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10 things you need to know before watching the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills

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1) The Open keeps coming back to Shinnecock for a reason

This classic track features a William Flynn/C.B. MacDonald layout and is home to the very first clubhouse in the United States (and still one of the very best). It is one of the founding clubs of the USGA, hosted the second U.S. Open in 1896 and is about to host an Open in a third century. You can’t get any more legit than that. And each one of the Opens that have been held there have been memorable. Corey Pavin’s sweeping 4-wood to 4 feet on the 18th hole of the 1995 Open is one of the most iconic shots in golf history. The winner this year will certainly have to hit his share of hero shots, but will it be a classic U.S. Open? Let’s hope so!

2) It will be LONG

The course will be set up to play at over 7,400 yards as a par 70, a prodigious distance on any course but especially on one where errant drives will be severely penalized. Players who are long and straight will have an advantage, although if the fairways are baked out, mid-range hitters will get a boost on the ground.

3) The rough will be a one-shot penalty

Mike Davis is famous for using the rough at U.S. Open venues to test the accuracy of the field in pursuing his stated goal of “identifying the best player in the world” that week and this year will be no different. There are two different kinds of rough in play at Shinnecock, and each will pose a different challenge to all those who enter. The first cut will be the more traditional style of thick, long and juicy growth that your see at a U.S. Open setup (think Merion in 2013). Players who find themselves there will likely have to wedge out to the fairway and try their best to minimize the damage. The secondary rough is comprised of tall fescue; it’s thinner, wispier blades may give players the courage to try to muscle shots out of the rough. But those wispy blades are as strong as wire, and when they wrap around the hosel of the club they turn even the best executed swings into a Wheel of Fortune. Along with the challenge of the grass you have sandy, uneven lies where the ball is more likely than not to end up snuggled next to a hillock of sand or down in a divot. Between the burly first cut and treacherous second cut, the rough at Shinnecock will stifle more advances than a vice-principal at a high school dance.

4) The best short game will win

Like most classic courses that stand the test of time, the reason they stand the test of time is that short game proficiency is maybe the most reliable test of golf, especially under pressure. At Shinnecock, players will be tested by greens that will be lightning fast and postage-stamp-small. With the greens being so hard to hit, the ability to get up and down will be at a premium. And if the course gets even slightly “out of control,” as it did big-time in 2004, look for some players to get some humiliating experiences as they chip and putt from one side of green to another. Watch what happens to anyone who hits over the green at Number 10; we could easily see multiple people do what Sergio did on Number 15 at the Masters this year (a soul-destroying 13).

5) It all depends on the weather

Davis and the USGA have set the course up to be a difficult test, but much of that test is dependent on the weather. More holes are set up to play with a prevailing southwest wind. If that wind doesn’t blow or switches direction where more holes are playing downwind, it can shorten the course by as much as 20 percent. And if the greens are softened by rain before and during the event, then what ought to be a Doberman will be turned into a cockapoo (see Oakmont 2016).

6) The Grind will be even more Grind-ier than usual, so caddies will matter

Every U.S. open is a grind, an attempt by the USGA to wear down the physical and mental cartilage of the field. Every hole at Shinnecock calls for a post-graduate level of shot making, but it also calls for a high level of decision making. This not the venue to look at the book, get a number, pull a club and let it fly. The wind, ground conditions and consequences for a miss must be calculated and re-calculated for each shot. Caddies that are trusted sources of information and honesty will be a 15th club in the bag for their players. Look for a couple of the more experienced career caddies at Shinnecock to be on a bag or two during the Open for exactly that reason.

7) Anybody can win

Why’s that? Because there are so many talented players in the field, and because we have seen what can happen when a good player had a great week and a little luck. Think Michael Campbell, Geoff Ogilvy and the suddenly famous-again Webb Simpson and Lucas Glover.

8) Last Hurrah for a generation

This is certainly the last time that Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson will play this great venue in competition; Ernie Els and Jim Furyk are also in the field by special exemption. Whether it occurs on Friday or Sunday, the final walk up 18 for each of them will be special for the player and for the audience at the course and on TV.

