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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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Bridgestone Golf appoints Dan Murphy President as CEO

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Following the departure of Angel Ilagan late last month, Bridgestone Golf has appointed Dan Murphy as President and CEO.

Dan Murphy was previously with the company from 2004 to 2015. He most recently served as Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing. As President and CEO, Murphy will be responsible for directing the company’s core business functions, including product planning and production, marketing, sales and customer relations.

“I’ve been with Bridgestone Golf since the beginning and the passion runs deep,” says Murphy. “We make the most technologically-advanced golf balls in the world and my role is to help ensure Bridgestone is recognized as the industry’s leading example of how science and data is used to make products that improve the performance of all golfers.”

Since 2015, Murphy was President of textile manufacturer Kentwool and Vice President of American Achievement Corporation.

Before joining Bridgestone Golf almost 15 years ago, he held key marketing and business development positions at TaylorMade, Dunlop Slazenger, Maxfli, and General Mills.

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GolfWRX Morning 9: How Brooks Koepka channeled Jack Nicklaus | It happened again | Mickelson theories abound

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Good morning, GolfWRX members. As most of you are signed up for our newsletters, you likely already know that I’ve been sending this little Morning 9 roundup of nine items of note to start your day.

In case you’ve missed it, or you prefer to read on site rather than in your email, we’re including it here. Check out today’s Morning 9 below. Feedback is always welcome–send everything from news tips to complaints (hopefully more tips than complaints)!

If you’re not signed up for our newsletters, you can subscribe here.

By Ben Alberstadt (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com)

 

June 18, 2018

Good Monday morning, golf fans. However poorly your start to the week is going, you can rest assured it’s better than Mike Davis’. The USGA head will continue to parry criticism about course conditions at Shinnecock and the decision not to disqualify Phil Mickelson. Needless to say, it’s not the look the folks in Far Hills wanted.
1. BK to BK
Tougher course, same winner: Brooks Koepka won his second U.S. Open in a row AND Joe Buck got Koepka’s girlfriend’s name right. Incredible performances.
  • While there’s plenty of good writing about the golf jock’s win, Tim Dahlberg’s AP columns stands out. “Titled Koepka wins an Open where the whiners go home early,” Dahlberg looks at BK’s win through the old Jack Nicklaus quote that he knew he didn’t have to worry about anyone complaining about the U.S. Open setup.
  • Now, the validity of player gripes in Nicklaus’ era versus today is up for debate. However, it is worth noting that Koepka didn’t complain once in the course of his W.
  • Said Koepka after his win: “I enjoy the test. I enjoy being pushed to the limit,” he said. “Sometimes you feel like you are about to break mentally, but that’s what I enjoy. I enjoy hard golf courses. I enjoy playing about the toughest in golf you are ever going to play.”
2. The faltering of Dustin Johnson
Not to kick a man when he’s down, but it’s worth remembering that Dustin Johnson was 4 under par after two rounds at the U.S. Open. Brooks Koepka’s winning score was 1 over, and DJ himself ultimately finished at 3 over par.
  • What went wrong for the World No 1
  • Golf Channe’s Will Gray spelled it out: “The culprit for Johnson’s regression was clear. After leading the field in strokes gained: putting through the first two rounds, he couldn’t get comfortable on the greens on the weekend. Johnson needed 38 putts to complete his third round, T-64 among the 67 players who made the cut, and his 35 final-round putts were T-63 in the same category.”

