In recent weeks, Executive Director of the USGA, Mike Davis, has denied that the U.S. Open is the toughest test in golf, dubbing it as the ‘ultimate’ test in golf. We ask, is this really true or does it depend upon the course and conditions?
The U.S. Open has always been known for the combination of brutally long courses, dense rough, narrow fairways and marble-like putting surfaces. The USGA’s harsh course-setup has often come under scrutiny and none more so that the last time it was held at Shinnecock Hills.
Cast your minds back to 2004 when the first 2 groups on Thursday morning reached the short Par 3, 7th. During practice week, this had been called ‘unplayable’ by the players and what followed was nothing short of comedy gold with three of the first four players making triple-bogey sixes. This prompted the officials to suspend play and douse the putting surface with water. The cut mark thru 36 holes was 6 over and only 11 players had shot under par.
The ’04 U.S. Open forced its way into the history books for all of the wrong reasons. To this day, it still holds the record for the second highest stroke average of all time, 78.7, and only two players finished under par; Retief Goosen (-4) & Phil Mickelson (-2). To put this in perspective, on last years PGA Tour (2017), the most difficult course was Quail Hollow with an incomparably low average of 73.5.
Despite this, players teeing it up this week at Shinnecock Hills should consider themselves lucky...
Of the 10 U.S. Open courses that have held 3 or more Opens since 1950, Shinnie ranks as #8 in terms of difficulty with an average winning score of 1.6 under par. (#1 Winged Foot, #2 Olympic, #3 Oakmont). Yes, this tournament has been feared in years gone by as the toughest in the schedule however, the last 4 champions have all won with under par scores. So, either the players are getting better or the USGA is making the course fairer.
One thing is for sure, whoever emerges victorious come Sunday afternoon will certainly have shown the mental and physical endurance needed to withstand this ‘momentous’ test of golf.
Tweet your comments below and let us know whether you agree that the U.S. Open is the toughest test in golf!