9) Records will be set…. for sales

Combine a team that is second to none in creating marketing and sponsorship opportunities with the top market in the world and you get a recipe for a revenue bonanza. The USGA doesn’t necessarily report on all numbers in this regard, but all signs point to a ratings and revenue bonanza. Oh, did I mention that Tiger is in the field?

10) Fox TV coverage should be better

Fox Sports is now hosting its fourth U.S. Open after the USGA switched to the network from NBC. The first couple of years brought howls of complaint from viewers as the coverage had all the bells and whistles but somehow forgot to bring the bicycle. Key moments were bungled, interviews were botched, and commentary had viewers longing for Johnny Miller and Mr. Hannah Storm (just kidding, Dan!). This year promises to be a step towards competency if not excellence. Joe Buck will be solid as usual, Shane Bacon has found his footing as a post-round interviewer and the TopTracer technology that Fox introduced for on-course shots will all help. And the addition of Mike Breed to the team will give some much needed competence in swing analysis and on-camera savvy. And Holly Sonders… so there’s that.

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Williams has a reputation as a savvy broadcaster, and as an incisive interviewer and writer. An avid golfer himself, Williams has covered the game of golf and the golf lifestyle including courses, restaurants, travel and sports marketing for publications all over the world. He is currently working with a wide range of outlets in traditional and electronic media, and has produced and hosted “Sticks and Stones” on the Fox Radio network, a critically acclaimed show that combined coverage of the golf world with interviews of the Washington power elite. His work on Newschannel8’s “Capital Golf Weekly” and “SportsTalk” have established him as one of the area’s most trusted sources for golf reporting. Williams has also made numerous radio appearances on “The John Thompson Show,” and a host of other local productions. He is a sought-after speaker and panel moderator, he has recently launched a new partnership with The O Team to create original golf-themed programming and events. Williams is a member of the United States Golf Association and the Golf Writers Association of America.

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GolfWRX Morning 9: Too much Tiger? | Ryder Cup shirt sold for how much? | Pace of place dispute prompted finger biting