3. Tommy 63

Here’s a take: Tommy Fleetwood’s final-round tournament record-tying 63 won’t get the love it deserves both because Fleetwood didn’t ultimately win and because of the USGA’s rain god routine prior to the final round
  • This is a shame. Fleetwood’s 7-under final round was one bad putt read at the 18th hole away from a 62. The score would not only have been a historic achievement–the lowest round in U.S.Open history–but it would have tied him with Brooks Koepka.
  • Here’s another take: We focus too much on the Englishman’s hair and beard (both of which are epic at the moment). He has top-10 finishes in the last two U.S. Opens and has added his name to a shortlist of players on the verge of a major breakthrough.
4. USG-let it get aw-A-y
Helped by a few dicey pins and more wind than expected, Shinnecock Hills got away from the USGA late Saturday. And while the tournament is over and the damage done, plenty continue to discuss the topic.
  • Geoff Shackelford broke it down nicely for Golfweek.
  • “Shinnecock Hills 2018 will be remembered for Wednesday night’s round-saving watering, not hydrating enough Saturday and an emergency drenching Sunday to keep the place from spilling into absurdity.”
  • “For two of its final three days, the U.S. Open faced bright, dry and potentially fast conditions. The U.S. Golf Association fed Shinnecock Hills enough water. History, however, will remember Saturday’s gaffe when players putted off browned-out greens as balls would not stop rolling and, most disappointing of all, the morning wave faced wildly better course conditions compared to the beleaguered afternoon leaders.”
  • “The lessons of 2004 were not learned….The mistake that could never happen again, happened again.”
5. Mickelson’s field hockey remains baffling
What to say about Phil Mickelson? The left-hander’s child-playing-putt-putt routine Saturday continues to confound, especially after Mickelson declined to talk to reporters Sunday and engaged in a mock celebration at the 13th hole (scene of the Saturday crime) Sunday.
  • Some scribes question whether Mickelson’s move (essentially taking the penalty to save time and avoid pain) was as calculated as Lefty later made it seem. Reports indicate Mickelson told playing partner Beef Johnston he wasn’t sure what the rules dictated in such a situation…before later telling reporters he knew the rules and was using them for his advantage.
  • Plenty continue to discuss the incident from an etiquette standpoint. Just as many debate whether Mickelson ought to have been disqualified or withdrawn from the tournament. And of course, some celebrate the gesture as a perceived middle finger to the USGA, its course management, and hole locations.
  • In short, Mickelson’s polo playing will remain a topic of discussion.
6. Parziale and father
No. 6 was going to be Ian Poulter complaining about the USGA and U.S. fans, but really, whose life is going to be enhanced by that? So, instead, how about Matt Parziale?
  • The reigning U.S. Mid-Am champ, already much discussed owing to his Massachusetts firefighter backstory, not only made the cut at the U.S. Open (as you probably know), but he had his father on the bag all week.
  • Heckuva Father’s Day! Parziale finished 5 over par Sunday to tie for low amateur at 16 over for the tournament.
7. Other golf!
In case you missed them, there were professional golf tournaments not named the U.S. Open played last week. Here’s one.
  • So Yeon Ryu won the Meijer LPGA Classic. Lydia Ko finished three shots back. The win is the sixth of the South Korean’s career and represents a return to form.
  • “If I look back on my season, I wasn’t really satisfied with it and I’ve been really, really struggling, I had a lot of crazy moments,” said Ryu. “I had some good rounds, I had some really bad rounds, so I couldn’t even really finish top-10 much compared to any other season. So all those reasons just drove me crazy.”
8. Gear Dive
Johnny Wunder goes deep with Mizuno Golf Engineer Chris Voshall. Voshall speaks on how Brooks Koepka was the one that almost got away, and why Mizuno irons are still secretly the most popular on Tour.
9. USG-pay d-A-y
The cleverness in this section’s title is over the line, just like Shinnecock Hils, Saturday.
Here are the payouts for top finishers at the (big money) U.S. Open.
  • 1: Brooks Koepka, $2,160,000
  • 2: Tommy Fleetwood, $1,296,000
  • 3: Dustin Johnson, $812,927
  • 4: Patrick Reed, $569,884
  • 5: Tony Finau, $474,659
  • T-6: Xander Schauffele, $361,923
  • T-6: Tyrrell Hatton, $361,923
  • T-6: Henrik Stenson, $361,923
  • T-6: Daniel Berger, $361,923
Rough stuff for Tony Finau, whose double bogey at the 72nd hole cost him more than 200 grand. But at least he didn’t dislocate an ankle in this major championship
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5 things we learned on Sunday of the 2018 U.S. Open

