bethpage Black for an idea of how that should go.

fansNow — as for the actual golfers:

Field & Pairings

Each of the top 62 ranked golfers in the world are on site this week as part of a field of 156. While some are more well-known than others, there are some cool stories.

Garrett Rank — This Canadian, and NHL Referee, will tee it up this week after getting in through sectional qualifying. He has previously played on the PGA Tour, at the RBC Canadian Open, but this is, of course, another level. His spoken goal is to make the cut. I think he can do it.

Adam Scott — Not only did Adam also qualify through sectional qualifying, he did it with a lot on the line too. Not having missed a major since the 2002 US Open, a streak of 68 consecutive. No chance he was going to miss out on 69.
Further to that, Adam let go of his caddie after qualifying, and will have a local looper on the bag; Shinnecock’s own Lenny Bummolo. Just saying that in a New York accent gives me lots of pleasure. Eh, its Lenny Bummolo! I hope Adam plays well, just so I can keep muttering that name incessantly wherever I go all weekend.

Amateurs — The event will have 19 amateurs in the field, the most since 1981. Five times an amateur has captured the US Open title, but not since John Goodman in 1933.

The Big Dogs — If the winner doesn’t come from this long list of names I’m about to reel off, I’ll be quite surprised. In the field this week are: Defending champ Brooks Koepka, World #1 Dustin Johnson, former #1 Justin Thomas, Masters champ Patrick Reed, the G.O.A.T Tiger Woods, FIGJAM Phil Mickelson, newly engaged Rickie Fowler, you’ve got Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Bubba Watson, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Jason Day, Hideki Matsuyama, Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm, Patrick Cantlay, Bryson DeChambeau… I could list half the field, but I’ll stop there. I expect one of those fellas to win, but I’ll have my definitive top-five video and blog out tomorrow afternoon.

Pairings

It’s always fun to see who is paired with who, and this week doesn’t disappoint.

Notables off of the 1st tee Thursday Morning:

7:29 am — Louis Oosthuizen, Jimmy Walker, Justin Rose
7:40 am — Bubba Watson, Jason Day, Brooks Koepka
1:14 pm — Sergio Garcia, Jon Rahm, Rafa Cabrera Bello
1:47 pm — Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Tiger Woods

Off the 10th tee

7:18 am — (a) Garrett Rank, Mackenzie Hughes, Aaron Baddeley
7:51 am — Zach Johnson, Charl Schwartzel, Patrick Reed
8:02 am — Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson
8:13 am — Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Rickie Fowler
1:36 pm — Ernie Els, Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk
1:47 pm — Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott, Martin Kaymer

The last three times the US Open was held at Shinnecock (2004, 1995, 1986), the winning score was between even-par, and 4-under. Hopefully we get that type of test again. Hard to tell ahead of an event, but it seems like, from the way people are talking, somewhere between 8 and 12 under will likely win this week. That being said, I’m all in for carnage. This is the one event where fighting par is strongly encouraged. Let’s hope this is one for the ages.

Check-in tomorrow for my picks!

@RJMcCullough

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