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1. Latest in bitegate
Details are filtering out in the bizarre story of the golfer who bit off part of another golfer’s finger at a Massachusetts golf club last week. It turns out the source of the conflict was none other than a slow play dispute. A more heartless writer than I would suggest that if the PGA Tour were to consider similar penalties, we’d no longer have a slow play problem at the professional level.
  • But it’s certainly no laughing matter: The bitten-off portion of the man’s finger, although retrieved and put on ice, was unable to be reattached.
  • The alleged biter appeared in court Monday...our Gianni Magliocco writes: “According to court documents, Harkins claimed that he had been defending his father when the dispute broke out and that he had found the victim’s finger in his mouth which caused him to bite down. While Menton stated that the sound of his finger being bitten off was akin “to the sound made when someone chews on a Dorito.”
2. How to qualify for the U.S. Am
Here’s your blueprint, courtesy of our Peter Sanders.
“To start with, your USGA Index needs to be 2.4 or lower to even attempt to qualify. If your course is rated 71.5/130*, the best 10 of your most recent 20 scores should average 74.3. This score will adjust slightly up if your course is rated more difficult, and slightly down if it’s rated less difficult. For the purposes of this article, I’m assuming the average course and slope rating above.”
  • Sanders offers several prescriptions for the various facets of your game. For example, off the tee
  • “Goals: Hit EIGHT fairways and limit your driving errors to ONE, with the majority being the less costly “No Shot errors.
  • “Distance: I will ignore this and assume you’re maximizing distance as best you can without sacrificing accuracy.”
  • “Fairways: Hitting fairways is crucial, as we are all statistically significantly more accurate from the short grass.”
  • “Errors: Far more important than Fairways Hit, however, is the FREQUENCY and SEVERITY of misses. To help golfers understand the weaknesses in their game, my golf analysis program allows users to record and categorize the THREE types of Driving Errors”
.
3. Too much Tiger?
Golf Channel’s Randall Mell grabs the low-hanging fruit, suggesting Tiger Woods may be playing a stretch of too much golf for his own good.
“In fact, dating back to the WGC Bridgestone, it’s possible he could be amid a run of playing seven times in the last nine weeks….My sacroiliac joint is throbbing at the thought.”
“Beginning with The Northern Trust this week, Woods is committed to the first three legs of the FedExCup Playoffs, and it’s difficult to imagine he wouldn’t play the final leg at the Tour Championship if he qualifies….It’s impossible to imagine he won’t be among Jim Furyk’s four captain’s picks to play the Ryder Cup.”
“So if Woods continues this streak of strong play, what’s going to give?…We hope it isn’t his back.”
4. What to expect when you’re expecting a U.S. Open at Pebble Beach
The Forecaddie looks ahead to next year’s national championship at Pebble, the U.S. Am having just wrapped at the famed California course.
  • “The intrigue levels will be high given this year’s setup issues and with and major changes in how players attack a course on display in last week’s U.S. Amateur.”
  • “Granted, the event was played with the resort fairway widths and a little more rough, but officials revealed a largely identical game plan for the 2019 U.S. Open in terms of logistics and fairway widths.”
  • “The U.S. Golf Association’s Mike Davis and Jeff Hall expect to fine tune a few landing areas after consulting their GPS-shot lines and notes from previous U.S. Opens.”
  • “Contestants will be greeted next year by a new 525-yard tee at the par-4, ninth hole, panned by Jack Nicklaus and several players as absurdly long. Yet there were several youngsters in U.S. Amateur match play laying back off the tee with driving irons to avoid a hanging lie, leaving a mid-iron approach.”
5. Driver vs. Driver finalists selected
Press release time…”Golf Channel announced today the 14 finalists who will present their innovative driver concepts on Driver vs. Driver 2 presented by Wilson, with the hopes of ultimately becoming Wilson Golf’s next world-class driver. Driver vs. Driver 2 premieres Tuesday, Oct. 2 at 9 p.m. ET, with the seven-episode series airing weekly and concluding Tuesday, Nov. 13.”
  • “Driver vs. Driver 2 will follow the trials and tribulations of these aspiring golf equipment designers in an elimination-style television series where they will compete for the opportunity have their concepts transformed into prototypes, field tested, critiqued and refined. Ultimately, one driver concept will be left standing, with the designer winning $250,000 and the final driver hitting retail stores worldwide.”
  • “Out of the hundreds of concepts submitted through an open call application process, 14 finalists were selected. Each will present their concept to the panel of celebrity judges during the show’s premiere on Tuesday, Oct. 2:”
6. Stenson, McIlroy out
Henrik Stenson is skipping the Northern Trust to rest his ailing elbow.
  • Here’s the interesting thing, per Golf Channel’s Will Gray…”The intrigue around Stenson’s decision grows when the context of the Ryder Cup is taken into consideration. The Swede has represented Europe in the biennial matches four times, but he’s currently 16th in both the European Points and World Points lists with only two weeks remaining in the qualification window.”
  • Rory McIlroy is also passing on the playoff opener. “The best thing might be to take that first FedExCup week off and work on my game and come back, hopefully, in a better place for Boston,” he said after a disappointing PGA Championship.
  • Sergio Garcia is also skipping the event–although not by choice–as he failed to qualify for the Playoffs for the first time in their 12-year history.
7. Secondary cut getting cut?
Bane of PGA Tour and PGA DFS players everywhere, the secondary cut make be getting axed itself.
  • Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard…”The season’s final player advisory council meeting will be held on Tuesday at Ridgewood Country Club, and one item of interest on the agenda appears to be gaining traction among the 16-member panel.”
  • “The secondary cut – introduced in 2008 to address large fields after the 36-hole cut and pace of play – has become increasingly unpopular. In 2014, the PGA Tour eliminated the secondary cut, which occurs if 78 players make the 36-hole cut, at the first two playoff stops. Following a 54-hole cut at this year’s Players Championship, some suggested it should not be used at the circuit’s marquee event.”
  • “The alternative that’s being studied is to reduce the cut at all Tour events from the lowest 70 players and ties to the lowest 65 players and ties. This would allow the circuit to eliminate the secondary cut at all events.”
8. “Gambling comes into focus”
Such is the title of another Hoggard piece concerning the fact that the PGA Tour is making its first stop in a state that has legalized sports betting. However, not a ton is exactly, in “focus.”
  • A few morsels...”But as sports, and particularly golf, wade into the betting pool, don’t expect a wholesale change just yet. Although New Jersey was among the first states to embrace sports betting, wagers are currently limited to a few casinos and racetracks.”
  • “The Tour also has a few hurdles to clear. Under the circuit’s current regulations, players, partners and the Tour itself are prohibited from partnering with casinos or betting institutions. Before the circuit could move forward with any type of deal like the NBA and MGM agreement that regulation would have to be changed.”
  • “We are in the process of evaluating that category,” Levinson said. “We are looking at a wholesale evaluation of our endorsement policy. That’s for the Tour, players, networks, other constituents.”
  • “The Supreme Court’s ruling may have potentially opened vast new markets for the Tour and created an entirely new way to engage with fans, just don’t expect things to change yet, even as the circuit arrives on the front lines of the sports betting transformation next week in New Jersey.”
9. How much would you pay?
…for one of the glorious/horrendous/disgustingly beautiful 1999 U.S. team Ryder Cup shirts?
The winning bid on an unworn shirt at Green Jacket Auctions? $3,906.
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New details in the case of the golfer who allegedly bit off another golfer’s finger

