This week marks the 8th anniversary of Graeme McDowell’s resounding Father’s Day U.S. Open triumph at Pebble Beach.
Since then McDowell has contested every U.S. Open including teeing-up at Congressional (2011), Olympic (2012) where he was tied second, Merion (2013), Pinehurst (2014), Chambers Bay (2015), Oakmont (2017) and then a year ago at Erin Hills in rural Wisconsin.
Suffice to say two of the past three U.S. Open courses, without singling out the venues, have hardly been all that inspiring even though they have indeed produced very worth champions.
No such concern this week as Shinnecock Hills is the definition of a U.S. Open.
It’s big. It’s expansive. It has history and it has heritage. It also seems to have been set-up fairly and that has aleady delighted McDowell who has never played Shinnecock Hills and, in fact, the Northern Irishman admits he’s never before been as far east on New York’s famed Long Island as he has for this week’s second Major of 2018.
“I’ve only been as far as Bethpage for the Barclays Championship, if that’s even considered part of Long Island,” he said to AP after getting a first look at Shinnecock Hills.
“It’s great being here as it’s back to being a pure U.S. Open requiring serious discipline in your iron play. I don’t look at the course saying, ‘I’m not long enough to win here.’ And that excites me. I haven’t seen anything that has upset me.”
GMac as he has long been more affectionately known, is among a dozen former fellow U.S. Open winners in this year’s field including:- Ernie Els (1994, ’97), Jim Furyk (2003), Lucas Glover (2009), Dustin Johnson (2016), Martin Kaymer (2014), Brooks Koepka (2017), McDowell (2010), Rory McIlroy (2011), Justin Rose (2013), Webb Simpson (2012), Jordan Spieth (2015) and Tiger Woods (2000, ’02, ’08).
Woods, who is contesting the U.S. Open for a first time since 2015, reportedly arrived at the course late on Sunday afternoon and wasted little time in getting a look at the course.
Woods is among just 19 players teeing-up this week who were in the field for the 2004 U.S. Open when last staged at Shinnecock Hills, with another of those being Australia’s Adam Scott who, for a first time in his career, had to go through a 36-hole qualifier a week ago in suburban Columbus, Ohio to keep alive his run of having contested every U.S. Open since making his debut in 2002.
Scott, however, grabbed the chance last October ahead of the Presidents Cup in New Jersey to squeeze in a Shinnecock Hills ‘inspection’ round, “I played the day they were transplanting the fescue,” he said also to AP. “I saw that was going to happen. It’s considerably wider and more generous off the tee than it was in ’04. It’s very fair off the tee. And it’s very penal if you miss.”
“But then compared to 2004, I think they’ve got the balance right. It’s a great course so you don’t have to do much.”