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Opportunity knocked for so many golfers, yet it was the 2017 champion who seized the moment when it was his. Brooks Koepka fired his second sub-par round of the week on Sunday to separate from playing partner Dustin Johnson, and enter the pantheon of multiple major champions. He became the 7th player to defend his title, joining old-school legends like Willie Anderson and John McDermott, mid-century icons like Ralph Guldahl and Ben Hogan, and the last man to accomplish the feat, Curtis Strange. With that introduction, let’s move to the main event, the 5 things we learned on Sunday at Shinnecock Hills.

5) The USGA gave golf a chance

True to its word, the USGA pulled out all the stops in the wee hours of Sunday morn. The course set-up team ensured that enough water was distributed to putting surfaces, that worthy shots would not be punished. Hole locations were assessed and confirmed, also ensuring that multiple opportunities for success were available. As a result, 15 golfers turned in scores under par of 70, highlighted by Tommy Fleetwood’s 7-under stunner. Although many fans, writers and players were quick to assault the organizers for losing control of the course, the USGA reminded us that it always had control of the conditions at Shinny, and that its only mistake was to soar too close to the sun.

4) Captain America ran out of gas

If Patrick Reed had been able to sign his card on the 9th tee, when he stood 5-under on the day and 1-over for the tournament, he would be in a playoff with the eventual champion as I type. Unfortunate for this year’s Masters champion was that 10 holes remained. Reed promptly bogeyed the 9th, added 3 more bogeys on the inward half, and summoned just one birdie toward the end. His fourth-place finish was his best in a U.S. Open, but knowing that victory was in the cards will sting for a while.

3) DJ and Finau gave it a run

Where to begin? How about this: DJ had four bogeys on Sunday. He totaled that many on Thursday-Friday combined. He had birdies, too, but couldn’t find the game that possessed him over the opening 36 holes. Oddly enough, this type of experience won’t be a setback for the 2016 champion. After all, he came back from a career-killer in 2015, when he 3-whacked his way out of a playoff with Jordan Spieth at Chambers Bay. As for Milton Pouhau Finau, aka Tony, the Utah native had never before been in the final group on any day of a major professional championship. He acquitted himself well, standing even on the day and 3-over for T2 at the 18th tee. Knowing that he needed eagle for a playoff might have taken the final winds from his sails, and he limped home with double bogey and solo third. Looking ahead to the final August playing of the PGA Championship, Bellerive near St. Louis might just be his type of course.

2) Tom Terrific nearly made his own U.S. Open history

I’ll write this cautiously, as I’m certain I would have intimated in the 1980s and 90s that Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood would have been major champions by now. Tommy Fleetwood ought to win one of these things soon. His record-tying 63 was a short putt away from a record-breaking 62. Eight birdies against a single bogey was the stuff of legend, and if only he had trusted that final putt a bit higher on the break … that’s not fair. Fleetwood right now is the fellow to watch at Carnoustie next month. Bet a few quid or bob or whatever on the Southport native, as he should contend for the title.

1) Brooks cooks up a winning broth

It’s easy to look back and see all the great shots that the defending champion hit over the four days of the 2018 U.S. Open, shots that would win him his second consecutive trophy. Remember that 60-feet bomb to save par on Saturday? Shades of Costantino Rocca. How about the approach shots to within mere feet that earned him 5 birdies on Sunday, including a competition-killer on 16? Koepka was the guy we thought Dustin Johnson would be. Perhaps it was the time off for wrist rehabilitation early this season that gave him the burning desire to win. Out for nearly 4 months, Koepka had plenty of time to ponder what he achieved last June in Wisconsin, and what might lay ahead for him. The begged question is, does the most recent, two-time major winner have the game to acquire more of the game’s cherished trophies?

Related: Brooks Koepka’s Winning WITB from the 2018 U.S. Open

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