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The man charged with biting off the finger of a fellow golfer during an altercation at Southers Marsh golf course in Massachusetts, appeared in court on Monday. Derek Harkins, 46, arrived in Plymouth District Court this morning, facing charges of assault and battery, mayhem and disturbing the peace.

The incident occurred on Friday evening at the Plymouth golf course, where two foursomes were playing the 18th hole. Police revealed that the altercation erupted over a dispute concerning the pace of play.

The victim was 57-year old Daniel Menton, from Marshfield. Menton had one of his fingers bitten off to a knuckle, and although his son attempted to save the finger by placing it in a jar of ice and rushing to the hospital with his father, doctors were unable to re-attach the finger surgically.

According to court documents, Harkins claimed that he had been defending his father when the dispute broke out and that he had found the victim’s finger in his mouth which caused him to bite down. While Menton stated that the sound of his finger being bitten off was akin “to the sound made when someone chews on a Dorito.”

Harkins was released on a $10.000 bail and ordered to stay away from both alcohol and the victim. On leaving the court, Harkins ignored questions from reporters waiting outside, making a quick exit. His lawyer did, however, make a statement, saying that “things aren’t always as they seem.”

Harkins will re-appear in court on Wednesday.

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Tour Rundown: Viktor Hovland wins the U.S. Amateur at Pebble, the drama of the first 25 PGA Tour cards

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In the final week before the FedEx Cup Playoffs, Webb Simpson gave notice that he will not be a liability as an automatic qualifier to the U.S. Ryder Cup squad. The European Tour welcomed a first-time winner, while the LPGA Tour recognized a veteran winner. The U.S. Amateur crowned a king from Norway, and the Web.Com Tour handed out its first 25 PGA Tour cards for the 2018-2019 campaign. Pretty good haul for a non-playoff week, wouldn’t you say? Let’s run it all down right not.

Snedeker follows 59 with second Wyndham Championship

In 2007, Brandt Snedeker made the Wyndham Championship his first PGA Tour victory. Eleven years later, he won his ninth title and second in Greensboro. This one was easily as difficult as the first one, thanks to the burden of 59. Unless you’ve been under the fabled rock, you know that Sneds began Thursday with a bogey, then made 1o birdies and an eagle to shoot 59. Guess how difficult it is to stay in contention, let alone win, with the weight of 59 on your shoulders? Yup, that difficult. Somehow, Snedeker did it. He had a challenge on day four from C.T. Pan, coming to 18 tied with the young Taiwanese golfer. As he did on Thursday, Snedeker made birdie at the par-four closer, finishing at 21-under on the week. Pan went OB off the 72nd tee, making double bogey and dropping into a tie for second with Webb Simpson, who had a chance to shoot 60 on the day. He also struggled at the last, making bogey for 62.

