Courtesy -- ESPN - Nick Pietruszkiewicz
The USGA has the line rehearsed. The U.S. Open is "golf's ultimate test," it'll say, over and over. At Shinnecock Hills, a course born in the 1800s, an original member of the USGA, a U.S. Open host for the fifth time, the challenges hide at every turn.
Here, at the U.S. Open, greed is not good. Par is good.
"If it's firm and fast, and we get our normal wind, which is 10 to15 mph, I don't think the winning score is going to be very many under par," Shinnecock Hills head professional Jack Druga said. "I think 3 to 5 under would be a pretty good score."
But what do we know about Shinnecock Hills? With the U.S. Open rotating among so many courses, it does not have the annual rite of passage feel of Augusta National, where each step traces upon familiar ground. Some people will remember 2004, the last time the U.S. Open came to Shinnecock Hills. In truth, the USGA would rather you forget that one, when the seventh hole at Shinnecock became virtually unplayable."We we were watching well-executed shots not being rewarded," USGA CEO Mike Davis said. "In fact, some well-executed shots being penalized. ... We're happy to have a mulligan this time."Some players have made trips to Shinnecock Hills in the weeks and months leading up to the U.S. Open. Tiger Woods dropped in over the Memorial Day holiday to get some advance work.What did he learn? What should the players expect? Where are the big numbers hiding.
Nobody knows better than Druga, who walked through each and every hole, pointing out its nuance, its opportunity and, of course, its lurking trouble.