June 11 (Reuters) - Former world number one David Duval says “expecting to get your teeth kicked in” is a prerequisite for any player with designs of winning the 118th U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills this week.
Only 20 of the 156-man field played in 2004 when the Open won by Retief Goosen was last held at Shinnecock, so most will be experiencing the classic course for the first time.
Located on rolling dunes in Southampton on the eastern end of New York’s Long Island, Shinnecock is widely recognised as one of the top half dozen courses in the United States.
Generally regarded as the oldest links in the country, it is the first course to host the championship in three different centuries, having been the site of the second U.S. Open in 1896.
The par-70 layout will play to about 7,440-yards and is expected to usher in a return to the Open’s tradition as the toughest test in golf after an ill-fated experiment last year at Erin Hills, where Brooks Koepka won with 16-under par.
Duval for one is looking forward to an old fashioned U.S. Open with narrow fairways and punishing fescue rough, where par is a bonus rather than a disappointment.
“You go in there expecting to be challenged, expecting to get your teeth kicked in, expecting to make some mistakes and some mental mistakes,” 2001 British Open champion Duval, now a Golf Channel analyst, told reporters last week.
“It sounds like it’s going to be what you’d think of as a typical U.S. Open. I hope it plays out that way (with) a premium put on accuracy off the tee and into the greens.”
It seems that will be the case, at least to an extent, to judge from the recent words of U.S. Golf Association executive director Mike Davis, who said that the fairways would average about 40 yards wide.
“We think that accuracy still needs to be a part of the test. You’re going to see penal rough,” Davis said.
“We don’t want to necessarily penalise somebody that can hit a ball a long way, if they can control the ball.”
An official once said that the USGA was not trying to embarrass the world’s best players, but rather to identify them. It’s a philosophy Davis vows to adhere to.
“We know we’re at one of the world’s greatest golf courses,” he said.
“We want to test every aspect of (the players’) games. And that includes not only their shot making abilities but their course management abilities, their abilities to handle their nerves.” (Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Ian Ransom)