U.S. Mens Amateur trophy in Norwegian hands

This year’s final match was never dull; 19 of the 31 holes were won outright. By the time that Californian Devon Bling, rising junior from UCLA, and Viktor Hovland, same class at Oklahoma State (by way of Norway) shook hands on Pebble Beach’s 13th green, history had also been made. Before Hovland and Bling parred the 444-yard par four to seal the former’s 6 and 5 victory, only Arne Dokka (1965 USGA Public Links) had claimed victory for Norway in a U.S. national championship.

After qualifying 24th in stroke play, Hovland strengthened with each match. He was taken as far as the 17th hole only once in his first five matches, winning two matches on the 12th green. In the semifinals, Hovland dispatched the hottest amateur in the game, co-medalist Cole Hammer, 3 and 2. In the final, both golfers exhibited more nerves than excellent golf, with Hovland making fewer errors and winning the birdie battle, 6 to 4. With the triumph, Hovland will achieve another first next April, as the first Norwegian to play in the Masters Championship, at Augusta National golf club.

Nordea Masters is Waring’s first European Tour victory

We do our best to find great action clips, but sometimes, words do better than 1000 pictures. Paul Waring is greyer than one expects from a 32-year old golfer. Until the Nordea Masters, he had yet to win a professional event. A shaky swing on the 72nd hole suggested he might have to wait even longer. Thomas Aiken of South Africa caught a good break and made a sandy for birdie on the par-five closer, to reach 14-under. Already at that figure, Waring drew a lousy stance in the same sand pit, and was fortunate to make par and go to a playoff with Aiken. As the tide looked headed in Aiken’s direction, it suddenly shifted as the South African golfer’s overtime tee ball found water, and his third ended in a bush. Waring striped one down the middle, made par to Aiken’s bogey, and he became the 7th Englishman to ascend victory’s podium in 2018. After all that, you’d think he might be ecstatic, or at least, ebullient. Have a look.

LPGA Indy Women In Tech vaults Sung Hyun Park to No. 1 again

For most of the day, it looked like Lizette Salas would break through again, for a second LPGA victory. She had posted lightning rounds of 62 and 64 in the 1st and third rounds at the Brickyard Crossing golf course. On Sunday, however, Salas left the 60s for the first time all week, posting 70 with a bogey on her penultimate hole. That 5 dropped her into a tie with Sung Hyun Park, who filed a clean, four-birdie card in round 4. Equal at 23-under par, each had a chance to win on the last hole. Park missed from 8 feet, and Salas, from an excruciating 4. On the playoff hole, Salas erred on a birdie try from 20 feet. Park was deadly from 10 feet, cinching her fifth LPGA win and the world No. 1 ranking.

Dick’s Sporting Goods Open to Bart Bryant a second time

He’s hoping it won’t take another 5 years for a 3rd PGA Tour Champions victory, but Bart Bryant certainly feels at home in Endicott, New York. The Texas-born golfer overcame Michael Bradley’s 36-hole lead with 7 birdies on day three, and eased on out of the Binghamton area with a one-shot victory. Bryant was the only golfer in the top four to play bogey-free golf on Sunday, and his clean card made the difference. Bradley had yet to win on the senior circuit, and 4 birdies through 14 holes had him even with Sheriff Bart. A wayward drive at the 15th found the deep rough, and Bradley could not reach the green with his second. His only bogey on the day dropped him one behind Bryant. The two matched birdies at the closing hole, with Bryant draining a long putt for the victory.

Im bookends victories at Portland Open

Sungjae Im won his second victory of the year as the Web.Com regular season came to a close. Im was the first golfer to occupy the top spot on the race for the PGA Tour in the entire history of the Web.Com tour. This week, Im turned in a straight of sorts, posting 65-66-68-67 to win by 4 putts over John Chin. Chin’s two pair of 66s and 69s was 1 better than Erik Compton, the 3rd place finisher. Ben Taylor claimed the last of 25 PGA Tour cards by less than $1000 over No. 26, Wes Roach. Roach wasn’t the only near-miss of the week. For each tour-card recipient, so many others endured the frustration of almost and what if. Roach and others will have a second chance to earn a tour card during the 4 weeks of Web playoffs.

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